Sixers’ president of basketball operations, Bryan Colangelo, was effusive in his praise of Bolden at the team’s introductory press conference following the draft.
“[We had a] chance to watch him play this year, and got excited.”
Bolden grew up in Melbourne playing against Simmons in their junior basketball competitions. Jonah’s father, Bruce, and Ben’s father, Dave, both played professionally in Melbourne, with and against current Sixers head coach Brett Brown.
Simmons & Bolden reunited at long last ???? @sixers
“I had about a 45-minute meeting with him (Brown) and my dad and my agent were here. It felt comfortable. Like we were just back at home in Australia. He just knows that I have that gritty, grindy Australian demeanor. He loves that. That’s kind of what he’s about.”
The 6’10” Bolden played one season at UCLA, and following limited opportunities, decided to head abroad, playing last season in the Adriatic League in Serbia. The physicality of the league was the biggest eye-opener, as Bolden impressed in his one season, averaging 12.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.
Possessing a 7’3″ wingspan, Bolden’s ability to stretch the floor, having shot at a 42 percent clip from three, clearly drew the Sixers to him as a preferred prospect. One person who is far from surprised at Bolden’s growth over the past 12 months is Australian basketball legend, Andrew Gaze. A five-time Olympian, and a member of the 1999 NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs, Gaze is more than qualified to pass judgement:
“You could see the athleticism and the capacity Jonah had as far as his basketball IQ went, even at that age. He was always a bit taller than the others. I guess in a similar vein to Ben Simmons, because of his dad and the teaching, he had that versatility of inside and outside.
“Jonah is the same. Normally they put those big kids in the middle and don’t let them explore other parts of the game. But with Jonah he has shown great versatility from a very young age.”
The only thing now holding back Bolden from fully realizing his dream of playing in the NBA is his current contractual situation. Still on the books with his Serbian club Beograd, Bolden is nonetheless optimistic about his immediate future.
“I could start today. But there’s uncertainty with that. The organization drafted me with a plan and I’m going to stick to the plan. I’m subject to a European contract at the moment but whatever the organization wants and they say is what’ll happen.”