By Robert Wilson
St. Andrew senior guard Rashad Bolden signed with Southern Miss Wednesday, becoming the highest rated guard from Mississippi to sign with the Golden Eagles since Mississippi Player of Year Bernard Haslett signed with Southern Miss in 1990.
And if Bolden performs as well as Haslett did in college, Southern Miss coach Jay Ladner will be smiling from ear to ear.
Haslett averaged 37.6 points – including a career-high 69 points against Greenwood – as a senior for Class 1A Vaiden. He was an instant star at Southern Miss, helping the Eagles win at famous Freedom Hall in Louisville for the first time in school history in his second career start as a freshman and making the All-Metro Conference Freshman Team. Haslett went on the lead the conference in scoring two seasons and led the nation in 3-pointers as a junior in his brilliant career at Southern Miss.
Ladner hopes Bolden can bring wins to Southern Miss like Haslett did.
“Rashad is, of course, one of the top prospects in Mississippi,” Ladner said. “He fits in our recruiting priority of hitting the state first. He’s had incredible success as a high schooler in an outstanding program at St. Andrews. He’s the son of one of the best coaches in the state in Randy Bolden. We get a point guard with a coach’s son mentality, which is a plus. We’re excited about Rashad in what he brings to the table in the future of our basketball program. We couldn’t be more excited.”
Bolden, known for his smart decision-making and shot selection, is considered the second-best college recruit in Mississippi behind McDonald’s All-American and Ole Miss signee Daeshun Ruffin of Callaway. Bolden averaged 26.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.4 steals and led St. Andrew’s to a 22-2 record and its third Class 3A state title in four seasons. He shot 49.2 percent from the field and 87.3 percent from the free throw line. Bolden was named the Mississippi MVP in the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Game in March with 25 points, 3 steals and 3 assists. As a junior, Bolden scored a combined 61 points and did not make a turnover in the state tournament semifinals and finals. He made a combined 29 of 31 shots from the line with 15 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists in those two games. Bolden was named to the first team on the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Team for the past two seasons.
Many thought that Bolden might follow his dad, Randy, to Mississippi College where Randy was named head coach last week, replacing long time coach and Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Mike Jones. Randy, an All-State player at Forest Hill High and two-time SWAC Player of the Year at Texas Southern, left Jones Community College as head coach to come to MC.
“Southern Miss and MC were my final two to choose between,” Rashad said. “They are both great schools and it was tough to turn down an opportunity to play for my dad. I just like the opportunity that I have at Southern Miss to compete with some great guys and a great coaching staff.”
“I know it was a hard decision for Rashad because of the opportunity to play for his dad, but I think he will be a great fit for Southern Miss,” St. Andrew’s coach Russell Marsalis said. “A true point guard who can also score can be hard to find these days and Rashad fits that mold. If you watch the NCAA Tournament, great guard play is a high meter of success for most teams. Rashad is a transformational player for any program. I have no doubt in my mind he will do the same at the next level. He has been proving people wrong his whole career and plays with a chip on his shoulder. His resume speaks for itself. He’s one of the most decorated student-athletes in Mississippi high school basketball history.”
Bolden should give the Eagles immediate help as a freshman. Southern Miss finished 8-17 overall and 4-13 in Conference USA this season, Ladner’s second season at Southern Miss. Four starters return for next season.