We've transferred quite nicely from Elias Harris fever to Bol Kong fever. Today we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jamie Oei. Oei was Kong's head coach during his one season at Douglas College in British Columbia and he provided us with some outstanding insights into Bol's recruitment and his on-court abilities. It goes without saying that Kong's time on the court has been limited lately and his path to Gonzaga has been rocky but Oei really brings everything to a whole different light. We thank Coach Oei for taking the time to talk to us and hope you enjoy the wealth of information he has about Bol.
The Slipper Still Fits: Bol burst on to the scene with Douglas College when you guys played against some top USA teams (Marquette, Oklahoma, BC). Did you know how talented Bol was before that, and had he received much recruiting attention prior to those performances?
Jamie Oei: Before he got to Douglas, I knew he was good and had legit potential to be going down to the states to play. But I wasn't sure because he had taken a year off after high school so none of us could predict the future but I knew he should be playing and developing so I had him play for us at Douglas and he was better than I expected. I knew he'd be good but I didn't know he'd be that good, that fast. He's quite the talent to be doing the things he does and he does a lot of different things very well. I've coached in Europe have seen professional players in Europe and Bol can do mostly all the things those guys can do and even some things those guys will never be able to do.
As far as his recruiting, he got plenty of attention when he was in high school but when you disappear for a year like he did people tend to forget about you. Recruiting is a tough business and it's hard for schools to go chasing guys when they don't know where they are. When we talked about his recruiting, we always talked about making good decisions and we met about once a week to talk about those things. We went over the list of schools that were interested and eliminated some and if new ones popped up we talked about their program, how he would fit in, how their roster broke down etc etc. We got really in depth about the entire thing because a lot of the Canadian kids jump at a particular school because they dream about going down there and don't look at the situation and they wind up transferring. That's one of the things we concentrated on with Bol.
TSSF: Once Bol started to receive recruiting attention from the states, which schools were most actively recruiting him, and how did Gonzaga become involved in the process?
JO: Gonzaga actually didn't get involved early on. I actually saw Tommy Lloyd at the Final Four the year I had Bol and I had known Tommy from previous experiences and so I chatted with him about Bol and then I talked to Coach Few and then Tommy came up to see him up at Douglas and when he saw him he knew he would fit into the system. They really started to make a hard play for Bol after that. The thing with Gonzaga is that they are the team we see a lot of and follow them being so close to Vancouver so people tend to see Gonzaga as their own team as well.
continue reading more about Bol in our interview with his most recent head coach...
TSSF: Ultimately, amongst the other schools, why was Gonzaga ultimately Bol's choice?
JO: There were quite a few schools that were interested and ultimately he made his own decision. It came down to where he felt comfortable. Tommy Lloyd was very good to him and I think that he is the reason that Bol is there. He gave him great support during the immigration process and Bol has always viewed Tommy in an excellent way so their relationship was big. They also obviously get a lot of press up here and I think that having Rob up there is another familiar face and that is a big reason because he wants to feel comfortable and wants to fit in. His ultimate goal is very high and he wants to make the NBA. I always told him not to settle and do something like going to Europe and playing basketball in some half-decent European city.
TSSF: Before it became clear about the visa issues, was Bol originally supposed to be at Gonzaga last year? When did you and Bol realize how lengthy of a process this might be?
JO: We knew that it would be very difficult right off the bat. He was recruited out of high school and couldn't get over to America for a whole year and then I convinced him to play at Douglas. Until Bol actually landed in Spokane, I didn't know if he would ever be there. We joked about it a lot saying that until he gets on a plane, we didn't know if it was every going to happen.
TSSF: In talking with Bol and Gonzaga, was there ever a point when all the parties sort of felt like this whole thing wasn't going to happen?
JO: Many times, yeah, and he has been frustrated a lot and thought about going overseas or staying in Canada because of that frustration. That kid has gone through more frustration than anyone and until he got on campus I don't think he really thought it was going to happen. It was so frustrating because it was a situation where you would keep getting your hopes up because you'd hear certain things and be like "oh yeah it's going to happen in June or September or next year" and he just got frustrated with getting his hopes up so much.
TSSF: On the court, what would you consider to be Bol's greatest strengths, especially on the offensive end?
I think that Bol is an excellent scorer. He can do anything with the ball in his hands. He can shoot from distance, drive on the baseline, and post up well. I think he needs to work on finishing the ball at the hoop and needs to be around good players and play hard every possession because that is something that he hasn't had to ever do. Even playing in college up here, you don't have to play every possession hard and when you play Gonzaga's schedule, you have to play hard every possession or you won't play. I think he is capable of doing that but he hasn't had to. The good thing is that he plays his best basketball in the biggest games but it will be an adjustment. He's worked hard last year though, he spent half the year with NEDA and trained with them and Greg Francis did a lot of things with him and then back in Vancouver he has been working hard and training a lot. It's great to train on your own but he is also working on his game hard. He also spent some time with the Raptors and Anthony Parker to just see what the next level is like and he realized how hard he has to work.
He's also a very competitive kid. He's not real emotional with trash talk and rah rah stuff but he doesn't like to lose. When we scrimmaged I usually put Bol with the lesser team and he never complained, he just worked hard.
TSSF: Bol will be facing a whole new level of competition this upcoming season when playing with Gonzaga. What area of his game must he improve to be able to contribute immediately?
JO: It's hard to say with the type of guys Gonzaga brings in every year. The fact that he's down there now and gets to play with them is huge because he is going to go hard all the time which is what he needs. The practice itself will get Bol into the shape he has to be and if he doesn't do that, Coach Few won't pick favorites and he won't play. Bol will thrive in that kind of environment because he wants to play right away.