Staff Photo: Jason Braverman North Gwinnett senior Chris Bolden is playing for his third high school team (previously Norcross and Brookwood). He has committed to play next season at Georgia Tech.
SUWANEE -- For a basketball standout, Chris Bolden's welcoming moment at North Gwinnett came on the football field.
A well-traveled high school player, Bolden came to North Gwinnett for his senior season after playing previous years at Brookwood and helping Norcross to a state title a year ago. He lives in Suwanee and said his most recent move came in an attempt to go to school closer to home.
He also quickly joined the North Gwinnett football team, a sport he shunned as a freshman at Brookwood after he sprained his ankle leaping for a catch.
"Every year around football season time, I would regret that I didn't play," Bolden said. "I just didn't want to have any regrets."
It did more than that.
A quiet person, Bolden knew it would take some time to ingratiate himself to another new school. He had another set of teammates and another set of coaches and schemes and expectations. He already committed to play basketball at Georgia Tech and a state championship ring from a region rival wasn't going to impress a school full of Bulldogs.
Football, however, afforded Bolden the opportunity.
"I think what really helped was when I scored the touchdown against Grayson in the preseason scrimmage," he said.
"Everybody really opened up to me and things like that."
A successful football season opened the door for Bolden at North, but he knows the expectations arrive with the winter.
"We are just getting familiar with each other," said Bolden who is playing along with two freshmen for the Bulldogs. "I am definitely going to step up and be more of a leader. Right now, everything is brand new, but when it gets to crunch time you are going to need somebody on the court that can show that they want it. I definitely want it."
Bolden didn't burst through the gym doors at the end of football season. He didn't overwhelm his new teammates with arrogance, rather he worked to get back into basketball condition and learn the expectations of him on his new team.
He played in his first game after just two practices. By Game 3, he'd practiced four times.
"He's a new face, obviously, but we start two freshmen so there are a lot of new faces," head coach Zach Smith said. "They are all adjusting together at the same time. We still have a long way to go, that is an encouraging thing, I feel like we are improving."
North lost its first four games, but against Peachtree Ridge time became the catalyst for the team's chemistry. Bolden learned to rely on his teammates, starting to rack up assists to go with his constant scoring.
"Me going to Georgia Tech and stuff like that, I didn't think I would be passing the ball as much as I am passing the ball. I trust my teammates to knock down shots," Bolden said. "Once we started making shots in the Peachtree Ridge game and ever since then we've been clicking. I think that was the turnaround."
Along with a rising trust to give up the ball, Bolden's goal this season centers on defense. He knows critics call attention to it as his weakness. Growing up in an AAU culture, where the defense is limited at best, and playing for a variety of high school coaches, Bolden always made his mark as a scorer first and just tried to make big plays on defense.
"I am working on that, trying to take charges," he said. "I am getting a lot better.
"Don't gamble, that was my main thing. I hardly ever gamble anymore."
Well, he gambled by playing football. But that one paid off. He won over his teammates.
"He's a great kid. He's a very unselfish kid," Smith said. "The guys in the locker room and on the court, there is no animosity."