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Duke men's basketball's Marques Bolden turns in best collegiate performance in preseason rout

<p>Marques Bolden has been a key contributor for Duke in his junior campaign.</p>

Marques Bolden has been a key contributor for Duke in his junior campaign.

At the start of a pivotal summer for junior Marques Bolden, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski predicted the former 16th-ranked prospect would be "one of the best big men in the country."

Then came Canada.

In three games, Bolden scored no points despite playing nearly 40 minutes. He looked weak and lacked confidence, especially when compared to first-year teammates Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett, who stole the show up north.

When asked what he was seeing from Bolden, an exasperated Coach K said: "I have to see more than what you saw because I’m just seeing what you saw."

And after all of that, with the Blue Devils' season opener a little more than a week away, Bolden may be the most intriguing player on their roster. The DeSoto, Texas, native has started both of Duke's exhibition games and Saturday, he turned in easily one of his collegiate performances—albeit against Division II Ferris State—with 15 points, five rebounds and three blocks while looking the part of a dominant big man.

Some of Bolden's emergence may be due to a foot injury Javin DeLaurier suffered a few weeks back, opening up a spot in the starting lineup for Bolden alongside the freshman foursome of Barrett, Williamson, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones.

But much of it is likely a result of Bolden's health.

"He really hasn’t been healthy completely his first two years," Krzyzewski said after Saturday's win. "He has confidence.... He’s protecting the basket. On ball screens, he’s very, very athletic. He’s playing athletically and then on offense, he’s been patient. He’s caught the ball each time and he’s running the court. Really, I liked everything he did very much."

Although Bolden is not one of the Blue Devils' captains, he's been thrust into the role of a leader. As the oldest member of Duke's lineup, the young Blue Devils will certainly be looking to him as their main voice on the defense end.

It showed Saturday—thanks to the efforts of that five-man group including Bolden, Duke jumped out to a 13-2 advantage in a matter of just more than three minutes and never looked back.

"Marques has always been super talented," junior Javin DeLaurier said. "He's just getting his confidence back and he's showing everybody what he's able to do."

Perhaps the highlight of the evening was also the most unexpected. After setting a screen, Bolden popped back behind the 3-point line, caught a pass from Barrett and drilled a triple with relative ease.

"I’ve been working on it all summer, just trying to stretch the floor," Bolden said. "I’m just trying to add onto the level of versatility with this team."

"He’s a very good shooter—as long as he’s not shooting it fast," Krzyzewski said with a laugh.

Regardless of which junior gets the starting nod next Tuesday night in Indianapolis alongside the Blue Devils' rookie core, Bolden showed signs of a player many Duke fans thought might never see during his time in Durham.

It's a big step in the right direction for a guy that will almost certainly be a crucial piece of what looks to be a promising season ahead.

"The single thing I’m trying to pick up on most out there [is] being active no matter what," Bolden said. "To have the coaches behind me, and then obviously my teammates, I know I can go out there and play with the utmost confidence in myself."

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 


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