James Bohnett races across the basketball court in his competition wheelchair, dribbling a basketball.

Story by Sarah Sabatke

MU senior James Bohnett can often be seen racing around campus from various classes to MizzouRec. As a member of Mizzou’s wheelchair basketball team, he balances early morning practices with a heavy academic load.

“You try to plan around sleep,” he says. “You try your best.”

Players are allowed five years of collegiate eligibility for wheelchair basketball. Bohnett is currently in his last semester of eligibility with the team. He will graduate in May with not one but four bachelor’s degrees, one each in political science, economics, mathematics and statistics.

“The degrees themselves are fairly well in sync,” Bohnett says. He started by pursuing a degree in political science and then added economics. The economics degree, he says, required a lot of mathematics and statistics courses. The overlap in course requirements, combined with credits from a community college and a planned fifth year at Mizzou, gave Bohnett an opportunity to maximize his academic experience that he couldn’t pass up.

James Bohnett holds a basketball, wearing his No. 12 Mizzou uniform.

Bohnett says he chose the four subject areas partly out of “pure curiosity.” Growing up in a politically interested family and a high school fascination with economic theory inspired his combination of studies in college.

“Originally it was just to sort of taste-test it and see if I enjoyed it,” Bohnett says of his economic courses. “It turned out that I really did enjoy it, and I enjoyed the professors and the material, and so I just continued off of that.”

His work ethic is evident in academics, and it also plays an integral part in his athletic career. Bohnett grew up in San Jose, California, and began playing adaptive sports at age 7. He enjoyed wheelchair basketball the most and soon joined a junior team in Berkeley, California.

“I wasn’t really good at it, but they were more than happy to have me tag along and try to play the sport,” Bohnett says. “I haven’t stopped since.” Bohnett attended basketball camps at MU when he was in high school and says that the wheelchair basketball team was the main reason that led him to choose Mizzou.

“I got attached to the players who were here and some of the teammates who moved over to here, and it just became the school for me,” he says. “To have the opportunity to continue as a collegiate player, to play for Mizzou, was just huge.”

Mizzou Wheelchair Basketball
Mizzou Wheelchair Basketball represents the University of Missouri in the Central Intercollegiate Division of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association. With an array of leadership, academic and athletic opportunities, the program sets a high standard here at Mizzou. Learn more about Mizzou Wheelchair Basketball.

While his studies and athletics keep him extremely busy, he says they have opened many doors.

Bohnett was selected for the MU Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy Scholars program during the summer of 2015 and worked in Washington, D.C., with California Senator Barbara Boxer. He also volunteers with the Star Light Reading Program in Columbia, where MU student-athletes visit area elementary schools to read to and interact with students.

“It’s partly an opportunity for us to be involved with the Missouri community but it’s also an opportunity for us to introduce adaptive sports to young individuals,” Bohnett says, “and to also introduce them to disability in general in a better light.”

Among his memorable moments in his five years on campus, Bohnett lists his experience as a statistics tutor and a tutor with the MU Writing Center.

“Those opportunities to really assist students, give them a chance to comprehend the material … and see that spark moment — where they just go ‘Eureka!’ I always enjoy that,” he says.

Bohnett isn’t sure exactly what he wants to do or where he wants to go after graduation. Maybe an internship with a firm dealing with economic policy, he says, or even law school. And, with such a variety of degrees, his options are seemingly unlimited.