Season breakdown: From the opening game of the season against Kentucky, it was clear that Bolden had taken big steps from his first two seasons in Durham. The junior scored some nice buckets inside and looked much more comfortable with no injuries. Bolden continued to improve over the following weeks, highlighted by an 11-point, nine-rebound and seven-block performance in Maui against Auburn, but struggled mightily to defend Gonzaga’s sharpshooting bigs the following game.
The DeSoto High School product’s low point came in Madison Square Garden in a win over Texas Tech, where he failed to keep up with the Red Raiders’ athleticism and only saw six minutes of action. Bolden would bounce back at the start of ACC play, though, notching double-digit scoring efforts in three of Duke’s first four conference games. The 6-foot-11 big man had his best scoring outing of the year in a blowout win over Miami with 15 points to go along with 10 boards, his second double-double of the season.
In the final regular season game of the season against North Carolina, Bolden gave Blue Devil fans a scare when he ran into the stanchion of one of the baskets in the Dean E. Smith Center and collapsed to the floor. It initially seemed like a season-ending injury but was later revealed to be an MCL sprain, allowing Bolden to return for the NCAA Tournament, where he would average 16 minutes per game off the bench in Duke’s four contests.
Results relative to expectations: After the departure of NBA Lottery picks Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr., the door was finally open for Bolden to compete with Javin DeLaurier for a starting spot. Many expected the junior to rise up to his five star potential and provide a solid interior presence, which he did in bursts, but never maintained enough to become a game changer.
There are still questions on whether or not Bolden will return for his senior season rather than explore professional or transferring options, with top recruit Vernon Carey Jr. coming to the Blue Devils’ front court and five star Matthew Hurt potentially joining him as well. Bolden would definitely make a big impact on next year’s roster though, as he still has a chance to approach that five star impact many expected from his first day on campus.