Bolden Brace, described by one basketball announcer as the “Swiss Army Knife” of Northeastern University, is now taking his tool set to The Netherlands.
Brace, a 2016 graduate of Santa Barbara High School, has signed a professional contract to play for the Den Helder Suns of the Dutch Basketball League. Their season is scheduled to start next month.
“I am ecstatic to start my career overseas and feel so thankful for this opportunity,” said Brace, who leaves Northeastern as its No. 23 all-time leading scorer with 1,178 points. “While I am eager to learn more about the Dutch history and culture, I am also ready to give everything I have to the Den Helder Suns.”
Brace, a 6-foot-6 and 225-pound guard, led Santa Barbara High to a 32-2 record and the CIF-Southern Section’s Division 2A championship in 2016. He was named as the division’s Player of the Year that season after averaging 20.4 points, 7.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds for a Dons’ team that won 28 consecutive games before losing to Bonita, 70-67, in the state tournament.
He actually attended Northeastern this year as a graduate student, compiling a grade-point average of 3.929 in its project management program.
“We could not be happier for Bolden Brace and his family as he embarks on the start of his professional baseball career,” Huskies coach Bill Coen said. “In a word, Bo is just a winner, on the court and in life.
“While here at Northeastern, he was the consummate teammate and made everyone around him better. I think the Den Helder Suns are getting a terrific basketball player and an outstanding person.”
Brace, the son of William and Meredith Brace, asserted his versatility soon after his arrival in Boston. He finished his Northeastern career with 286 assists and 681 rebounds in 131 games while ranking fourth all-time in three-pointers made (230, 37.8%) and No. 8 in free-throw percentage (81.2%).
“Early on, especially, I figured out that if I want to be on the court, I’d have to do certain things that other people don’t want to go do,” he said. “As I grew as a player and got more comfortable with the system, it just kind of worked out where coach was putting me in situations where I could excel in those positions.
“I was just so lucky to have so many good players around me. It was a bunch of guys who could score the rock and super-high IQ guys who I could get the ball to.”
He recorded a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds when the Huskies earned a berth in the 2019 NCAA Tournament by beating Hofstra in the championship game of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament.
Top-seeded Hofstra earned its revenge this year when Northeastern returned to the final. Brace earned all-tournament honors after averaging 14.7 points and 6.7 rebounds in three games.
He set a Northeastern record as a sophomore when he made 10 three-pointers in a game against Elon. His 40 points in that game just missed the school record of 41 set by Reggie Lewis and matched by J.J. Barea.
“Bo played in three CAA championship games in his four years,” Coen pointed out. “He’s made an incredible mark on this program.”
Northeastern entered this year’s tournament with a record of just 15-15 after having won 23 games in each of the previous two seasons. The Huskies, who were 9-9 in CAA play, lost eight of those games by five points or less. Kenpom.com ranked them as one of the five unluckiest teams in college basketball.
“In terms of the regular season, I’d definitely say luck was not on our side,” Brace said. “The coaches were putting in scenarios (at practice) to help us get better in those situations, but it was tough.
“Every team in our league was good and everyone usually played pretty well against us, in my opinion. We were bound to explode at some point.”
He was happy that Northeastern got the chance to do that in the CAA Tournament before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all collegiate sports in mid-March. Many basketball leagues, including the Big West Conference, had their tournaments canceled before they could get started.
“Getting that closure was good, especially after having won it the year before,” Brace said. “It was good just knowing that we put our best foot forward.”
The worst part, he said, was the closure of Northeastern’s campus the week after the CAA tournament.
“We were all excited to just take a break from basketball and hang out and get classwork finished up … and just not have to worry about next year for the moment,” Brace said. “Getting sent home was definitely deflating.”
He’s stayed in shape the last five months with early morning workouts in Santa Barbara “when no one is in the gym.”
“It’s been tough, but it’s been fun, too, spending a lot of time with my family,” he pointed out. “My sister (Georgia) has been doing online classes, and we’ve been hanging out as a family.
“At the beginning of quarantine, we were playing the board game Catan pretty much all day, every day.”
“It was getting pretty heated, though,” Brace added with a laugh. “My girlfriend Matti (Hartman, a former Northeastern women’s hockey star) beat me six times in a row. We haven’t played since.”
He’s a year away from receiving his master’s certificate in Project Management.
“I’m hoping to work some odd jobs after basketball is done and increase my knowledge in that area, and maybe work for some of my friends’ dads who own construction companies,” he said. “Then maybe I can start one of my own someday.”
Versatility, after all, is the name of the game for Bolden Brace.