BallnRoll Exclusive with Toronto Raptors’ Centre Chris Boucher
He was not supposed to be here.
Dubbed as one of the best players in the G League this year, Toronto Raptors centre Chris Boucher comes from humble begins and has grinded his way into the NBA spotlight. It is not common to see an NBA player come out of Montreal, Quebec, but as the game of basketball continues to grow north of the border, it is players like Boucher who will continue to be discovered and lead the next wave of Canadian talent.
Born in St. Lucia, Boucher moved to Canada with his family when he was very young. Surrounded by drugs and crime, the 6’10” big man had quite the unorthodox upbringing.
Growing up in poverty, in a single-parent home, Boucher jumped around the junior college scene before committing to the University of Oregon. There, he would join fellow Canadians Dylan Ennis and Dillon Brooks. Now 26-years of age and a member of the Toronto Raptors, Boucher has a chance to leave his mark in the NBA. The Canadian big man spoke to BallnRoll in an exclusive new interview.
Elmaleh: Your story fascinates me. Brought up in a rough upbringing, on the cold streets of Montreal. Poverty. Single parent home. dropped out of school. Even started basketball late. Have you gotten used to where you are today or are you still in some kind of dream?
Boucher: I feel I got used to it. The process of it, by just being around people that I never thought I’d be around. So I’m definitely used to it. It doesn’t change who I am, the things I have left to do and the struggle that I have been through… I am grateful about the opportunities that I have more than anything else.
Elmaleh: Roberto Benigni, the director of Life is Beautiful. When he won the academy award, the first thing he said is, “I want to thank my parents for raising me poor”. Has your upbringing helped you become the person you are today?
Boucher: Yeah, for sure. Once you start to get stuff and realize you are able to help people and help your family, you definitely realize what you’ve been through. I think that the fact that I was poor and didn’t have money or all that, now that I have a house and can take care of my family, it definitely feels good. I feel proud of that for sure. When I look back to where I was to where I am now, it definitely feels good.
Elmaleh: You grew up in a hockey city. Cracks me up that I heard you played hockey yourself when you were younger. Were you surprised by how amazing the fans were in Montreal when the Raptors came to town? And tell us the real situation of basketball in Quebec.
Boucher: I knew that people love basketball. A lot of people play basketball, we just don’t have the opportunity to have a team. But there are a lot of kids that are just like me who want to play basketball, but didn’t have the opportunity to get here. As soon as the get the chance to watch it or just play, they are all for it. I was very happy to see how much people were there. For me, it shows how much they need their own team too. You saw it, it was a sold out night. Montreal and Quebec are a lot like Toronto and Vancouver, and Canada in general just wants basketball and they are enjoying the pace, the atmosphere, the action, everything.
Elmaleh: You played at Oregon with two other Canadians in Dillon Brooks and Dylan Ennis. Did playing with them help you adjust to college?
Boucher: I think that in my first year, it definitely helped me out. Dillon and Dylan, they have already been playing so they just showed me the ropes, showed me what to expect, and showed me that I had to get better faster and think faster. I think Dillon definitely helped me out most if I had to choose one of them, I’d take Dillon for sure because I got closer to him through the years and we got better as a team.
Elmaleh: It seems like you have come full circle playing for the Toronto Raptors. How does it feel to play for your country and how far do you think Canadian basketball has come.
Boucher: It feel good. Being in Canada first of all, being close to my family. Representing the country. So it feels good to be here playing for the Raptors. It’s a great organization. I get to learn, I get to be close to my family and be back home so that’s definitely helpful.
I think that basketball in Canada got bigger. If you look back like 10 years, we had like seven players and now we can have a whole team ready for the Olympics. Now, we have around 13-14 players that are in the League. You just see the big difference.
Elmaleh: You are on a two-way contract, what is it like flipping between G League games and NBA games. What are some of the difficulties or are you just still on a high and living the dream?
Boucher: I’m just living a dream. You get better. In the 905, you got to be a leader, I got to show the ability to get better and here I just got to help the team as much as possible. It’s always a great opportunity for me to just score and show what I’m capable of doing, but at the same time try to learn as much as possible.
Elmaleh: You got range, you’re a big man who can shoot. You run the floor, you grab rebounds and you love to protect the rim. What are some of the things you have to be more focused on as you continue to grow and get stronger?
Boucher: I think I have to show that I am getting stronger through the year and the rest of it is just going to keep getting better. My shot is going to keep getting better, my decision-making, the IQ and all that will get better. I think if I keep doing what I’m doing, I see the big gaps from where I was last year to this year, so I keep doing this, I have a great ceiling in the NBA.
Elmaleh: Finally, how does it feel to be in a warmer city like Toronto lol?
Boucher: I don’t feel the difference anymore, I’ll tell you that much. Cold is cold. I’m used to it, I’ve been in Montreal for a long time.