Basketball observers typically think of a three-and-D player, gifted defenders capable of guarding multiple positions and providing a spark from the perimeter, as wing men, shooting guards and small forwards.
But that is exactly what Chris Boucher has become. At 6’10” and 200 lbs, the 23-year-old plays power forward for the Oregon University men’s basketball team, and despite his vast inexperience of serious, organised basketball, the young man from Castries, Saint Lucia has had a major effect on his team.
Defensively, Chris is a leader for the Ducks, their top rebounder and shot blocker. He’s erased 98 shots this season, at an average in excess of three per contest. On offense, he works the perimeter. He runs, jumps like a guard, albeit usually faster and higher. He even shoots with guard range, something he honed on playground courts as a teenager, when he says, “All I’d do is shoot threes.” When he’s not shooting from distance (34.1% from three) he is dunking (53.8% overall from the field) or hitting from the free throw line (70.7%).
If Chris is able to complete his sociology degree from Oregon, something the university’s staff is committed to making happen, he would be the first from his family to accomplish such. He has a number of hurdles to clear in terms of eligibility, but in the meantime, he is contributing on the court.
Last week, the young man was part of the team that won the Pac-12 conference championship. Ninth-ranked Oregon (25-6) kept the title to itself with a 76-66 win over USC on Saturday afternoon in front of 6,834 at Galen Center to finish 14-4 in conference play, one game ahead of Utah at 13-5. Oregon won its fifth conference championship in school history and just the second Pac-12 title, matching the 2002 team that also closed the regular season with a sweep in L.A. to finish with the same 14-4 record.
Tyler Dorsey led Oregon with 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting while Cook added 17 points and 12 rebounds as the Ducks outrebounded the Trojans 38-28. Chris had a cold night shooting, but led his team with two blocks, and was second with eight rebounds. Oregon will look to follow up its regular-season title by winning the conference tournament next week in Las Vegas. Oregon is the top seed and will face either Washington or Stanford at noon on Thursday.
Chris isn’t sure where his journey will take him. He left Saint Lucia with his mother, Mary MacVane, when he was just five years old. The family moved to Montreal, Canada, and Chris grew up playing soccer and ice hockey. Initially, his “basketball” comprised of standing around and shooting three-pointers. As he grew, he started playing competitively in 2012, and it was in July of that year that he was seen by the founders of a programme designed to help talented kids coming from rough backgrounds.
Chris fit the bill. “Chris’s entire childhood was unstable,” says his mother. “We were always moving and living under tough conditions. It pained me because I knew Chris was a smart kid dealing with other people’s problems / issues that were beyond his control.” Three and a half years after being , Chris Boucher has an associate’s degree, and is working towards his bachelor’s. For his part, he intends to make the most of the opportunity that has taken him, via New Mexico Junior College, to Eugene.
“After everything I’ve lived and noticed,” says the young man who intends to work as a therapist upon graduation, “I think I could help people who have had the same life as me. I feel like I could listen to them and find better ways. Because I got out of there. Maybe people who are still in there they could find another way.” Back in the streets of Montreal North, he had been stopped and questioned by police because he resembled a criminal on the loose. Now he says, “I’m walking in Eugene and people know my name.”
His emergence may mean that he never gets to play for Saint Lucia, as Canada will surely come calling, with promises of Olympic basketball, but the path that this young man is taking is one that will surely make many of his native countrymen extremely proud.