Bol Bol knows exactly what people have been saying about him for years now.
“I don’t play hard enough,” the 7-foot-2, 225-pound Oregon freshman says.
“I’m not focused, that I worry about too many things besides basketball,” he continues.
The son of former NBA player Manute Bol admits he has been immature, shutting out the critics, unable to buy into what others were saying about his poor attitude, instead choosing to believe they were wrong about their assessment of him.
However, Bol has begun to finally make strides. Is he Kevin Garnett (or anything close to it) on the court? No, his motor doesn’t run like that – but he’s been coachable, according to Ducks coach Dana Altman, and has taken steps forward.
“He’s trying,” Altman said.
He still isn’t anywhere near his potential, and yet Bol is still averaging 21.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game through the first six of his college career. On the summer circuit, he’d often be found jacking 3’s. In his first five college games, he’d only taken seven shots from behind the 3-point line (he was 4-of-6 from 3 in a loss to Texas Southern on Monday night).
“I was shooting pretty bad shots, now I’m trying to be smarter with my shot selection,” Bol said of the tendency to get trigger-happy from long distance. “When the right time is to shoot the 3, I’ll shoot it. Coach still lets me shoot 3’s, but it’s gotta be a good shot now.”
“It’s a challenge to figure out how to use him,” Altman admitted. “We keep looking for ways how we can use him and not get him beat up. We’ve got to keep moving him around.”
Like most everyone else, NBA executives are conflicted when watching Bol due to the unique nature of his body and skill set, and the lack of emotion and intensity he often displays on the court. He’s so long and skilled, and can make a major impact on the game on both ends of the floor – due to his ability to score both inside and out, and also his potential to block and alter shots.
“He’s an enigma,” one NBA assistant GM said.
“He’s so tough to project,” a NBA general manager told Stadium. “Sometimes I don’t like him, and other times I love him … and I know I’m not alone.”
“I just don’t know what he is at our level,” added another high-ranking NBA executive. “But I still think he goes somewhere in the 5 to 10 range.”
Especially if he continues to mature.
DORT BEST CANADIAN FROSH?
R.J. Barrett isn’t even the most productive freshman from Canada. That honor (at least for now) belongs to Arizona State frosh Luguentz Dort.
Dort hails from Montreal and leads the Sun Devils (as well as all major conference frosh) in scoring (23 ppg). He also second on the team in rebounding (7.8) while averaging 2.4 assists and 2.2 steals.
“R.J. Barrett is the best Canadian in college basketball right now,” Dort admitted. “But there’s way more – Ignas Brazdeikis from Michigan and A.J. Lawson from South Carolina have both been really good.”
“But I think I belong in the conversation,” he added.
Dort is a beast. He’s got a lot of Marcus Smart in his game. He plays hard on both ends of the court and imposes his 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame on opponents. I’m not sure if he’s a point guard or a two-guard, but he is a big-time athlete with a crazy high motor who gets things done on both ends of the court.
ASU coach Bobby Hurley said that Dort’s ability to defend, and watching him pick up guys full-court in AAU ball, was what initially caught his eye. But the biggest surprise thus far has been Dort’s ability to make shots from the perimeter. Dort is 10-of-23 (44 percent) thus far as ASU has jumped out to a 5-0 start despite being without Cleveland State transfer Rob Edwards – who was regarded by the staff in the preseason as the team’s top scorer.
“His shooting is way ahead of where I thought it would be,” Hurley said. “But Lou is a worker. His motor just keeps going and going. He’s got a great attitude, is a special kid and is willing to be coached.”
It didn’t take Hurley long to trust his prized freshman. With the game on the line in Las Vegas last week, Hurley handed the ball to Dort and just let him drive to the basket to ice a victory over Utah State. Dort got to the line for four free throws and also made a bucket on a drive.
NASSIR LITTLE STRUGGLING, OK COMING OFF THE BENCH
The Duke quartet of Barrett, Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones has started every game thus far. The same is true for the Kansas duo of Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson. Romeo Langford (Indiana), Bol Bol (Oregon), Jalen Smith (Maryland), Moses Brown (UCLA) and Keldon Johnson (Kentucky) have all started each game of their college careers. Even his teammate, Coby White, has heard his name called at the outset of every contest.
North Carolina frosh Nassir Little, a projected high-lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and the first top five recruit to land in Chapel Hill since Harrison Barnes back in 2010, hasn’t started a single game yet.
“I’ve been OK with it since day one,” North Carolina’s prized freshman told Stadium. “I want to win a national championship. Some people may look at that and say I’m just saying that, but if anybody who knows me knows it’s true.”
While coming off the bench, Little has been productive, averaging 12.9 points and 5.3 rebounds. But his defense and decision-making have been two areas of concern for Tar Heels coach Roy Williams.
