Daily Egyptian

Bol making immediate impact on both ends of the court

Junior+forward+Thik+Bol+prepares+to+make+a+free+throw+near+the+conclusion+of+the+Salukis%E2%80%99+74-70+win+over+Texas+Southern+on+Saturday%2C+Dec.+3%2C+2016%2C+at+SIU+Arena.+%28Jacob+Wiegand+%7C+%40jawiegandphoto%29
Junior forward Thik Bol prepares to make a free throw near the conclusion of the Salukis’ 74-70 win over Texas Southern on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

Junior forward Thik Bol prepares to make a free throw near the conclusion of the Salukis’ 74-70 win over Texas Southern on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

Junior forward Thik Bol prepares to make a free throw near the conclusion of the Salukis’ 74-70 win over Texas Southern on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

By Jonathan Thompson

Christmas came early this year for Saluki men’s basketball coach Barry Hinson as junior forward Thik Bol has been a big boost for SIU’s interior defense.

Last year, senior forward Sean O’Brien led the Dawgs in blocked shots with 29 for the year. Bol already has 19 in eight games, with as many as six in a single game.

“We felt like we have to have somebody that can alter or block shots,” Hinson said. “We’ve not had that since I’ve been here. We’ve had kids that have had some size, but they couldn’t block shots. Nor could they finish shots. We think Thik is that guy.”

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Bol said he takes pride in being the Salukis’ rim protector and sending any shot back that he can.

“I try to go out and do that every night,” he said. “I try to block everything. That’s what I came here to do.”

The newest Saluki center has made a career out of rejecting shots long before his transfer to SIU.

He led all junior college athletes with 4.9 blocks per game his freshman year at Iowa Western Community College. The next season he was fourth with 3.3 blocks per contest.

The 6-foot-8 big man played multiple other sports growing up that helped him develop his basketball skills.

As a young child, Bol built his skills playing soccer with his brothers as well as playing volleyball.

Because of his unique abilities, Bol brings a different type of skill set to the team that it didn’t have last year.

“He plays higher,” sophomore forward Rudy Stradnieks said. “He can finish around the rim, he can block shots, he can rebound. He’s not as strong as [last year’s center] Bola [Olaniyan] used to be on defense, but that’s maybe my part there to step up against bigger guys.”

Junior forward Thik Bol dunks a shot over Mount St. Mary senior forward Will Miller (11) during the Salukis' 73-63 win over Mount St. Mary University on Monday, Nov. 21, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

Junior forward Thik Bol dunks a shot over Mount St. Mary senior forward Will Miller (11) during the Salukis’ 73-63 win over Mount St. Mary University on Monday, Nov. 21, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

The Salukis have been able the change their defensive schemes because of Bol’s presence near the rim. Stradnieks said SIU’s forwards are able to be more relaxed on ball screens because they know they have one last line of defense waiting at the rim.

But Bol contributes more to the team than just length on the defensive end.

The Sudanese-born forward has become must see TV as his athletic alley-oop finishes are reminiscent of the old NBA Jam video games.

His alley-oop off the backboard in the season-opener against Wright State caught the attention of the entire nation as it was pick as the No. 4 play of the day in SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays.

https://youtu.be/IkD-63OtuCg?t=1m30s

“Thik’s a phenomenal athlete,” sophomore guard Armon Fletcher said. “I’ve never played with a guy like Thik. He gives us a lot of energy seeing him dunk on people and blocking shots. He’s just a big spark for the team.”

The junior currently is one of the five Salukis averaging double-figures at 10.1 points per game, and adds 7.5 rebounds per game. However, his help on offense is much more than him cleaning the glass and putting the ball in the basket.

Bol being such a big inside presence has opened up the game for SIU’s other big men who can shoot, such as Stradnieks, O’Brien and sophomore forward Austin Weiher.

“Teams are scouting him because he’s an inside player,” Stradnieks said. “[They] guard him closer to the basket, so it gives us the opportunity to slip out and shoot the ball more.”

Their expanded offensive options have been on display as Stradnieks and Weiher have both made 10 of their 18 shots each this season.

Bol will be back in action to make plays for SIU at 6 p.m. Wednesday against Louisville.

Staff writer Jonathan Thompson can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @TheReal_Jt3.

To stay up to date with all your SIU basketball news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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