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Most high school sensations only play one season of college basketball before entering the NBA Draft. However, former McDonald’s All-American Marques Bolden played three seasons at Duke University before entering his name into the 2019 draft.
During last season, he was given his first chance at playing meaningful minutes for the Blue Devils and averaged nearly two blocks per game. After going undrafted, he now finds himself getting ready to compete for a roster spot on the Cleveland Cavaliers when they begin training camp next month.
“I found somebody in the Cavs who obviously has a plan for me,” Bolden told Amico Hoops. “I’m just looking forward to being the best version of myself.”
On draft night, he was at home with his family and his agent, and while he was not drafted, there were plenty of options for him. They decided on signing with the Cavs that night. He is in touch with several people around the team, including Antonio Lang, an assistant coach, fellow rookie Darius Garland, and former No. 7 overall pick Collin Sexton.
Right now, he is at home in Dallas working on getting into the best shape possible for training camp. He averaged 6.8 points and 4.0 rebounds per game for the Cavs during summer-league plat, and once again showed his defensive impact, averaging 1.4 blocks per game.
“It’s really just a learning process,” he said. “You don’t want to take anything for granted during this process, and just try to enjoy each moment.”
Playing three seasons at Duke for Mike Krzyzewski taught him so much that he will be able to take with him into the NBA.
“You tend to focus on things that you never thought was important,” Bolden said. “You learn from his intensity is one thing that you kind of pick up on quick, too.”
One of the biggest things he learned was that no matter the game, Krzyzewski brought the same form of preparation. If they were playing a D-II school or the University of Kentucky, the opponent didn’t change the style of preparation.
Even though fellow teammates Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett garnered most of the attention, Bolden is confident in his abilities without validation from fans or the media.
“I know what I can do,” he said. “As long as I stay confident in myself, that’s all that matters.”
Knowing his role and in a sense playing in the shadows of other players can be a huge benefit. Especially for an undrafted rookie who may not receive playing time early on. Right now, his main goal is to simply make the Cavaliers’ 15-man roster, and if he does it will come with no guarantee of any playing time or recognition.
The unselfish Bolden feels he can do more than just dirty work. He can stretch the floor by hitting open shots and can guard multiple positions. However, he is ready for any kind of role in which the team puts him.
“Whatever the Cavs want out of me and expect out of me is what I plan to give them,” he said.
Over the past three years in college, Bolden matured. His body is stronger, he’s a smarter player and he is more athletic than he was. His knee, which he injured last year, is healed and he is pain-free.
“I’m feeling as best as I’ve felt before,” Bolden said.
Not only did he have a great coach at Duke, but he is being guided by some former NBA veterans, including former NBA champion Kendrick Perkins, with whom he speaks frequently and who has shared a great deal. The intelligent, unselfish 21-year-old also speaks to Kevin Garnett and met with him in Los Angeles this summer for a meal and was told to stay confident and remain hungry.