Hard work times two

Columbia’s Bolerjack twins, Wyoming meet Missouri at 3 p.m. today in WNIT
Sunday, March 18, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:07 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Paul Bolerjack doesn’t know where his daughters found their love for basketball.

He never played. The closest he came to athletics was baseball, and he didn’t make it past summer league.

But he does know where they got their skills. And while their skills aren’t necessarily from his genetics, they are of his influence.

He remembers back to the 1996 Summer Olympics, when he and his twin 10-year-old daughters Amy and Jodi were watching the athletes on TV. Like many other kids watching the Olympics, the twins wanted to compete some day, even though they’d only been playing soccer and basketball for about a year then.

“I said, ‘Well, you have to practice five or six hours a day,’” their father said. “And they said they would, just like other kids do. But then they did.”

Bolerjack said his daughters’ natural talent is running, but that their ability to play basketball came from their hours of practice each day throughout the years.

“I can’t even total up the number of hours,” he said. “They literally practice five or six hours a day in the summer, when they don’t have school. They’ll shoot and play pick up games at the rec center. But that’s the key to their success. They earned what they have.”

Before they left Columbia to attend college at Wyoming, juniors Jodi and Amy Bolerjack didn’t have a chance to attend any basketball games at their hometown university.

Between homework, school and club practices for basketball and soccer they just never made it to a women’s or men’s game, Jodi Bolerjack said.

But the opportunity to play Missouri could have been a driving force in Jodi Bolerjack’s game against Nevada on Thursday when she scored a team-high 22 points, grabbed six rebounds, and made all six attempted free throws in the 84-56 win.

“I don’t really ever expect to have a game like that, but I think I was just ready to play,” the guard said. “I wanted to play MU, so I don’t know if that carried over. I just can’t believe we get the opportunity to play them. I’m not dreading it, I’m really excited.”

When the twins were selecting where to go to school three years ago, all they really knew was that they wanted to go to the same place. Missouri coach Cindy Stein said that during the Bolerjacks’ recruiting year, the team was focusing on adding post players, but had seen the twins play on Hickman High School’s team and praised their shooting skills and work ethic.

“At that point, we had a lot of depth at that (guard) spot,” Stein said. “And when you recruit a local player, you better make sure they play a lot, just like Jessra (Johnson), you get a million questions. Everyone expects them to play right away, and we weren’t in a position where we could guarantee that.”

But Jodi Bolerjack said she’s never regretted the decision to play in Wyoming. She said she doesn’t find the social life much different than Columbia.

There’s still bowling, movies, and school-organized social functions on Friday nights in Laramie.

“The school’s great, the girls are awesome, and we have a great fan base,” she said. “The community really supports women’s basketball. That’s a little different. Women’s basketball is what people talk about here. It’s amazing, I just can’t describe it.”

What’s also the same is the amount of time spent with her sister. The two are both majoring in accounting, so they have almost all the same classes, and their parents bought a house for them to live in together and for a place to stay when they visit.

However, unlike her sister, Amy Bolerjack, a forward, has been dealing with rheumatoid arthritis since their freshman year. She’s only been able to play in eight games this season, and some days, she can’t practice because she can’t even move. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints.

“She’s on a lot of medicine,” Jodi Bolerjack said. “She has to take it easy, and make sure she doesn’t overdo it. But there’s a lot of pain, especially with the weather out here. It changes every day. It’s constant pain for her.”

But the twins still practice together, usually one shooting and one rebounding, like they’ve been doing since grade school. And now their hours of practice focus only on basketball.

“Just one sport, only class half a day instead of a full day, they thought college was a break,” their father said. “But they love it. They wouldn’t want to do anything else. In fact, they get out of sorts when they don’t have that to do.”

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