Meet 7-foot-2 sophomore John Bol, the human 'cheat code'

On3 imageby:Joe Tipton03/08/22


On3 image
Photo credit: Nate Latsch

John Bol arrived in the United States one year ago this week, and immediately became a fan favorite. His height (7-foot-2) is the first thing that catches your eye, but not far behind is his exuberant personality. By having a singular conversation with him, it’s apparent he’s one of those people that light up a room. Fans flock to him after the game for photos and autographs, but even off the court, Bol is exceptional.

In the classroom, Bol boasts a 4.0 GPA. In six of his seven classes, he has a grade of 98 or higher. His lowest score is in Spanish (95), as he’s in the process of learning his fourth language. He also speaks fluently in English, Swahili, and Arabic.

Originally from South Sudan, Bol started playing basketball three years ago while living in Nairobi with his brother. His family thought it best to move John to the United States to chase his dream of playing in college, and hopefully one day, the pros. 

Bol ended up in Saint Louis, Missouri, where he now plays for Christian Brothers High School. His coach? Justin Tatum. Yes, Jayson Tatum’s father, but more on that later. 

When Bol arrived here in the States, he knew he had much to learn. 

“When I came, I didn’t know much. I didn’t know how to dribble, I didn’t know how to shoot.”

Within the last 12 months, Bol has improved greatly. 

“It’s been a year and the development I’ve made so far, it’s so visible…to the point where if I keep doing this…I’ll be on a different level. It’s a blessing.”

Bol talks Michigan offer

College coaches are also taking note of Bol’s advancements on the court, including Michigan head coach Juwan Howard, who’s extended a scholarship offer to the fellow big man.

The night before the offer came, Bol was casually watching “The Fab Five”, the ESPN documentary highlighting the 1990s Michigan Wolverines basketball team, with of course, Juwan Howard plastered on the screen. 

Funny enough, before watching the documentary, Bol had no idea who Juwan Howard was. 

“I did not know about Juwan, I did not know about Michigan, I had no idea. I didn’t know a lot of things when I came to the United States.”

The following day, Bol received a call from no other than Juwan Howard. 

“The next day when Juwan Howard called me and offered me a scholarship, I was super excited,” he says. “That was the best thing that’s ever happened to me in terms of getting a scholarship. The fact that it was the head coach that called me and offered me, that meant a lot to me. So I was super excited. Knowing Juwan Howard also played in the NBA, being coached by him and being under him, I would gain a lot of knowledge so I’m super excited about the offer.”

Several other schools are keeping track of Bol. Illinois, Clemson, Butler, Missouri, Kansas State, and Saint Louis have all extended offers. Even the likes of Kentucky, Texas, and Ohio State are starting to take interest in the sophomore big man. 

Bol’s focus is now on developing as much as possible before high school graduation in just over two years from now. 

Helping with that development is Bol’s head coach at Christian Brothers, Justin Tatum. As mentioned previously, Justin is the father of NBA All-Star Jayson Tatum. Bol is thankful to have Justin as a coach. 

“He will be talking to me a lot about big man moves because he himself is a big man,” Bol says. “I’m really excited to be under him and keep working with him.”

Justin played down the street at Saint Louis University before going on to play professionally overseas. 

Breaking records

Last month, John Bol broke the school record for most blocks (97) in a single season. The previous record was held by no other than Coach Tatum himself. 

“Records are meant to be broken,” Tatum wrote via Instagram post. “25 years later, my single season block shot record has been broken. It took a 7-foot-2 phenom to do it. Lol, congrats, John Bol. Well deserved.”

With a 7-foot-9 wingspan, blocking shots is one of Bol’s key strengths, but what else does he bring to the table?

“I can defend anyone, one through five,” Bol says. “Because I can easily move my feet. Seven foot guys, usually cannot move well or slide their feet. But when it comes to me, that’s actually easy. Before basketball, I started playing soccer when I was six years old. So when I switched to basketball, it was easy for me to guard people.

I have a motor that I bring to the court every single day. I talk a lot on the defensive end. I have a jump shot too, with a soft touch around the rim that I’m still working on right now.”

Bol is just getting started, and he’s enjoying the ride.

“It’s a blessing, man, it’s a blessing. I’m just thankful to be in this position.”