WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Boudreau Settles In At BC
The Deadly Shooter Is Defined By More Than Just A Smooth Jumper
Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 4, 2013 16:02
As the first shootaround of the season ends, Erik Johnson starts talking some trash.
Johnson, the first-year head coach for the Boston College women’s basketball team, is sure that he has the best half-court shot out of anyone on the court. The ball sails through the net on only his third attempt. He yaps a little bit more about his prowess from midcourt.
One of his freshman guards doesn’t agree. She walks out to the same spot and fires off a one-handed push shot that doesn’t fall. Unfazed, she tries again.
“Yeah, Coach,” she says, walking away after draining the shot, “it only took me two.”
It wasn’t the first time that ACC Rookie of the Week Nicole Boudreau had bested her head coach. During a camp before Boudreau officially came to BC, Johnson challenged her to his favorite 3-point shooting contest.
Both shooters alternate 3-point attempts, with points racking up in the pot after each consecutive make. When one shooter misses, he or she takes on the points. Get seven points, and you’re out, unless you can make a half-court shot to reset your score to zero.
“I fancy myself a pretty good 3-point shooter,” Johnson said, recalling that he still holds the record for threes made in a season at his alma mater, University of California-San Diego.
Not good enough, though. Boudreau won that game too, quipping to Johnson afterwards that he shouldn’t feel bad. He still has his inside game.
“It never ends,” Johnson said. “She loves competition. She thrives on it. She’s never afraid to take the big shot, make the big play, guard the best player, and she certainly relishes that role, but it’s not a ‘me, me, me’ thing. She just wants to do whatever it takes to win.”
Given her relatively small frame, Boudreau should be defined by her incredibely efficient jumper. Even as a freshman, she leads the ACC in threes made per game and is in the top 10 for 3-point percentage. She has shooting contests with her teammates where they take shots from behind the free-throw line, but she stands behind the arc shooting treys.
Johnson first saw her play when Boudreau was in high school. As he sat next to former BC assistant coach Geoff Lanier on the road for a recruiting trip, it was easy for him to think that her size made her potentially questionable.
“Yeah I know,” Lanier said, cutting Johnson off mid-thought. “She doesn’t look like an ACC player, but trust me, this kid can play.”
When Johnson got the job at BC last April, he talked to a lot of people about Boudreau, who was committed to join BC as a freshman in the upcoming season. Usually with a player her size, people will say that she’s a great shooter and she does a few other things well.
“That wasn’t ever how they described Nicole,” Johnson said.
They said she’s a competitor. They said she’s got a swagger to her. They said she’s a winner that can do it all.
“Oh, and she can make 25-foot jumpshots,” they told Johnson.
He was confused.
“If this kid’s as good a shooter as they say,” Johnson thought, “Why is that like the fourth thing they mention?”
After coaching her, he’s figured it out.
“You realize that what Nicole brings to the game is so much more than making deep jumpshots,” Johnson said. “She’s got a sense, she’s got a poise about her, she defends, she runs the floor, she’s got the highest assist-to-turnover ratio and she’s one of our best passers.”
There were three jumpballs in BC’s double-overtime game against Wake Forest on Sunday. All three times, Wake got the tip. But all three times, Boudreau swooped in and stole it away because she read exactly where the Demon Deacons were trying to get the ball.
It’s not just her value on the court that’s important to Johnson, though.
“It’s really valuable when you can get on your best players,” Johnson said. “It shows the rest of the team that nobody’s above criticism.”
He knows that she’s going to respond well when he has a critique. She shows it in her body language and her whole deameanor. It’s everything he’s looking for.
She needed to sprint her lane faster and with more efficiency. When Johnson told her about it, she fixed it. She wasn’t pushing the ball down the court with the dribble as much as she could, so she fixed it.
“That’s our job,” Johnson said. “It’s to keep raising the bar and not just be happy that she’s so far along as a freshman but to say ‘Hey, there’s another level, there’s another level, there’s another level.’ She just keeps stepping up to it, which is fun and I think it’s fun for her as well.”
If the team isn’t sprinting the court hard enough, he can get on his freshman guard to go harder. He knows she’ll look him in the eye, say “Got it coach,” and pick up the pace. The rest of the team will follow suit.
“You’ve got to have somebody with that kind of character to be able to do that,” Johnson said. “And Nicole certainly has that.”
She also has that great jumper, but it’s one she admits is unorthodox, especially for how effective it is. Her right shooting arm goes up smoothly with a near-perfect release, but her left thumb on her guide hand pushes the ball as well. She also throws her right hip at the basket as she shoots. Maybe the two awkward motions balance each other out, or maybe all of her repetitions practicing the shot since she was five have just made it work.