MONTREAL – Standing at 6’10”, Montreal giant Chris Boucher has overcome a broken family, abject poverty and high school failure to become an NBA prospect and a star of March Madness for the Oregon Ducks.
The St. Lucia-born, Côte-des-Neiges-raised 22-year-old had 11 points, including several dunks as the Ducks beat the storied Duke Blue Devils 82-68 to advance to the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament.
Boucher, who has made a habit of dodging obstacles on his way to the top of college basketball, has a life story that’s straight out of a movie.
In the summer of 2011, Boucher was a high school dropout working as a dishwasher at a local St. Hubert restaurant when he was discovered playing basketball by himself at the Little Burgundy Sports Centre by coach Igor Rwigema.
Impressed by his athleticism, Rwigema quickly brought the spindly forward to his prep school in Alma, where Boucher’s unusual mix of shot-blocking prowess and 3-point shooting quickly caught the attention of U.S. scouts.
Boucher went on to junior college, where he was named Player of the Year in 2014, the first Canadian to ever receive the honour.
While many Division I programs expressed doubts about Boucher’s raw skills and 200-pound physique, Oregon Ducks coach Dana Altman saw the Montrealer’s enormous potential and signed him to college basketball’s top level in 2015.
The long-armed centre was an immediate success in Eugene, Ore., making the Pac-12 All-Defensive team for a squad that earned a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Despite his success, Boucher continues to face obstacles.
The NCAA initially declared him ineligible for the 2016-17 season because his post-secondary education didn’t add up to the required four year minimum for him to play.
The organization reversed its decision and granted the Montrealer a second season in Division I.
Nevertheless, Boucher will have a big decision to make once this season ends.
He’s currently projected as a second-round NBA pick if he declares his intention to enter the draft this spring, but some believe Boucher’s skinny 200-pound frame needs another year of college seasoning.
Either way, Boucher has far surpassed everyone’s expectations, except perhaps his own.
“I don’t know how good I can become,” the soft-spoken star told reporters just before the tournament.