Chris Boucher was never supposed to be here. “Here” counts for a lot of things in this case: playing big-time college basketball, starring for an Oregon team with legitimate Final Four aspirations, blossoming into the type of three-point shooting, shot-blocking center every coach dreams about.
Boucher’s college basketball journey ended Saturday night when it was announced his season is over with a torn ACL. It’s devastating news for the Ducks on the brink of the NCAA tournament. It’s crushing for Boucher. It also robs March Madness of one of its most inspiring individual storylines.
Boucher’s story has been told and retold many times at this point. If you haven’t heard it, read Luke Winn’s preseason profile at SI. It’s worth your time and paints a complete picture of just how unlikely Boucher’s journey really was.
Boucher was a high school dropout in Montreal. He was working behind the grill at a restaurant. He had never played organized basketball in his life. He was broke and life wasn’t presenting him with any easy ways out.
Then, something totally unexpected happened: Boucher finally caught a break. From Winn:
On May 31, 2012, some regulars from the Montreal-Nord pickup-game scene had an open roster spot for their entry in the annual Hang Time tournament at Centre Sportif de la Petite Bourgogne, and invited Boucher to join. He accepted, and although his team was blown out the next day by Montreal's most established AAU program, the Adidas-sponsored Brookwood Elite, he showed off his relentless motor in that game, scoring 44 points, mostly by running in transition and fighting for put-backs. Rwigema happened to be in the crowd, and he asked one of his QC United players, "Who is this kid?"
That was Boucher’s springboard. He ended up at a prep school, transferred to New Mexico Junior College, transferred again to another junior college in Wyoming and eventually caught an assistant’s eye at Oregon.
Boucher had two great seasons for Oregon. This year he averaged 11.8 points and 2.5 blocks per game. He shot threes (35 percent from deep), challenged shots and gave Dana Altman another plus athlete in the front court.
Boucher’s college career might be over, but he’ll come back from this and make money playing ball somewhere, maybe in the NBA, maybe not. Either way, his story is a reminder of why we love March Madness: players from all over the world, from every type of background imaginable, all doing something that has the whole world watching.