Basketball: Bollinger travels far and wide to get buckets

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By Denton Day

By: Denton Day
Sports Editor

Basketball and traveling are two of Jessie Bollinger’s favorite activities. From Monday, June 18-Wednesday, June 27 those two worlds collided.

Bollinger, a rising senior at Liberty High School, took part in the United World Games Tour in Europe as a member of Team STUDENTathleteWorld U19 team.

STUDENTathleteWorld is a program that provides resources that helps high school athletes get recruited and also offers international sports tours. The Bollinger’s had never heard of the program until it reached out to Jessie.

“We still have no idea how they got her name,” Terri Bollinger, Jessie’s mother, said. “It might have been from a camp but we don’t really know.”

Bollinger had to apply for the program and to be a member of the team. The process, in a way, was very similar to applying for college. The program requested an essay, references, transcripts and a phone interview before even mentioning basketball.

STUDENTathleteWorld accepted Jessi and she joined a team of six girls, none of which were from Virginia. The team practiced for about 45 minutes on a shared court and had a 45-minute briefing on what to expect in terms of rules and style of play.

Being held in Europe, the tournament was played under European rules, which are slightly different from American rules. The game is a bit more physical, the court is shorter and the paint–instead of being a rectangle like it is in America–is a trapezoid shape.

“It wasn’t that hard,” Bollinger said on adapting to the European style of play. “They didn’t call much. The rules were definitely there but they didn’t call much.”

The process of playing overseas on a team with players outside of Virginia exposed Bollinger to several different styles of play. She got an up close look at Europe’s most famous basketball move, the Euro step.

“They definitely call it the Euro step for a reason,” Bollinger said. “They use it a lot over there.”

The tournament was presented with a similar format to the Olympics, beginning with an opening ceremony. Bollinger had the privilege to walk in the opening ceremony. Cheers and chants of “U-S-A” rained down when they were announced. 

“They were chanting for us. I guess you either really like us or you really don’t,” Bollinger said.

Bollinger and her team arrived on Tuesday June 19 but the first game was not played until Saturday June 23. STUDENTathleteWorld planned a few days of travel into the schedule for the team.

They flew into Munich, Germany on Tuesday and visited Dachau, one of the concentration camps in Germany. On Wednesday June 20 they traveled to Salzburg, Austria to experience the city. They stayed in Austria until Sunday June 24 and on Monday June 25 they traveled to Venice, Italy for the day before going back to Munich on Tuesday June 26 and back to America on Wednesday June 27.

“I liked Venice,” Bollinger said. “I also like the architecture in Austria. It was so old on the outside but everything was so new inside. It was like you were walking through the 1800s, but everything was still modern.”

The tournament itself was run a bit different than tournaments in America. Each team played each other once and the final standings heavily factored in the scoring difference. Team STUDENTathleteWorld finished third overall but played only four games instead of five because the last place team, Cambridge International School from India, forfeited due to being out scored 313-34 in the previous four games.

STUDENTathleteWorld was given a 20-0 victory for the final game.
“Last year she tore her ACL and this year she played overseas,” Terri Bollinger said. “Her goal was always to play for Team USA and just seeing her in that uniform, her reaction seeing her name under that American flag. To see her start the trail to her dreams, that was a big deal for mom.”

“I think this experience made me a more confident player,” Bollinger said. “I can’t wait for this year. I’m ready for school ball.”