“Just to understand the game a little more, to defend a little more, get to the boards a little more,” Williams said. “He’s got to guard the ball better and see the big picture defensively.”
“Defensively, it’s been an adjustment,” Little admitted. “In high school, I just had to focus on my guy. Now you’ve got to watch everything that goes on the court. I get so caught up on what’s going on over there and I’ll lose my guy, and make the wrong play and I’m at the offensive players mercy. I have to look in the mirror. I can see that, I know I have to get better at that.”
Williams also said he’d like to see Little utilize his athleticism more rather than setting for deep jumpers. More than 26 percent of his shots have come from beyond the 3-point line – and Little is shooting just 29 percent from long range.
“I’m thinking too much,” Little said. “At the lower level, you can get whatever you want. But Coach Williams emphasizes shot selection. I’m adjusting. I think I’ll figure it out.”
FOOTBALL STILL NO. 1 FOR LONGHORNS BIG MAN
Jaxson Hayes admits it. He’d prefer to be playing football.
The 6-foot-11, 220-pound Texas freshman told me that he outgrew the sport, while Longhorns coach Shaka Smart claims that Hayes wasn’t getting targeted enough as a wide receiver in high school.
Hayes told Stadium he averaged about seven minutes a game as a junior at Cincinnati Moeller High and had an offer from Middle Tennessee State before his recruitment blew up that summer while playing on the same team as highly touted Indiana guard Romeo Langford.
Smart recalls first seeing Hayes in the April period and considered him a long-term project, but then watched him again in July and was impressed with the progress he’d make over a three-month span.
“He still had a long ways to go, but he just continued to get better,” Smart said. “He had a phenomenal senior year at Moeller, and we started to see the trajectory.”
He ultimately chose Texas over Kentucky, Xavier, Ohio State and Butler because of his relationship with Smart and the up-tempo style which fits Hayes’ length, quickness and athleticism.
He’s still raw, but Hayes – who is averaging 10.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 21.7 minutes per game, has plenty of untapped potential due to his motor, ability to finish above the rim and also impact the game on the defensive end.
“There’s still so much room for growth,” Smart said.
A-10 FLYING SOLO?
I’ve gotten some flak for saying that the A-10 is likely headed in the direction of a one-bid league, but the numbers don’t lie.
Through Monday night, the league was 43-41 overall (includes one non-D-1 victory from Fordham) – and the 51 percent winning percentage ranks 17th of 32 conferences. The A-10 has lost 12 home games – which is tied with the MAAC for the most of any league. The conference is also 1-9 in road contests, and 7-29 combined in road/neutral games – which is 30th out of 32 leagues.
Here are the top 3 wins in the league (hardly imposing):
1) Dayton vs. Butler (neutral)
2) Saint Louis at Seton Hall
3) VCU vs. Temple (neutral)
Here’s the complete rundown (with KenPom rankings in parentheses) with the teams listed in the preseason predicted finish. A neutral site game is noted with an asterisk.
Saint Louis (83)
Wins: at Seton Hall (54), Troy (183), SEMO (282), Central Arkansas (285), North Alabama (334)
Losses: Pittsburgh* (118)
Saint Joseph’s (97)
Wins: Old Dominion (105), Wake Forest* (127), Monmouth (263)
Losses: West Virginia* (27), UCF* (43), at William & Mary (153)
Wins: Wichita State* (82), Northeastern* (101), Northeastern (101), Dartmouth (256), Cleveland State (311)
Losses: Purdue* (13)
George Mason (160)
Wins: NC Central (306), Southern (343)
Losses: Cincinnati* (39), Baylor* (55), at Georgia Southern (126), Penn (141), American (178)
Wins: Harvard (84), Bryant (326)
Losses: at Charleston (104), Stony Book (181)
Wins: Butler* (26), North Florida (201), IPFW (217), Coppin State (351)
Losses: Virginia* (3), Oklahoma* (41)
Wins: Temple* (88), Hofstra (140), Bowling Green (185), Hampton (224), Gardner Webb (229)
Losses: St. John’s (semi-away) (44)
Wins: Southern Illinois (114)*, UMass Lowell (294), UNH (328), Arkansas Pine Bluff (337)
Losses: Nevada* (6), Harvard (84), Howard (301)
St. Bonaventure (169)
Wins: Jackson State (350)
Losses: Georgia State* (94), Boise State* (121), Akron* (130), Bucknell (197), at Niagara (274)
Wins: IUPUI (218), St. Francis (NY) (308)
Losses: Loyola Chicago* (67), Wyoming* (193), Hampton (224), Longwood (317)
Wins: Radford* (131), William & Mary (153), Illinois Chicago (177), UMass-Lowell (294)
Losses: at Notre Dame (52)
La Salle (223)
Losses: Miami* (22), at Florida (30), Northwestern* (46), at Temple (88), Grand Canyon* (138), Drexel (262), Lafayette (302)
Wins: Manhattan (300)
Losses: at Virginia (3), Michigan* (7), South Carolina* (71), Stony Brook (181), Siena (258)
Wins: FIU (211), Columbia (257), Youngstown State (320), Alabama A&M (352), CCNY (Non-D1)
Losses: at Houston Baptist (279)
MIKE DAVIS’ KID LEADING FROSH SCORER IN NATION
Antoine Davis is averaging 30 points per game and shooting 53 percent (39-of-74) from 3, but his coach – who also happens to be his father – feels as though he hasn’t even gotten going yet.
