March 6, 2014
By Emilee Fannon, NIU Media Relations Student Assistant
The headband, the wet slicked back golden hair, and a unique Norwegian accent. Who might I be talking about, no one else but NIU men’s basketball senior forward Aksel Bolin. From overseas to America and back, Bolin has had one memorable career.
Born in Stockholm, Sweden, basketball was in his blood. Both Bolin’s parents played professionally, his father played for the Norwegian national team, while his mother starred for Sweden’s national team.
Just last summer, Bolin represented Norway in the World University Games, where he averaged 5.1 points and recorded a team high 10 seals, helping Norway to a 13th-place finish.
Since traveling back to the United States for his senior year, Bolin has been one of the most consistent players for the Huskies. In January, Bolin became the only player on the current Huskie roster to play in 100 career games. He enters Saturday’s regular season finale having played in 111 contests in his career at NIU.
“He’s a tough player that will fight his way through injuries,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “Aksel is a total team player. He’s very durable and very reliable.”
But basketball wasn’t always Bolin’s first choice growing up.
“In Norway, basketball is foreign. Either you play soccer or cross-country ski,” Bolin explained.
Growing up, Bolin played soccer and basketball, but eventually the time came where he had to commit to one sport or the other.
“At 16, I had to make a choice. I chose basketball because I thought it was more competitive and fun,” said Bolin. “I could score more points rather than one goal. I’m glad I stayed with it.”
After graduating high school, Bolin wanted to continue to play basketball and get a college education, but in Norway being a college athlete is not an option.
“I obviously wanted to still play because I loved it so much and coming to America and getting and education meant a lot to me,” Bolin said. “It was the best place to do both options so that was the determining factor to come to America.”
Bolin still vividly remembers his first encounter coming to NIU.
“I remember the car ride driving from the airport thinking, ‘What am I doing here?’” Bolin said. “I just sat there listening to them talk and I was just baffled by an unfamiliar country and a different language.”
As soon as the meet-and-greet was over and he stepped on the court, the country wasn’t so different after all.
“Once basketball came into the picture, the people around me turned into a family,” said Bolin.
One of his favorite memories was playing Eastern Michigan his sophomore year in 2012 in the MAC Tournament. It was a first round game to determine which team would be sent to Cleveland. Eastern Michigan entered the contest as the No. 5 seed, while the Huskies were seeded 12th. The game came down to the final seconds and NIU held off Eastern Michigan, 55-52. Bolin was NIU’s top performer of the game with 13 points, five rebounds and three steals.
“As a team, it was a big deal to us and we considered it a huge accomplishment,” Bolin said. “It’s games like those that you will never forget with such a great teammates.”
As the MAC Tournament approaches, Bolin’s basketball career at NIU is coming toward the end and it is his teammates that he says he will miss the most.
“It will be weird not seeing them every day. Walking away from a close team will be different, but I will still remain in contact with them afterwards,” said Bolin.
Bolin plans to reconnect to his ties in Norway to play overseas for a couple of years after graduation. After basketball, Bolin plans to apply to a master’s program, looking to get into communications.
“I am so blessed for the opportunities I’ve been given throughout my career,” Bolin said. “It’s a challenging life with school and basketball, but as long as you find balance between the two and stay organized, your hard work will pay off.”