There was already one college sensation this year in Duke’s Zion Williamson, but Bol Bol is a close second. The 19-year-old, 7”3 (2.21m) player is the son of former Sudanese NBA player Manute Bol and his unique skills as a big man makes you want to keep an eye on him. In his first few college games, he’s knocked down several threes of the dribble, blocked shots and showed off his ball handling. What’s even more surprising is that Bol Bol is only 19-years-old and in his freshman season with the Oregon Ducks.
Though Bol doesn’t have a fast release, he’s close to unstoppable, as he shot 53% on his threes in the first few games. And who can stop him at 7”3? He’s even already being called a potential unicorn. Bol Bol’s defense as well as his physicality are definitely his weaknesses, as he is very skinny, as his father was, and therefore often falls short on defense and in the rebound. Despite all that, he’s a top NBA prospect for 2019, and if he can reach his potential, he can even become the next NBA unicorn.
But, what exactly is a unicorn? People use the word for 7-footer that are a new kind of big man. These players are athletic, dynamic, versatile, and most of them have skills in every aspect of the game. They no longer have to only play in the post, but have an all-round game and can play their game anywhere on the court, handle the ball, shoot, defend, and are quite strong. Most of all, these unicorns have a huge advantage over their defenders, as they’re too quick for normal players their size to defend, but too tall for quicker players. One way or another, the unicorns are always at an advantage.
If having an all-round game was all that mattered, Bol Bol wouldn’t be considered to be a ‘future unicorn’ as his defense and physical appearance are his weaknesses. On Monday, he was outstanding on offense, scoring 32 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in a game against the Texas Southern Tigers, but in the end, the Oregon Ducks still fell short. Though Bol Bol was almost unstoppable on offense, the 7-footer of the Tigers, Trayvon Reed was able to set a new career-high with 23 points as well, as Bol missed the defensive qualities and strength to stop him. Eventually, the Ducks lost by 5 points. But, it’s also about uniqueness, and having the height combined with a great skillset that makes it difficult to be guarded.
Luckily for Bol, no one can be a unicorn right away. They aren’t ‘born’, the players develop into them. Porzingis, Antetokounmpo, Towns, Jokic and Davis all had great potential when they entered the NBA, but they all lacked in one way or another. Antetokounmpo averaged 6.8 points in his first season and was the skinniest player on the team, and now, five seasons later, he excels at several aspects of his game, has four times the strength he had as a rookie, but his shooting still has to improve. Porzingis’ game was already quite all-round, but he absolutely missed the strength to play through contact and had to depend solely on his height. As soon as he gained strength, he started to be able to dominate more and more as well. Towns is one of the best big men in the league, and a force on offense, but he still has to work on his defense. He’s not a bad defender, his defense is just not good enough to stop other great NBA players.
So, Bol will have the entire season to get used to become fast and more physical, before making the transition to the NBA. There’s a big chance Bol Bol will surpass his father in the NBA, as Manute was only known for his shotblocking (and making a three once in a while). As long as Bol Bol will continue to improve his impressive skillset he can be quite successful. Time will tell whether he can become a real unicorn. But his future is promising.