This is the 24-year-old Dalton Bolon’s seventh season in college, and his journey to become the leading scorer on a Top 25 team is remarkable. It started at Indian Valley High in Ohio, where he didn’t have a single scholarship offer coming out of high school.
He was a football player who loved hoops, an outside linebacker who didn’t get much respect on the hardwood. He had some buddies on the team at Division II West Liberty, which is about 90 minutes from his home. He went to a couple of open gyms and was invited to be a walk-on for the team.
“They told me that I probably wasn’t ever going to play,” Bolon said. “They were right at the time. I was 165 pounds and I didn’t belong on a college basketball court.”
Bolon redshirted his first year, put on some weight, improved dramatically and fell in love with the game. Bolon started every contest the following season after a coaching change, and averaged 16.7 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 40 percent from deep.
Bolon should have been nowhere near the court the next season due to a significant eye injury that he suffered.
Instead, he wound up starting every game. He needed multiple surgeries but played with a patch on his eye the entire year.
“That was actually my best year from three,” said Bolon, who shot 41 percent from deep and averaged 20.7 points that season. “Maybe I should go back to it. It was a learning thing for me, expanding my game and being forced to learn different ways to score.”
Bolon earned D2 All-American honors that season, as well as the next two years. He graduated in 2021 with a master’s in biology, and was set to go to PA school at West Liberty. He returned home after the season and stayed away from the gym for a few days.
He was miserable.
“I missed it,” Bolon said. “I wasn’t ready to give up basketball yet. I knew I could always go back to PA school. I thought that maybe I could look into my endeavors of playing professional basketball and thought the best opportunity was to go to D-I.”
Even though Bolon had redshirted and played four years, there was still the extra season that the NCAA granted everyone with their special COVID-19 waiver. He tossed his name in the portal, and the country boy had always wanted to give city life a shot.
Charleston assistant Brian Kloman saw the numbers on Bolon, then called and found out he wore an eye patch for a year.
“When Klo told me that, I was sold,” Pat Kelsey said. “His coach said he was the toughest kid you’ll ever coach, and he was right.”
“Charleston called and I felt connected with them,” Bolon said. “At that time, we weren’t allowed to take visits. I came down on my own on vacation with mom and dad to see the city. I didn’t even see the coaches. I’m not a dude who likes [the] recruiting process — don’t like people bullshitting me.”
Bolon chose Charleston over Murray State, Akron and Indiana State, and was excited to finish his college career in the D-I ranks.
“Last year should have been his last year, but he broke his foot in the third game, petitioned the NCAA and got an extra year,” Kelsey said. “He’s the No. 1 Academic All-American in the country. He taught anatomy at West Liberty.”