After being unknown on a national, statewide and in many ways local scale, Bolden is now receiving interest from Division-I basketball coaches and national recruiting analysts. After Bolden's Holmes team won in Wednesday's first round game in the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Sweet 16 State Tournament over Pleasure Ridge Park, he was surrounded by a group of six reporters from various recruiting websites.
"It's exciting for me. I'm just looking forward to playing, and I'm just focused on this tournament right now. It's been an exciting journey so far," Bolden said of the attention he's been receiving. "It means a lot. I'm finally getting the recognition, after being in the gym all summer just working on my game - it paid off."
After winning the 9th Region tournament last Sunday night and taking home MVP honors, Bolden's journey got a little more exciting on Monday when Xavier became the first school to extend the young guard an offer.
Bolden had already visited Xavier for a game earlier in the year, and Coach Mack has been at multiple games of Bolden's, including last Sunday night's win over CovCath in the finals of the 9th Region tournament at NKU's Bank of Kentucky Center.
"The Cintas Center was a great atmosphere, the fans are loyal and Coach Mack and the coaching staff are great," Bolden said about his visit to Xavier. "I met all the players and they were great also, and they just wanted me there and are recruiting me hard."
Bolden's play-making ability as a scoring point guard with innate feel and vision drew a comparison to one of the best ever at Xavier from Coach Mack when he offered the Holmes point guard a scholarship.
"He just told me that he was going to keep on me and keep recruiting me hard," Bolden said about his and Mack's conversation. "He said I fit Tu Holloway's game, and he just said keep working because Tu Holloway wasn't an All-American when he first came in. He just outworked everybody in the gym and just became an All-American in the end."
If there's one characteristic Bolden has that is similar to Holloway, it's definitely his work ethic. As his high school coach Jason Booher puts it, Bolden is a true gym-rat.
"He's a special, special player. He's going to be really special when it's all said and done," Booher said after Wednesday's win over PRP. "He just tries to outwork everybody. He's a gym-rat and he wants to be the best."
His meteoric rise this season is the result of an offseason of hard work. Last year as a freshman, Bolden showed glimpses of talent with his quickness and ballhandling ability in very limited minutes on the varsity level. He put in a lot of work in the offseason, both on his body and his game, and the result has been a Player of the Year type performance in Northern Kentucky this season.
"It improved well and I've just been working on my shot obviously, and my tight dribbling," Bolden said of his game. "I've got to get back in the gym and work with the weights."
In addition to Xavier, UC, Purdue, Butler, Ohio, Dayton and "some others" have been showing interest in the sophomore. During Friday's game against Madison Central, Kentucky's John Calipari was in attendance, mostly to see Dominique Hawkins, but he had his eye on Holmes' point guard as well. According to Booher, the youngster has handled his newfound popularity and exposure exceedingly well.
"He' s just grown into that spotlight and we're trying to mold him to be one of the best point guards to come through the state of Kentucky," Booher said. "He's taking it all in stride. He's really humbled by it and he really appreciates what's going on with him."
Bolden will be playing with the Kentucky Travelers AAU program this spring and summer, where interest in the 2015 point guard will only continue to grow.
Scout.com National Recruiting Analyst Evan Daniels has watched Bolden play multiple times this season now, including both games in the Kentucky State Sweet 16 Tournament. On Friday, during the fourth quarter of Bolden's game against Madison Central, Daniels gave us his thoughts on the sophomore from Holmes:
"What I like about James is his quickness and his pull-up jump-shots and floaters in the lane. He's a guy that's going to have to get stronger, and get a little more consistent and take a little better care of the ball. But, he is talented - he can really handle it, especially going left, and I like his speed and quickness. He's a guy that college coaches are going to be paying a lot more attention to over this summer."