MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–This season didn’t go quite how West Virginia University’s James Bolden had hoped. The freshman tore his right ACL and sprained his MCL during an open gym session in September.
“It was kind of an open gym,” Bolden said. “It was like the very last game so I was heartbroken. It happened that in the very last game. I went up and blocked the dunk and I took my eyes off the ground and it just happened.”
The Covington, Ky. native averaged 19.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game and led Holmes High its third straight Ninth Region finals appearance. He shot 46.3 percent from the floor and 33.8 percent from beyond the arc.
In the summer, it seemed as Bolden could be a key component to the Mountaineers offense. He averaged 10.7 points per game during WVU’s summer trip and exhibition in the Bahamas.
“I think I could of had an impact on the team,” Bolden said. “I showed some spurts in the Bahamas that the coaching staff liked and I think I could of contributed well to the team.”
While the Mountaineers lost the freshman known as “Beetle” for the season, he is taking this as a learning opportunity to see just what head coach Bob Huggins expects from him.
“I am taking it as an advantage standpoint because I can see what he (Huggins) wants from the point guard and knows what he wants from them when he comes out of the huddle and stuff like that,” he said. “Then watching practice when I got a chance, I see how he wants the offense ran. Even the defense part of it.”
The hot shooting guard says his shooting game has really improved while being sidelined.
“I am actually shooting way better than I did before,” he said. “My shot is more consistent. That’s coming from just standing there shooting when I could move at all. I think overall my game and my IQ for the game has gotten really better by just sitting back watching.”
Physically Bolden feels like he right on track, if not ahead of schedule.
“Everything is good. I’m actually ahead in the healing process right now,” he said.
Bolden actually feels like his legs are going to be stronger in the long haul.
“I am actually lifting more weight in my legs than I did before when I got injured,” he said. “That’s the much more improved part about my process right now is the strengthening part.”
Recovering from an ACL injury can be mentally challenging, especially for a young athlete, but Bolden isn’t worried about that.
“Me personally I feel like I have recovered from the mental aspect part of it because it ain’t no part of being down about it or anything like that cause it just make the process more hard for you,” he said. “So I just keep a positive vibe towards it and just keep moving through the process.”
Part of that is probably because of the advice and encouragement from junior forward Brandon Watkins, who had the same surgery last spring. Watkins returned to action just seven months later.
“Almost every day I ask him, was this sore after you did this part of the exercise and stuff like that,” he said. “I just asked him how he continued to push through the game. And he just gave me words of advice to how he did it.”
Bolden is looking forward to next season and being able to contribute to his team.
“I am going to bring the energy level, the passion for the game and the love for the game on the court,” he said.
Despite not being able to help his teammates on the court, Bolden makes sure to do his part from the bench game in and game out.
“You got to stay positive from my standpoint,” he said. “With my injury, you got to stay positive and bring energy to the team because you also have a role on the team even if you aren’t playing. Encouraging your teammates to play harder, to do better in the games.”