Big Sky Figures to Remember

“Big Sky figures worth remembering” – Joel Bolomboy, Weber State


At Skyline Sports, we love the stories and characters that emerge from one of the most authentic conferences in the West. The Big Sky Conference is steeped in history and heroes, holding a mystique that is unique to a conference featuring as many rural yet state-funded institutions in the United States.

One of our primary goals at Skyline Sports is the archiving of history across the state of Montana and across the Big Sky. In an effort to make sure we never forget some of the most pivotal and influential figures in the 58-year history of the league, we are introducing a quick-hitting series about those who once graced the Big Sky.

We will touch on players we’ve been able to cover (particularly in photograph) during our seven years covering the league as an entity (categorized as “Skyline Era”. We will also remember players from Colter Nuanez’s first seven years covering the league (2006-2013) during his time working in newspapers and magazines (categorized as Modern Era).

And we will also chronicle memorable figures from before we covered the league professionally, before we watched the league at all or even from before we were born thanks to the help of our great friends and colleagues from across the Big Sky (categorized as “Archived Era”).

Please enjoy “Big Sky Conference figures worth remembering”

The Character

Joel Bolomboy, Weber State big man and the most prolific rebounder in the history of the Big Sky Conference.

During his time playing for WSU head coach Randy Rahe, Bolomboy morphed from an unbelievably raw talent into a professional, one of the great developmental examples in the recent history of the league.

The Timeline

Bolomboy is a native of Donetsk, Ukraine who was born to a Congolese father and a Russian mother of Tatar origin, yet went to high school in Fort Worth, Texas. He signed with Weber State in 2012 and played for Rahe until graduating in 2016 as one of the top players in recent league memory.

Bolomboy was the 52nd pick in the 2016 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz. He spent three seasons in the NBA between active rosters and the NBA G League before signing with CSKA Moscow leading up to the 2018 season

The Measurables

The 26-year-old Bolomboy is 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds. During the NBA pre-draft combine following his senior year, Bolomboy ranked highly in almost every measurement or drill, including:

  • Lane agility (10.26 seconds, first)
  • Bench Press (19 reps, 2nd)
  • Vertical Leap (37.5 inches, 2nd)
  • Maximum vertical leap (40.5 inches, 4th)
  • Shuttle run (2.86 seconds, 5th)
  • Three-quarter-court sprint (3.17 seconds, 5th)

The Landscape

In terms of physical stature, Bolomboy had few rivals within the Big Sky Conference during his college career.

Former Weber State forward Joel Bolomboy (21) in 2016/by Brooks Nuanez

The lanky, raw athlete came to Weber State as a project. But his apparent natural talents made him an impact player right away. And Weber State’s individual talent development formula helped Bolomboy become the 16th Wildcat to be drafted into the NBA.

“When he first got here, he was extremely raw,” Rahe said during Bolomboy’s senior season in 2016. “He could always rebound but his feel for the game wasn’t very good, his skill level wasn’t very good, he didn’t really understand how to play.”

By his senior season, Bolomboy had maintained his ability as an insanely productive rebounder. And he’d added enough skills to help him become just the second player in league history to claim Big Sky Most Outstanding Player and league Defensive MVP in the same season.

The Accolades

Only Bolomboy and Portland State standout Seamus Boxley (2004-2005) claimed both awards in the same campaign. Bolomboy also was the league’s Defensive MVP as a sophomore, adding to a resume that included three All-Big Sky team selections and one iconic individual record.

While Bolomboy and Boxley share elite company, Bolomboy also was the league’s Defensive MVP as a sophomore, adding to a resume that included three All-Big Sky team selections and the rebounding record. In the 20-season history of the Big Sky Defensive MVP, only Boxley, Montana’s Will Cherry (2012, 2013) and Northern Colorado’s Jonah Radebaugh (three of the last four seasons) have earned the nod multiple times.

The reactive, springy jumping jack snared 1,312 rebounds, by far the most in the history of the league. Bolomboy shattered Steve Hayes’ 1,147 rebounds gathered between 1973 and 1977l.

Bolomboy’s 10.1 rebounds per game in his 130 contests playing at Weber State ranks 15th in the history of the league.

The Press


“It might sound simple, but it totally changes the way you play when you have a guy who can control possessions (Bolomboy),” said former Montana State head coach Brian Fish, who led the Bobcats for five seasons leading up to March of 2019.

“It’s special,” Weber State head coach Randy Rahe said following Bolomboy’s two Big Sky individual awards as a senior. “We all love Joel to death and he’s meant a whole bunch to our program. He’s a phenomenal player but he’s a much better person. He’s worked so hard for this. It’s really, really rewarding to be able to celebrate a championship, two championships to be honest with you in the same year with him.”

“He works harder than anybody you can imagine,” Weber State strength coach John Henderson said on the court as Weber celebrated its Big Sky Tournament title win over Montana. “He comes in every day. He asks for extra. He’s just a hard working guy, a typical Weber State guy.

“After the first year, I noticed he recovered fast and he really responded to the training and he was hungry. He came and worked out extra. He always wanted more. I knew he had a really high ceiling. And now he is absolutely an NBA player.”

Appearances in Big Sky record book

29 including:

  • Two of the Top 25 single-game rebounding totals in league history
  • No. 1 in career rebounds
Former Weber State forward Joel Bolomboy (21) posting up former Montana forward Martin Breunig (12) in 2016/by Brooks Nuanez
  • No. 15 in career rebounding average (10.1 per game)
  • No. 2 in single-season rebounds (415), behind Ed Wilson of Idaho State in 1967-68 (420). Also No. 17 and No. 25 in single-season rebounding totals.
  • Bolomboy has two of the Top 25 rebounding averages in school history
  • Bolomboy is eighth in league history in total blocks (179) and his 62 blocks in 2012-13 is the 22nd-highest single-season total.
  • As the league’s leading single-season rebounder for three seasons in a row between 2014-16 and as the league’s leader in per-game rebounding average during conference play those same three seasons.
  • As a three-time All-Big Sky selection, a Big Sky MVP, a two-time Big Sky Defensive MVP.
  • As the 69th player in Big Sky history and the league-record 16th to come out of Weber State.
  • As a two-time All-Big Sky Tournament selection (2014, 2016)
  • As a two-time NABC All-District selection (2015-2016)

Why you should remember

Bolomboy is a throwback, a raw and wiry prospect with limitless potential despite having limited tangible ability when he first signed to a Division I program.

The steely, hard-working and gifted big man accelerated his development by his own accord, winning over his teammates, coaches and trainers instantly with his “walk softly and carry a big stick” demeanor.

His pure abilities garnered attention but his quiet demeanor never allowed him to become a star within the league or around the region.

But the reverence expressed by every player that played with and the praise steeped upon Bolomboy by coaches who prepared to compete against him provides a sharp angle that makes Bolomboy impossible to forget for anyone who saw him live.

Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved.

Former Big Sky Conference MVP Joel Bolomboy (21), a Weber State standout the last four years, is a projected pick in tonight’s NBA Draft/ photo by Brooks Nuanez
Weber State MVP Joel Bolomboy (21) guards Montana All-Big Sky big man Martin Breunig during a game in March of 2016/ by Brooks Nuanez
Former UM forward Martin Breunig (L) and former WSU forward Joel Bolomboy (R) during the 2016 BSC Championship/ by Brooks Nuanez
Weber St. forward Joel Bolomboy gathers a rebound/ by Brooks Nuanez

Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved.

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 13-year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to found Skyline Sports.

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