A little over a year ago, Jonah Bolden looked set to make an immediate impact at UCLA. The Sydney native had the size (6-foot-10, 215) and the hype (four stars), enough to generate talk of a pro future.
The first eight games of his Bruin career have provided few glimpses. Bolden has been an important part of UCLA’s rotation, averaging 17.9 minutes off the bench, but he’s yet to show the type of well-rounded game that could transform UCLA into a team opponents dread seeing.
“It’s developing slowly, to be honest with you,” he said. “I’m still kind of getting my niche together with the team, finding my role.”
Heading into Saturday’s 7 p.m. tipoff at No. 20 Gonzaga, Bolden has only made 10 field goals. He’s taken nearly three-fifths of his shots from beyond the arc, but ranks sixth on the team at 28.6 percent from downtown. He has at least been efficient on the boards, averaging one rebound every four minutes he sees the floor.
The slow start is understandable considering his numerous setbacks. An NCAA eligibility issue sidelined him for his entire freshman season, and kept him from even practicing until this past January. This summer, he missed roughly two months with a torn meniscus in his right knee. In UCLA’s season-opening loss to Monmouth, Bolden was stuck on the bench due to an undisclosed disciplinary reason.
The biggest challenge for him so far has been figuring out how to play either power forward or small forward depending on the Bruins’ lineup.