As the start of a new school year rapidly approaches, one of the most intriguing stories in college basketball appears to finally have a resolution. From every indication we have been given, whether it be from Zagweb, or from word of mouth, it seems to be a near lock that Bol Kong will arrive in Spokane next week, and will finally have the chance to suit up and play college basketball. Because of the story book type journey that Bol has had,from growing up in Sudan, to emerging as a basketball sensation in Canada, he has developed an almost mythical type reputation without ever taking the court for Gonzaga. Now, there is no questions that both BuffZag and I are incredibly excited to finally watch Bol suit up for the Zags, but I feel like we need to take an educated look at what fans should reasonably expect from Kong. There were a bunch of different factors that I took into consideration when trying to come up with reasonable expectations for Bol, including having spent the past two days watching all the highlights of Bol on the Internet that I could find. After viewing these highlights, and taking some time to really think about the type of role he could play, I feel that I have a good sense on what we should expect from Bol Kong.
The first thing that jumps out when watching any highlights of Bol is just how natural of a scorer he is. There are times where he will hit a difficult jumper, or a tough reverse layup, but he makes it look so natural and effortless. This is a unique ability that not a lot of people possess. Equally impressive is the offensive repertoire that Bol has at its his disposal. While not being an explosive athlete by any measure, he uses his length and good body control to get to the rim with ease, and he has no problems finishing once he gets there. When a defender starts to give him space to prevent the dribble drive, it appears that Bol has a beautiful stroke all the way out to the three point line. He also gets tremendous elevation on his jump shot, and with his release point being so high, he should have no problem getting off contested jumpers. From the moment that practices start in September, Bol will be arguably the top pure scorer we have on this Gonzaga team, mostly because of the different ways he can score, and the ability he has to hit contested jumpers.
However, in watching highlights, there are some clear areas of concern that Bol will have to improve if he hopes to see the court and earn consistent minutes. The first issue I have, and this is something that will drive Coach Giacoletti absolutely nuts, is the fact that he is a lazy defender. In JC ball in Canada, Bol can rely on his length and athleticism to jump the passing lane or to block a shot from behind, but that won't fly when he is playing against Michigan St. There were a number of times when smaller and less athletic guards were getting their shots off with ease against Bol. With his length and athleticism, there is no reason that anyone should be getting of an easy shot against him, and it comes down to the fact that he does not exert enough effort and tenacity on the defensive end. Unless you are going to be like Adam Morrison and average close to 30 a game, you better play tough defense. In Bol's defense (no pun intended), I tend to think that this comes from a lack of coaching focus on the defensive end throughout his career. However, after his first week in practice, I get a feeling Bol might be sleeping in a defensive stance, with nightmares of Coach Few yelling at him to stay in his stance.
The other area of concern I have for Bol is his strength/time away from the competitive game. By spending this last year playing strictly pick-up games and rec ball, Bol has not had the opportunity to be at a school and under a strength coach. This is a big deal, as it will be much more difficult for him to absorb contact and get to the rim without a great deal of upper body strength. The contact he will be facing at this level is so much higher than what he faced at Douglas, and if he hasn't done a good job of keeping his strength and conditioning up, then he will struggle. In much the same vain, by being away from competitive and structured basketball for the last year, it will be interesting to see how quickly he can get back into the rhythm of a set and structured offense. This might seem like it's not a big deal, but I can tell you that just learning the flex offense will be difficult, and not having playing in any type of structured offense for the past 15 months will make the transition even more difficult.
It will be hard for the coaches to keep Bol off of the court because of the natural scoring ability he possesses. Coach Few has always had a soft spot for dominant offensive players, and that is certainly something that Bol can be. However, he must put a more concerted effort in on the defensive end, or else he will become too much of a liability to see the court. With that said, I see Bol as a legitimate 6th or 7th man, who can come on the court and provide an offensive spark, and arguably be one of the leading scorers for the team next year. I don't think its unreasonable to expect something around 12 points per game, with a couple of 20 point performances in the mix. All that I know is that it will be incredibly exciting to follow Bol the next three years, as it is great to see him being rewarded with the opportunity to play college ball.
What do you guys think? Are my expectation unreasonable for Bol? Or do you think that I am not giving him enough credit?