NBA: Chris Boucher's great happiness with the Toronto Raptors
TORONTO | A difficult adolescence, long nights spent thinking on board the 380 bus in Montreal, dropping out of high school and no prospect for the future. This dark period seems to belong to another life than that of Chris Boucher, the center of the Raptors who fully lives the dream of the NBA in Toronto.
It's Tuesday evening, before the duel his team against the Miami Heat, which Le Journal discussed with Boucher, near the team's locker room.
The lanky 6'9″ athlete has everything to be happy about. The Raptors are in full playoff contention and it's a packed house at Scotiabank Arena. Heading into Friday night's game, he led the squad defensively with 62 blocks and third in rebounds with 401.
A free agent last summer, Boucher saw the Raptors show their appreciation by offering him a three-year contract for 35.2 million. This is the most lucrative deal to date for an undrafted Canadian player in the NBA.
“I definitely wanted to stay here. Since I arrived in Toronto [in 2018], the organization has always shown me that it cares about me. Throughout the summer, management wanted me to stay around the team and work with
An unexpected opportunity< /p>
“My place here was already well established and it would have been really risky for me to give up everything to go somewhere else. It's a great platform for me and for the player I want to become,” he said just over an hour from a resounding 106-92 victory, in which he contributed with eight points, five rebounds and two blocks.
For Boucher, it's night and day compared to his youth in Montreal North. At that time, family relations were difficult and he was desperately looking for his way.
He tirelessly played basketball in the parks, without an organized team or any recognition. At 19, in 2012, his chances of being discovered by a serious coach were practically non-existent.
Because a place became available on a team during a tournament in Montreal at the Sports Center from Little Burgundy, he played and stood out because of his 44 points in a game and especially his size.
It was this opportunity that allowed him to be recruited to the Alma Academy. It was there that he honed his training in addition to taking the necessary courses to complete his high school and then make the jump to the American junior college scene, in New Mexico and Wyoming.
< p>In 2015, the doors of the NCAA miraculously opened to him when he was recruited by the University of Oregon, in division 1, where he shone.
“Of course my past often comes to mind. Especially when I see young people who have a hard life and who want to break into basketball, it brings me back to the period of my life when I did not know what I was going to do, “said Boucher.
A local favorite
After suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his senior year of college, he was not selected in the 2017 draft, but the Golden Warriors State offered him a contract.
They released him at the end of the season and it is since within the organization of the Raptors that he has made his nest. In 2018, with the affiliate club, he earned the G League's Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year awards.
That's why leaving Toronto seemed unthinkable to him. last summer. Moreover, if his lucrative contract makes his life easier, it is above all the fact of having become the Canadian face of the Raptors that turns him on.
“That's for sure! People here give me a lot of love. It becomes easy to go play and put 100% of my heart for the fans who support me all year long,” he said, shaking his head, still in disbelief and his eyes suddenly lighting up.
Before signing his three-year pact last July, Boucher had concluded a two-year one that had earned him 13 million. His future and that of his loved ones are already assured.
After the hardships and the unconventional route he had to take to reach the NBA, the Montrealer wants to give more and more of his time to young people who are now living in situations similar to his.
< p>With his SlimmDuck Foundation, he wants to give young people from underprivileged communities access to educational and sporting opportunities, particularly in Montreal
“Now, where do I got back, I try to think more about the future than the past. I want to see how I can help other young people while thinking about my family and my career.”
“I come from far away and I see plenty of them in Montreal who play basketball, who are as talented as I was at their age. They just need an opportunity and I can just do the best I can to try to get them to accomplish things,” he noted. Boucher launched an AAU basketball program in Montreal in addition to organizing camps in Ontario. How quickly he walked the talk.
“I'm proud of what Chris has become” – Nick Nurse
Chris Boucher has found in Nick Nurse a trainer who does not hesitate to entrust him with responsibilities. Here is Nurse in action in Montreal, in October 2022.
“I give him all the credit”, mentioned to the Journal the driver of the Toronto team, emphasizing himself at how far Chris Boucher came.
“His career has been unconventional. You have to know how to appreciate it. Players like him have to fight to make their way to where they are today and find success. I'm proud of what Chris has become,” praised Nick Nurse.
According to him, we have to look much further than what Boucher accomplishes on the floor.
“He continues to improve regardless of the obstacles that have been placed in its path. I am happy that he is now giving back to his community through his foundation and it was important for me to participate in his last event in Montreal,” he continued.
A season more consistent
In 2020, Boucher had a personal best with 13.6 points per game. Last season, he had a difficult start before pulling himself together. The current campaign is really the one where he is showing the most regularity, in the eyes of Nick Nurse.
“He had seasons with very good moments, but also good troughs. This year, there have not been as many highs and lows. He is now playing like a veteran and we know what to expect from him from one night to the next. It's become consistent,” he said.
That's an analysis that Boucher tends to share.
“I'm probably having my best moments. I score points, I control the ball better and I'm better in defense. For this first year of my three-year contract, I think I gave them what they were looking for”, he mentioned with a smile about this contract, which he describes as “the icing on the sundae”. /p>
Strong link with Mathurin
March 22 was an important day for Quebec basketball. Young prodigy Bennedict Mathurin and his Indianapolis Pacers were in Toronto to play against Boucher's Raptors.
While he enjoyed the evening and the interaction with Mathurin, Boucher held on remember that the links were already well established.
“We talk to each other all the time. That moment was more for the TV than for us because we are still in contact between him, me and Lu [Luguentz Dort, with the Oklahoma City Thunder].
“I knew that Benn would succeed. Very young, we saw all his talent. He just needed an opportunity. His career is just beginning and he's going to do great things.”
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