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Ogden

Weber State assistant coach Eric Duft is showing a film clip of Joel Bolomboy grabbing another rebound, pointing out how the Wildcat senior forward/center uses positioning, strength and athletic ability to rank second in the country.

And then Duft asks, "Have you shaken his hand?"

Sure enough, the hands that corral the basketball nearly 14 times a game off the rim are big and powerful, like everything else about the 6-foot-9 Bolomboy. Sometime during Saturday's first half at Idaho State, Bolomboy will become Weber State's all-time leading rebounder, ahead of the late Willie Sojourner — who set his remarkable record in three seasons in an era when freshmen were ineligible for varsity play.

In the second half of that game, if not sooner, Bolomboy will surpass ISU's Steve Hayes for the Big Sky Conference career record. That four-year mark also has stood since the 1970s and will be topped by an athlete who gradually has grown into an NBA prospect, developing his all-around game to where he's now averaging 18.2 points.

Yet rebounding is the skill that most easily translates to pro basketball, and Bolomboy's strength is "just my mind-set of chasing the ball," he said.

When the Wildcats recruited him from Fort Worth, Texas, "He didn't really know how to play," coach Randy Rahe said, "but he looked like he could turn into something."

Four years later, he has grown from 200 pounds to 235 with 3 percent body fat, and he just keeps improving for a team that stands 13-5 overall and 5-0 in the conference. Bolomboy pulled down 23 rebounds in 33 minutes against Big Sky opponent North Dakota this season. If anyone questions his level of competition, his coaches will cite his 16 boards in a 2014 NCAA Tournament game against Arizona with Aaron Gordon, who became the NBA's No. 4 overall draft pick.

"It was fun to go against him," Gordon said that day in San Diego. "He has a really high motor. … He positions himself very well to have the ball bounce into his hands."

Same story, two years later. "First of all, he gets great position," said Duft, showing one of Bolomboy's offensive rebounds last weekend at Sacramento State. "From the waist down, he's extremely strong. … He does some stuff that you can't teach. He just has great reaction. We knew when we recruited him that he had great instincts for the ball."

Duft cited a quote from longtime coach Billy Tubbs, who once was asked about drills to develop rebounders. "I just recruit 'em," Tubbs responded.

Bolomboy's mother is from Russia and his father is from the Republic of the Congo; they met in college in Moscow. Joel, who speaks Russian and French, was born in Ukraine and the family moved to Texas when he was 2. With that diverse background, even being surrounded by the college sports culture of the Metroplex, Bolomboy and his parents were not awed by those big-name schools that followed Weber State in recruiting him.

"He's such a refreshing kid," Rahe said. "He's got a little innocence to him, a little naivete to him. He's not spoiled by all this AAU stuff."

So even after he improved during the summer prior to his senior year and Clemson, Auburn, Florida State and New Mexico offered scholarships, Bolomboy remained loyal to the Wildcats. The other schools planned to redshirt him. Bolomboy figured he could play right away in Ogden, and he liked the Weber State's staff approach to developing him.

That happened with guard Damian Lillard, who became the NBA's No. 6 pick in 2012, prior to Bolomboy's freshman year. As a potential second-round pick, Bolomboy's starting and finishing points are behind Lillard's, but the pattern is similar.

"He was like a newborn colt," said Rahe, a Midwestern farm boy. "They come out of the womb and they're all arms and legs, but they don't know where they're going."

Bolomboy's trajectory has gone upward ever since his arrival, and his game is expanding. Lillard has remained close enough to the program to influence current Wildcats, including the program's next NBA hopeful. "One thing I noticed," Bolomboy said, "is he always wants more."

His own professional hopes serve as motivation, but he's not getting ahead of himself. "Sometimes," Bolomboy said, "you just have to come back to reality and humble yourself and stay with the process."

So he'll remain determined just to grab what's immediately in front of him, like the next rebound — and then a few more, for the sake of history.

Twitter: @tribkurt —

NCAA rebounding leaders

Player, school Avg.

Egidijus Mockevicius, Evansville 14.6

Joel Bolomboy, Weber State 13.6

Shawn Long, La-Lafayette 13.0

Ben Simmons, LSU 12.8

Chris Horton, Austin Peay 12.4 —

Big Sky career rebounding list

Player, school Years Total

Steve Hayes, Idaho State 1973-77 1,147

Willie Sojourner, Weber State 1968-71 1,143

Joel Bolomboy, Weber State 2012-16 1,141

Larry Krystkowiak, Montana 1982-86 1,105

Jack Gillespie, Montana State 1966-69 1,1011

Jimmie Watts, Weber State 1973-76 949

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