How UK looks after failing to snag Marques Bolden


Head coach John Calipari yells at Isaiah Briscoe during the Wildcat’s game against the Stony Brook Seawolves during the first round of the NCCA tournament at Well’s Fargo Arena on March 16, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo by Taylor Pence

Kevin Erpenbeck

The process was long. The wait was excruciating and drawn out. And in the end, Kentucky lost out on securing one of its top recruits.

After months of making the nation wait for his announcement, top-tier high school prospect Marques Bolden revealed that he plans on attending Duke (or “The University of Duke” as he mistakenly referred to the school as) this fall.

Bolden was one of UK’s primary targets for the 2016-17 season from the beginning, and seeing blue-collar rival school Duke grab him has to sting just a little bit more.

But UK fans shouldn’t fret too much over losing Bolden to the Blue Devils. Eric Bossi, a basketball analyst of, tweeted out a message on Thursday saying UK still holds a slight advantage over Duke for the No. 1 recruiting class of 2016. According to’s prospect rankings, UK has signed five 5-star players for this year in De’Aaron Fox, Bam Adebayo, Malik Monk, Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones. With the signing of Bolden, Duke now has four 5-star players.

But Bolden would have given something UK doesn’t have and didn’t have last season: a big center. His 6-foot-10, 250-pound stature provides the Blue Devils with force down low, something the Cats tried to get with Skal Labissiere’s 6-11, 215-pound size a year ago. Without him, UK may have to get Adebayo (6-10, 240-pounds) to play in the five spot often instead of his usual power forward position. 

The loss of Bolden also brings the decisions of Marcus Lee and Isaiah Briscoe to the center of attention. Both players still have their names in this year’s NBA draft, and both players are still drawing considerable interest from NBA teams.

Lee participated in the NBA combine last week and told the media in attendance he would like to keep his name in and “develop” as a player, even though he struggled during the combine. However, a league source told that Lee canceled at least three workouts with NBA teams after the combine.

In an interview with the Courier-Journal, Briscoe’s father, George, said that the guard had been working out for a handful of NBA teams and had been getting good feedback from them.

“I get feedback and it’s positive, but that doesn’t mean you’re a pro,” the older Briscoe said in the interview. “He can score, he can play, but then it’s interesting because I didn’t see that (at Kentucky). It’s interesting.”

The deadline for players to decide whether to stay in the NBA draft or return to school is Wednesday. 

By not securing Bolden, UK is sure to lose the possible No. 1 preseason ranking to Duke. But more importantly, no Bolden means one less player on the roster, as UK is believed to be done recruiting players for the upcoming season. After the announcement of Charles Matthews’ transfer, UK must wait and see if two more spots on its roster will become free. If Briscoe returns, he figures to be an important part of the team and perhaps even the starting two-guard. Lee brings experience and additional size should he return, things that the Cats lacked last year.

The loss of Bolden to Duke is a bad taste in UK’s mouth, but it isn’t world-ending as of yet. With the upcoming class still brimming with talent, the Cats still figure to compete for the championship title their fans always covet.

But the decisions of Briscoe and Lee will now play a bigger role into how real those expectations should be.