Stepinac's Bolding commits to Louisville
By Kevin Devaney Jr.
The Journal News
(Original Publication: November 21, 2006)
WHITE PLAINS - Melquan Bolding was waiting anxiously outside the Louisville basketball locker room late Sunday night when coach Rick Pitino finally walked out.
"I've got good news for you, Coach," Bolding said. "I'm coming here."
The coaching legend threw his arms around the Stepinac standout, a surreal moment that Bolding had only dreamed about.
Bolding, on an unofficial visit to the school over the weekend, ended a stressful recruiting process Sunday night in Louisville when he made an oral commitment to play for the Cardinals in 2008.
The 6-foot-4 junior shooting guard, one of the region's most sought-after recruits in his class, had recently narrowed his choices to Louisville and St. John's. But the visit to the former sealed his decision.
"I wasn't planning on (making a commitment) this weekend," Bolding said. "But I liked the campus, and I want to play for Coach Pitino."
While Bolding called family and a few friends after making the decision, his intentions were rather apparent when he walked into the Stepinac High School gym yesterday afternoon - he arrived wearing a long-sleeve "Louisville basketball" T-shirt.
Bolding watched two Louisville games over the weekend at Freedom Hall: Saturday's 11-point comeback win over Northwestern State and Sunday's exhibition win over Kentucky Wesleyan.
"The atmosphere of the place was unbelievable," said Stepinac coach Tim Philp, who accompanied Bolding on the trip. "They had about 15,000 fans at an exhibition game. The people down there were great. They are diehard, loyal Louisville basketball fans."
Philp, a longtime friend of Louisville assistant coach Steve Masiello, a White Plains native, said there was an instant bond between Bolding and the Louisville staff.
Bolding, who transferred to Stepinac last year from Beacon after missing an entire season because of academics, quickly saw Pitino's stern approach with his players.
"I actually like that," Bolding said. "That's how you become a better player."
Bolding has done a lot of growing up since arriving at Stepinac with much hype. He averaged 23 points last season and was a Journal News Westchester/Putnam first-team all-star. But Philp said Bolding has taken on much more of a leadership role this season.
"He's grown up 100 percent," Philp said. "He's very different from last year to this year. He's made the adjustment from public school to Catholic school, and the discipline has made him a better player."
Bolding has never looked better than he has this preseason. He had 35 points and 15 rebounds in a scrimmage against All Hallows, and 24 points and 13 rebounds in a scrimmage vs. Rice.
Getting the big decision out of the way will only make things easier.
"I feel like a lot is off my shoulders now," Bolding said. "Now I don't have to worry about who's coming to watch or anything like that. I can just play basketball."
When he arrives at Louisville in 2008, Bolding expects to play. He'll be walking into a locker room loaded with young talent.
"If he does what he's supposed to until then - working on the ball-handling, the shooting, the fundamentals - he's definitely going to play," Philp said. "Pitino plays 9-10 guys, so Mel will get a shot right away."