Beetle Bolden Adds Size, Experience And Leadership For WVU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – When Beetle Bolden left his Covington, Ky., home in the summer of 2015 to start his college career at West Virginia University, he weighed only slightly more than a complete set of encyclopedias … back when people actually used printed encyclopedias.
He was the ultimate image of the scrawny kid in the cartoon who got sand kicked in his face by the beach bully.
Now four years later, he may not quite be Popeye, but he’s definitely been eating his spinach.
“I was 140 when I first got there,” Bolden said with a sheepish grin.
He’s been adding a little weight every year since.
A preseason knee injury prior to his true freshman season forced him to take a medical redshirt. Healthy for the 2016-17 season, he saw spot duty, averaging 3.5 points in 5.8 minutes a game. Last year, as a third-year sophomore, his role, as well as his weight, got larger. He generally was the first guard off the bench, subbing into the senior-laden backcourt of Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles.
Up to 170 pounds last year, which better allowed him to handle the bumping and grinding of major college basketball, Bolden averaged 8.7 points a game, reaching double figures 18 times.
He was the team’s best three-point shooter, making 69-of-168 attempts from beyond the arc (41.1 percent), and his toughness was unquestioned, as he easily topped the squad in charges taken.
With Carter and Miles now graduated, Bolden’s role figures to expand even more. And knowing what is to come, he’s worked hard in weight room in the offseason to continue adding weight and muscle.
“I’ve put on 10 more pounds, and I’m about 180 right now,” said the 6-foot guard with a sense of pride.
“I feel faster, stronger and more confident on the court.”
The offseason was more than just pumping iron for Bolden. He also put in a lot of work on the court.
“I’ve tried to touch up on everything,” he noted. “I’ve kept the work ethic up and have tried to improve everything.”
Two-thirds of Bolden’s shots and attempts came from three-point range, so he’s worked on his mid-range game and getting to the rim. His turnover-to-assist ratio of 39:36 also is something he wants to improve this year.
In addition, he has to be a leader.
With Carter and Miles gone, Bolden and fellow junior Chase Harler are the only experienced guards left on West Virginia’s roster.
“I was just talking to Chase about (being the old guys). We definitely feel old,” Beetle chuckled. “But it’s fun. It’s our turn to step up to the plate and lead these guys. We’re ready for that.
“J.C. and Dax taught us the ropes on their way out, and it’s our turn to do that with the new guys.”
There are certainly plenty of new guys to lead. Six of WVU’s nine top scorers from last year return, but the Mountaineers will feature eight new faces in uniform this year, including as many as six who could see action at the guard positions – redshirt freshman Brandon Knapper, juco transfer Jermaine Haley, and true freshmen Trey Doomes, Taevon Horton, Emmitt Matthews and Jordan McCabe.
“They bring a tremendous amount of energy,” Bolden said of the newcomers. “They come to play, and they give it their all. Their eyes are open, and they are intrigued to learn, so it’s going to be fun.”
McCabe came to West Virginia with a great deal of hype, and so far Bolden likes what he sees from the 6-foot guard from Kaukauna, Wis.
“Jordan is a real smart player,” noted Bolden. “That’s obvious off the bat. He knows how to make the right play and when to make the right play. People talk about how he is not as athletic as a guard should be, but he makes up for that with his IQ. He’s doing a good job right now.”
It wasn’t that long ago that Bolden was a lot like McCabe – young, bright-eyed and full of promise. Now four years later, Beetle is a grizzled veteran with a chiseled body.