At 10, Amy and Jodi Bolerjack felt left out.
Playing soccer and softball weren’t enough.
With so many of their friends playing basketball, Amy and Jodi decided to add another sport to their repertoire.
They started on the driveway with the goal of 50 made shots daily. It took forever. That didn’t discourage them. Before long, the Bolerjacks had deadly jump shots and were basketball fanatics. Seniors at Hickman, the Bolerjacks strive to make 300 shots on weekdays, 600 on weekends and 1,200 during the offseason.
“If you don’t shoot to make it, then there’s really no point,” Jodi said. “It’s fun. I don’t think we’ve ever had a day where we haven’t been shooting, except on Christmas, and then it seems really weird.”
The Kewpies, ranked ninth in the USA Today poll and winners of 18 straight, also strive for perfection.
Hickman (29-1) will play Lee’s Summit (23-5) in the Class 5 semifinals at 6:20 p.m. today in Hearnes Center.
In the other Class 5 semifinal, Saint Joseph’s Academy (24-4) plays Incarnate Word Academy (27-2) at 4:45 p.m.
The Bolerjacks based their shooting routine on the example of Jackie Stiles, the 2001 WNBA Rookie of the Year, who stressed the importance of shooting 1,000 baskets daily.
Stiles played at Southwest Missouri State University and is the NCAA Division I women’s career scoring leader. Stiles averaged 26.1 points per game during her career.
Practice makes perfect
The Bolerjacks typically shoot at the Student Rec Center at the University of Missouri or at their aunt’s church’s gymnasium. Their father, Paul Bolerjack, is relegated to rebounding.
“They’re tremendous shooters and they’ve worked really hard at the skill,” Hickman coach Tonya Mirts said. “They shoot more than the average high school kid, there’s no doubt about it. They committed to that a long time ago and they’re obviously reaping the benefits of that.”
Mirts also helped the Bolerjacks develop their shots.
Initially, Amy and Jodi shot from their right hips, but Mirts taught them to hold the ball higher. She also showed them how to use screens effectively.
“They’re basketball junkies and it’s great for me as a coach to have kids in your program who are basketball junkies,” Mirts said. “It’s fantastic. I think anybody can be a great shooter, but not everybody is.
“It takes time and a lot of rote repetition and muscle memory. They’ve gone through the process to develop that more so like a college player would.”
It helps to be well-rounded
In addition to being good shooters, the Bolerjacks can handle the ball.
“Both of them could be point guards and that’s what makes Jodi and Amy very dangerous,” Mirts said. “Both of those two have the flexibility that they can shift over into a ballhandling role and that’s unique at the high school level. A lot of kids that are 2s and 3s can only shoot and they can’t be a point guard.”
Jodi, a 2002 All-State guard, has averaged 19.7 points per game in the 2004 postseason and Amy, a 2003 All-State guard, has averaged 10.
Overall, Jodi averaged 14.9 points and 4.5 rebounds. Amy averaged 11.9 points and 5.4 rebounds. Mirts said Hickman’s total package stimulates the Bolerjacks’ production.
“If you just have shooters, you can play tight on them all day long and you don’t have to defend anybody else,” Mirts said. “If you just have an athlete or if you just have an inside player, you can double on them. It really puts the heat on a defense.
“These kids are fortunate enough that they’re going through a time where all of those talents are here and they need to make the most of it.”
Amy said Hickman’s multifaceted attack is what makes it so tough to beat.
“Other teams have one player and if that player doesn’t have a good game, the team loses,” she said. “On this team there are five good players on the court at the same time. It’s easier to beat a team when you can stop one person but it’s really hard to stop a team with five players who play as a team.”In addition to Hickman’s multiple threats, Jodi empathizes the bonds the eight seniors have forged during the past four years.
“We’ve been there,” Jodi said. “We know what has to be done to win and I think everybody understands that. We’re all on the same page and we’re dedicated to winning a championship.”
Living a sports-centric life
Life in the Bolerjack family revolves around sports.
With basketball season, soccer season and summer club teams, the Bolerjacks’ year is full. That doesn’t bother Amy and Jodi’s parents.
“We’d rather be doing this than anything else,” said Arlene Bolerjack, their mother. “It’s been a lot of fun. It’s kept us busy.”
Said Paul: “It’s a way you can have something in common. They enjoy it and you enjoy it. It also let us get through the teenage years with no problems.”
Problems arise when Jodi and Amy go head-to-head. A periodic one-on-one match between them usually ends with their father intervening.
“It’s a little dangerous for us to play against each other,” Jodi said. “We’re just a little competitive.”
Amy’s most competitive moment came in a seventh grade softball game when she stole home and broke her right ankle.
“We figure if you’re going to do something, you might as well give it all you have and that makes it fun,” Amy said.
Amy and Jodi are seldom separated and have a difficult time being away from each other for a day.
This component played into Amy and Jodi’s college decision. They wanted to attend a college where they could play together and wouldn’t be competing against each other for the same position.
They chose the University of Wyoming because every other school had room for one of the two. Their parents also intend to rent a house and make trips to Laramie, Wyo.
Paul Bolerjack said it’s the next stage of Amy and Jodi’s pursuit of excellence, which took root at 10 after watching the Olympics.
“They said they wanted to be in the Olympics when they got older,” he said. “So I humored them and said, ‘Well to be in the Olympics you have to practice six hours a day, every day for the next 12 years.’ They said, ‘Ah, we can do that,’ and before you knew it they were downstairs practicing.
“I thought they would forget about it the next day, but they were right back down there practicing and they’ve pretty much never quit since.”