Big Sky Conference

Bolomboy’s path from Weber State to the NBA paved by work ethic


If things go according to plan on Thursday night, Joel Bolomboy will not have to scramble for the exit row on the airplane any longer.

Since the completion of a senior season at Weber State that culminated in Big Sky Conference MVP and Defensive MVP honors, Bolomboy has been on a cross-country odyssey putting his rare basketball skill set on display. Leading up to Thursday’s NBA Draft, the 6-foot-9 power forward has worked out for nearly half the teams in the league.

In recent weeks, Bolomboy traveled across the continental United States, putting his talents on display for the Charlotte Bobcats, the Toronto Raptors, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Phoenix Suns, the San Antonio Spurs, the Atlanta Hawks, the Philadelphia 76ers, the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Former Weber State forward Joel Bolomboy/by WSU Athletics

Former Weber State forward Joel Bolomboy/by WSU Athletics

While jumping from the Big Sky Conference, a league who’s champion has garnered no higher than a 13-seed in the NCAA Tournament over the last decade, to the NBA can be daunting all in itself, flying commercial around the country can be equally as daunting, Bolomboy said.

“’I’m always wishing for that exit row seat,” the shy but affable native of Fort Worth, Texas said earlier this month. “For a guy like me, I’m a little taller than the average person so that exit row seat is crucial.”

“People have been telling me that’s what kills guys is the travel but I don’t think it really effects me too much. What really gets me is the days I have in between workouts where I have to just wait. A regularly scheduled day, I work out, each lunch and interview with that team and I would fly out to the next city and the next day, I would have the whole day off to relax and rest and get the recovery in for that next team. But the whole day, I’m off and I have nothing to do and I’m just bored, pretty much just sitting in my hotel. I’m so used to working out every day that the waiting is hard.”

On Thursday night, Bolomboy’s circumstance is likely to change forever. The Big Sky Conference’s all-time leader in rebounds is projected as an early second-round draft pick but could sneak his way into the late first round with some luck.

“At all my workouts, I’ve gotten great positive feedback,” Bolomboy said. “I haven’t gotten anything negative. I have just been going out there and trying my best. Every team I have worked out for, they have been impressed and they tell me I’m definitely in the mix for their draft picks they have.”

The daily work Bolomboy put in during his four years playing for Randy Rahe in Ogden helped transform him from a rail-thin kid into the physical specimen he is today.

Bolomboy came to Weber State as a 6-foot-8 string bean who only weighed 200 pounds. His broad shoulders, natural leaping ability and tightly bound athletic frame were major pieces to the puzzle for his prodigious potential. As a freshman, he was among the top rebounders and shot blockers in the Big Sky. By his sophomore season, his body began developing as the Weber State strength coaches worked to hang muscle on his frame. Two seasons ago, he earned Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year honors as Weber State advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

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

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

By his junior season, Bolomboy had grown an inch and had the body of a man. By his senior year, he had the body of an NBA player, a 6-foot-9, 235-pound block of chiseled muscle. Rahe said Bolomboy has just three percent body fat.

“When he first got here, he was extremely raw,” Weber State head coach Randy Rahe said earlier this season. “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. Every summer, we would really try to focus on his skill level, starting with simple ball handling and passing drills. Then we started working with him to score from the block. Then we moved him out to shoot some 16-footers. Every year, he’s taken what we’ve given him and really put the time in.”

 During his senior season, Bolomboy was one of the best rebounders in the country. He and projected No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons of LSU were the only two players in NCAA Division I to average more than 13 rebounds per game last winter. Bolomboy’s 1,312 rebounds are more than any Big Sky player before him.

As a senior, Bolomboy posted 26 double-doubles, the most in Division I. His rebounding average ranks third nationally. He averaged 17.6 points per game on 59 percent shooting and hit 38 percent of his 50 3-point attempts.

“I think he can play at that level because he can really rebound the ball,” Rahe said. “Everyone needs someone who can rebound. He’s a hard worker with a good body and he’s extremely coachable. He’s an innocent kid who loves his teammates. If someone takes him, they will love coaching him and they will see what he will become.

Weber State strength and conditioning coach John Henderson puts together a summer lifting program for WSU’s basketball players each off-season. The program includes workouts on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. For the first three years Bolomboy spent living on the Wasatch Front, he lifted five and sometimes six times a week.

“He works harder than anybody you can imagine,” Henderson said on the court at the Reno Special Events Center as Weber celebrated its Big Sky Tournament championship win over Montana in March. “He comes in every day. He asks for extra. He’s just a hard working guy, a typical Weber State guy.

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

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

“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.”

At the NBA Draft Combine, Bolomboy bench pressed 185 pounds 19 times, the most of any prospect. He notched the best mark in lane agility drill (10.26 seconds), the second-best standing vertical leap at 37.5 inches and the fifth-best marks in the shuttle run (2.86 seconds), three-quarter court sprint (3.17 seconds) and max vertical leap (40.5 inches). The results were a pointed example of his consistent hard work. The effort will culminate in a dream coming true for Bolomboy on Thursday night as he will likely be the 16th former Wildcat to hear his name called in the NBA Draft.

“My drive comes from my parents because they have always struggled and they’ve never really had too much,” Bolomboy said. “Everything they have, they had to work for. I’ve always wanted to be the best and continue to improve every single day and try to be great. That’s what I have to do to get what I want in my life.

“This process is enjoyable and I’m taking it one day at a time because I’ve had to put in so much work just to get where I am right now.”

Photo attribution noted. 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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