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Talking Marques Bolden with John Watson of The Devils Den

Marques Bolden Duke
Photo: Brian Spurlock-USATSI

To get a different perspective on the recruitment of Marques Bolden and how things have unfolded for Duke over the past few months, we were lucky enough to be able to interview John Watson of The Devils Den – the Duke site in the Scout network.

John is well-connected to the Duke basketball program and his site is one of the best sources related to premium information on recruiting and other topics.

Check out the interview below to get some great insight on where Duke is in the Marques Bolden race and how it could play out.

What’s your overall impression of how the recruitment has gone with Marques Bolden?

It’s atypical for Duke of late. Going back several years, there hasn’t been a lot of drama for Duke and Coach K when it comes to decision making. They usually have had a very, very good idea of where a kid is going well before an announcement has been made. It’s not so with Bolden. He’s been a roller coaster and has kept everyone – coaches, fellow players, and probably himself – guessing.

It’s down to Duke and Kentucky for Bolden and both teams already appear to be loaded for next season. Do you think he’ll be a difference-maker for either team?

To some degree, sure. He’s the top rated center in the class. He’s a big body who has length and strength. He’s not Jahlil Okafor in terms of immediate impact, but he’s very good and has a very good chance to be a one and done talent. Both Duke and UK have a lot of talent in the front court next year and it’s not a given that he’ll start at either program. But he would definitely be in the rotation for both. He’ll push his teammates wherever he goes and he’ll play a good deal.

How does Bolden potentially impact the guys Duke is targeting in the 2017 class and the bigs already on the roster, like Chase Jeter?

It really depends on next season. If he plays at either Duke or UK, and if those teams are as good as we all project them to be, it’ll help his draft stock without accounting for anything he’ll do on his own, which could be substantial and worthy of a first round pick on its own. With Duke, they are targeting Wendell Carter and Mohamed Bamba as bigs, along with Kevin Knox as a guy who could play the three or four. It’s hard to see Duke landing (and keeping) Bolden alongside Carter and Bamba, in addition to Jeter. That’d be the most highly rated depth in the post I can ever remember at Duke.

Did the Duke coaching staff have an idea that this recruitment could be such a rollercoaster when they made Bolden a priority?

I believe Duke was on such a high after landing their top two guys in Giles and Tatum that they were in a “Why not?” situation when it comes to Bolden. Specifically, they had the top rated center in the class receptive and willing to listen to and be recruited by them. Initially, it was kind of a long shot, but they have stayed involved and made it all the way to the final two with him. The good news is that they are set in the post without him and even more loaded if he jumps on board. That’s speaking from both an immediate (next season) and future (class of 2017 recruiting) perspective.

What have been some of the other most unusual Duke recruitments you can recall?

Any modern discussion of odd recruitments has to start with Harrison Barnes. He was, shall we say, liberal with the number of things he told different personalities in the recruiting class, and it was an incredible achievement for him to keep track of it all. Some other odd ones included Kris Humphries, Ndudi Ebi, and even Quinn Cook was interesting down the stretch with the [Myck] Kabongo angle.

What’s your prediction for where Marques Bolden will be playing next season?

I honestly am not sure. And I don’t know that he is either. But if you look at all the pieces, it’s kind of hard to think Duke has the inside track. The Blue Devils have room for him next year with 12 scholarship players. Kentucky doesn’t have room unless Marcus Lee doesn’t come back to Lexington. So, it seems to follow that if Duke was his top choice and if they had sold him on becoming a Blue Devil, what is there to wait for? Conversely, if his top choice is or was Kentucky, he’d have to wait to see what Lee is going to do before he could even commit. That’s just me trying to put the pieces together as best I can, but as you noted earlier, this has been an odd recruitment.


Thanks to John for taking the time to share his perspective with us.

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