Monday, March 07, 2016

NBLCNET Player Profile: Maurice Bolden

This is Bolden's third season in Canada, but his first with the Express (Photo: Windsor Star)

Maurice Bolden's journey to the professional level was not easy, to say the least. It took courage, grit, and determination to turn the once ignorant, street-minded teenager from Mississippi into the person he is today. Right now, he inspires kids to do what they love and helps out families, and he does it all with a passion. 

Get to Know Mo

Favourite Hobby: Making music and speaking to kids
Favourite Song: "Mind of a Maniac" by Lil Boosie
Favourite Movie: 300
Favourite Memory: His son's birth
Favourite Nickname: Mo
Favourite Sports Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
Dream Vacation: Trinidad
Interesting Fact: He records music daily
Career Goals: Joining (or starting) a business and providing for kids
In Three Words: Loyal, Inspiring, Grateful
On the NBL Canada: "Being able to play with two of the best organizations has been a blessing. The talent level has improved every year, and I personally feel like the professionalism will pick up with better pay. People live better when they have a lot to lose these days."


Maurice Bolden was born and raised in South Jackson, Mississippi. Growing up, he saw photos of his parents playing basketball and the countless trophies that they had won at the time. His parents would put a ball in his hand and push him to get on the court, just like they did. Maurice obeyed, but he lacked the enthusiasm to reach any level, and he wasn't comfortable playing organized hoops. In addition, he struggled with asthma for most of his childhood, and the condition would regularly hold him back in sports.

However, it was his bad attitude that hurt his development in basketball the most. Casual games with a group of friends was all the experience he had throughout his youth and most of high school. Bolden also tried out soccer, but to no avail, as his asthma got in the way. High school was rough for the young man as well, and he often got in trouble. One serious incident even put his future basketball career in jeopardy.

After the incident, Bolden had to do an after-school activity in order to stay in school. So, he started playing high school basketball as a senior. It was his first taste of playing organized hoops. He had a newfound determination to reach the NCAA Division I, which made him train relentlessly in the summer and during the season. Bolden was instantly one of the top recruits in the state, averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds.

But because of the problems he ran into while attending Wingfield High School in his hometown, Bolden quickly saw his grades drop. Racism, which was well known in the state of Mississippi, also played its part in Bolden's failure. He grew up in a predominantly black community, but his white economics teacher, who used to teach at the school back when it was an all-white school, was determined to make it tough on black athletes. He was caught by the counselor, but the damage was already done. Bolden's grades plummeted, and soon enough, his they didn't meet the NCAA requirements.

Wingfield and Maurice's cousin Nicole Jackson helped pay for Bolden to attend summer school, but come fall, he didn't know what to do. He couldn't play D-1 basketball, which had been his goal for the year. He found out that some of his friends were going off to military school, and it looked like he had no other option. In fact, it suited him academically, as it offered a combination of high school and college courses. But the minute he got there, he knew he'd gone into the situation blindly. He described the gravity the decision he had just made:

"It was the toughest transition ever. I went from being street-minded, ignorant, and unorganized, to being a man. I use to sag my pants; surround myself with bad people. It was most definitely a life-changing experience."

At Marion Military Institute, in Marion, Alabama, Bolden had to adapt to a new, grueling lifestyle. He was forced to wake up at 5:30 AM each morning and wear a clean uniform every day. Bolden physically trained with soldiers, and he had the additional burden of going to basketball practice. It was mandatory to march at the parades. And if he stepped out of line at all, the punishment would be harsh. At one point in his time at the school, he had to clean the bathrooms, mop the floors in the dorms, and his coach made him run endlessly. Bolden couldn't even do as much as look at his food while eating at MMI.

It didn't take long for him to realize that the school was completely draining him. There were times when Bolden attempted to walk back to Mississippi, frustrated by how much he had to handle. But eventually, he learned to cope with it. After all, it was at military school where he got his mental toughness, time management skills, loyalty, and leadership. And most importantly, it was where he became a man.

That one year at military school also gave Bolden an upper hand for the rest of his basketball career. It instilled all the qualities he needed to be a successful athlete. At MMI, he was a star basketball player, making the all-conference team and consistently being named national JUCO player of the week. He received offers from major NCAA Division I programs, including Alabama, Auburn, NC State, and LSU. But he looked beneath all of those offers and chose to take his talents to the University of Southern Mississippi, so that his mother could see him play by driving only two hours. In fact, he was not even training to become a pro. Instead, he wanted to help his grandfather with his landscaping business, and he aspired to join the field of concrete construction.

But at Southern Miss, everything changed once more. Bolden was one of the team's top rebounders and he helped them reach the NCAA Tournament by beating Memphis. There were times when he recorded over 20 points and 10 rebounds and times when he blocked five shots in a game, but the thing that stood out to him the most was graduating. After leaving, his coach Larry Eustachy advised him to continue playing basketball after college, and by then, Bolden was convinced that it was his path.

Following the two-year stint, Bolden joined the Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies and Charlotte Hornets for NBA draft camps. But he found himself unprepared to play at that level and his agent found him a deal overseas, instead. Bolden ended up signing his first-ever professional contract in Argentina, with Argentino de Junín. He would live thousands and thousands of miles from home, but military school had prepared him for that. He had to quickly overcome the language barrier between himself and his coach, who solely spoke Spanish, and he was forced to listen to the veterans on the team. The fact that he wasn't the oldest or one of the oldest players on the team also caused him some issues, at first.

Yet Bolden still found his place on the team as the "gunner" and became their most reliable shooter. It was a league known for its physicality, and the referees let the players play, so he also had to learn to step back from being a team player. At times, he was even yelled at by his coach for passing the ball to his teammates.

After leaving South America, Bolden set sights on Europe, signing in Poland and facing some of the best competition he has been up against in his lifetime. His pro journey would also take to Cyprus, where he played nearly 20 games. Later on, Bolden joined the USA tour team, for whom he played against South Korea's team on ESPN in the summer. He thrived against his offensive-minded opposition, averaging over 30 points per game and even playing the point guard position at one point. Bolden enjoyed living in South Korea, and he loved travelling and eating a wide variety of foods that were offered.

In a few months, Bolden was back with a professional team. This time, he headed out to the NBL Canada to play for the London Lightning. He participated in training camp under head coach Micheal Ray Richardson, who at first believed that Bolden had the potential to make the NBA down the road. However, Richardson grew impatient with him and the swingman's role became miniscule. He ended the season with only a handful of starts and six points per game. Once Carlos Knox made it into the coaching staff the next season, his future with the Lightning looked bright. But family came first, and Bolden was released by the team so that he could take care of his son.

And he would not make a return with the organization. For the following season, Bolden signed with the Lightning's biggest rivals, the Windsor Express. Since arriving in Windsor last October, he has been a solid scorer and a constant double-double threat. Although he's played in the NBL Canada before, this has been the season in which he has made his name known all across the league.