SANTA ANA, Calif. — There were a few moments in No. 10 Mater Dei’s 74-42 victory against Village Christian (Sun Valley, Calif.) Friday at Nike Extravaganza where lob passes from junior point guard Spencer Freedman looked like they were going to, well, nobody.
And then, out of nowhere, a 7-footer appeared, leaped from outside the key, unraveled his seemingly endless wingspan, picked his point guard’s pass out of the air and dunked it home with little air between his sneakers and the hardwood.
“It’s unbelievable,” Freedman said of playing alongside new teammate, Bol Bol. “There’s no place you can’t throw the ball because his wingspan is incredibly long and he has good hands which is a super plus. It makes things a lot easier.”
This is the new reality for the Monarchs with the 7-foot-1, 220-pound center now in the fold after his transfer from Bishop Miege (Mission, Kan.) and clearance to play by the California Interscholastic Federation in mid-January.
Bol, a consensus five-star prospect among recruiting outlets, played his first game for Mater Dei Jan. 20 in a 21-point win against Trinity League rival Orange Lutheran and he wasted no time showing what kind of impact he could have, finishing with 21 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks off the bench.
“I think guys are having fun playing with him and having a guy they can throw the ball up to like that,” Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight said. “He usually gets double figures in rebounds and has been our leading scorer in three of the first four games he played with us. We got him late in the year and we’re hopefully going to get better as we go. It’s a situation where it’s exciting for all of us and he’s just a junior.”
The Monarchs have won all five games in which Bol has played. He has averaged 16.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks, while shooting 70 percent from the field.
Mater Dei did not make Bol available to the media after the game.
But while every Mater Dei player will tell you how fantastic it is to play with him, the fit wasn’t seamless across all facets of the game.
“We knew it wouldn’t be easy getting him acclimated offensively,” Freedman explained. “After a lot of practices and a couple of games, he’s been able to get acclimated. He’s moving without the ball, we’re going to get it inside to him when he wants it and he can step outside and hit the jumper. He’s really versatile. We’re still feeling it out, but every game it’s gotten a lot better.”
McKnight was quick to note that Bol’s biggest impact has come on the defensive end. When he’s not swatting shots off the backboard, he’s making opponents think twice about venturing into the paint.
“He alters shots just because of his presence,” McKnight said. “It’s not that he blocks all of the shots, he alters they’re thinking about him. They drive and think, ‘we better not,’ and they throw it out.”
The biggest question surrounding Mater Dei’s addition of Bol is: Does this make Mater Dei better suited to compete with No. 2 Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) and No. 5 Chino Hills in the CIF Southern Section Open Division Playoffs?
Freedman thinks so.
“Definitely,” Freedman said. “Chino Hills has ‘Big O’ (Onyeka Okongwu) and Sierra Canyon has (Marvin) Bagley and Cody (Riley), and a 7-foot-2 guy makes a big difference inside. He’s definitely going to help us compete.”
Another definitive statement about Bol came from McKnight in regards to his ceiling.
“He’s a first-round pick in the NBA Draft,” he said. “My money goes on him being a top six pick. He’s in the money-makers.”