“He hasn’t shot it as well as I thought,” said Mike Davis, the former Indiana, UAB and Texas Southern coach, now in his first year at the helm at Detroit.
Davis said that Antoine has prepared for this, working with John Lucas in Houston since the seventh grade and not even playing high school basketball as a senior in order to train the entire year.
“That was by design,” Mike Davis said. “He shot 60,000 shots in a 12-day span. I wanted him to be ready his freshman year.”
Antoine leads all freshmen, and checks in behind only Campbell’s Chris Clemons at 30 points per game. He was overlooked due to his size (he weighed 140 pounds with the Houston Hoops), and was set to play for Rod Barnes at Cal State Bakersfield until Kelvin Sampson and Houston offered him a scholarship. He signed with Houston, but got out of his letter-of-intent after the Cougars signed a few guards, and was set to play for his dad at Texas Southern. Now he’s at Detroit – with 10 new faces on a patchwork team that was put together after Davis took the job in June.
– We won’t completely ignore the NCAA’s new NET rankings, but we’re not going to devote an entire column on them because, well, it’s just too early to make these grandiose opinions as some have done. Let’s give it time to breathe, people. Sure, it doesn’t look good when Ohio State checks in at No. 1, Loyola Marymount is No. 10 and Kentucky trails Abilene Christian, FAU and Liberty. But let’s see what it looks like in February and March – because ultimately that’s what matters. If it stinks then, my guess is the NCAA tournament committee members won’t use it, anyway.
– Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman signed Danny Manning to a six-year extension that runs through 2024-25 nearly a year ago to the day. A source told me that the deal is fully guaranteed, meaning that Wake is on the hook for somewhere in the neighborhood of $18 million if it makes a move to let go of Manning. The first couple of years, and a 24-39 mark, were on the previous regime. But after a 19-14 record and an NCAA tourney bid in 2016-17, Wake went 11-20 last season and has started out 4-2 this year with a loss this past weekend to Houston Baptist.
– Kansas freshman Quentin Grimes was 6-for-10 from 3 and finished with 21 in the opener against Michigan State. Since the win, the McDonald’s All-American guard is 3-of-9 from deep and has averaged just six points. “He just hasn’t been aggressive. He’s trying to fit in,” Kansas coach Bill Self told Stadium on Tuesday. “He’s just not comfortable yet, but he’ll get there.” … Self praised his team’s toughness in New York after wins over Marquette and Tennessee and said that freshman point guard Devon Dotson did a tremendous job on Markus Howard. “He’s got some Frank (Mason) in him. I think he’s been as good as any freshman point guard in the country so far.”
– Long Beach State coach Dan Monson could have left for more money at SMU or Colorado State back in 2012, but the school and former athletic director Vic Cegles came up with a creative way to keep Monson: Give him a portion of the money that they received for guarantee “buy” games. “We were playing them anyway,” Monson told me. “The misperception was that we were playing them for me to make money.” At one point in time, Monson was making in the neighborhood of $800,000 in total salary, and now after a renegotiated deal with new AD Andy Fee after a couple of losing seasons, Monson is down in the $500-600 area with a base salary of $283,650 – down about $75,000.
– Stony Brook made $200,00 for its wins over South Carolina, George Washington and Rhode Island – and coach Jeff Boals got the victory over the Rams without Elijah Olaniyi – who was averaging 15.2 points and 7.0 rebounds. Olaniyi, who was the America East Freshman of the Year a season ago, is out with a concussion and could return Saturday against Quinnipiac.
– Iowa State’s Steve Prohm came back from Maui with a 2-1 mark and the Cyclones are 6-1 overall despite being without four of their top eight players. Cameron Lard and Zoran Talley Jr., are both expected to return from their seven-game suspensions Monday against North Dakota State, and Prohm is hopeful that Lindell Wigginton (knee) and Solomon Young (groin) will be back in about two weeks. “This will be the deepest team we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Prohm said. Freshman Talen Horton-Tucker has gotten most of the attention, but Prohm also raved about frosh point guard Tyrese Haliburton – who has filled in for Wigginton, started the last six games and is averaging 7.1 points with 20 assists and just six turnovers.