The maturation of Joel Bolomboy through the Weber State mens basketball program has been ideal — what every college coach in basketball would want from his players.
He’s grown from the hardworking freshman (7.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG) to finding his footing as a sophomore (8.7 PPG, 11.0 RPG) to emerging as a central figure in the program as a junior (13.3 PPG, 10.2 RPG) to becoming the Big Sky Conference’s Most Valuable Player as a senior (17.3 PPG, 12.7 RPG).
The ending will be storybook. Keller Central’s most notable graduate not named Zach Sanchez is returning to the NCAA tournament with the Wildcats.
Following their 62-59 victory over Montana last Saturday to clinch the conference’s automatic berth, the Wildcats (26-8) will be the No. 15 seed in the East Region. They are playing No. 2 seed Xavier (27-5) at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis at about 8:20 p.m. Friday.
Fulfilling a player’s potential is the goal from the first day he steps on campus. That’s why Bolomboy was recruited in the first place. Sure, Weber State isn’t the first school that most people think of when it comes to college basketball. But if you are an intense college basketball fan, you know Weber State has been pretty consistent.
In fact, this is the program’s 16th trip to the NCAA tournament. Weber State has netted six wins, including a shocker over North Carolina in 1999. Prior to this trip, Bolomboy made his first appearance in 2014 when Weber played Arizona.
Look at the accomplishments of Bolomboy’s senior season. When the regular season ended, the MVP honor summed up what an impact he truly had. His rebounding average was third in the nation. He was also third in the nation in double-doubles with 25. Bolomboy was also named to the all-tournament team.
Beyond the numbers, his physical ability also points to what could lie ahead for Bolomboy. He is one of five finalists for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award. I happened to catch the national radio pregame show for Saturday’s Big Sky championship game, in which it was disclosed that NBA scouts believe Bolomboy could be a second-round pick in the June draft. That will be interesting to follow over the coming months.
Still, you can definitely call this a “local boy makes good” story. However, it only became that story because the local boy put in the time and effort that matched his ability.
Few are expecting the Wildcats to win. In the grand scheme of things, they probably can’t. Xavier, which is located in Cincinnati, is one of college basketball’s most consistent powers. They finished second in the Big East to Villanova and have been ranked as high as No. 5 in national polls. But if Weber State can find a way, they would get the winner of Wisconsin-Pittsburgh in the second round. The tournament has a way of producing magical stories.
Bolomboy’s career probably didn’t get the attention outside of Ogden, Utah, that it deserved. But for those of us who watched him play for former Central coach Kit Pehl (now at Coppell), no one should be surprised how his career evolved.
He made his dream come true.