Boucher finds hoop limelight to his liking
- Jason Vondersmith
- Portland Tribune - Sports
'The Professor' cashes in and wows the fans with street-ball skills
He rolls in a 2004 Mustang. He's been to 29 U.S. cities; Paris; Barcelona, Spain; London; Milan, Italy; Frankfurt, Germany; and Australia in the past year. Little kids in his hometown scurry to see him play. Fans notice him at Trail Blazer games.
A more famous ex-community college backup point guard you probably won't find. And the wild ride continues for Grayson Boucher, the skinny -19-year-old from Keizer with the crazy street game who was given a chance to shine by ESPN and the And 1 shoe company.
'Great exposure. Meeting new people. Traveling a lot. Getting paid to play the game,' says Boucher, citing the benefits of barnstorming before large crowds as part of 'Street Ball: The And 1 Mix Tape Tour.'
The former Salem Academy standout had trouble getting minutes at Chemeketa Community College two seasons ago. Now he's preparing for a 30-city U.S. tour that starts June 3 in Fresno, Calif.
Boucher playing with And 1 is like the old 'Sesame Street' jingle: 'One of these things is not like the others/One of these things just doesn't belong.' Ain't too many white kids doing what he does, as well as he does.
His rise to fame began last June, when he played in an 'open run' to be part of the And 1 main event at Memorial Coliseum. Little did he know the next six months would change his life.
He made the tour as part of the 'JV Squad' that plays the And 1 stars. Event after event, city after city, the crowds and the players took to the Professor and his uncanny ability to use his spindly arms and legs to dribble, pass and shoot.
'It fits my style,' Boucher says of street ball.
He quickly was promoted to the top squad, and toured Europe in September and October.
'It's twice as hyped over there,' he says. 'In some of the countries, it was almost like And 1 was the biggest shoe company in the world. They liked it more than Nike.'
He went to Australia with street ballers '50' and 'High Octane' to play in a 3-on-3 tourney. 'Straight-up ball, but you threw in style,' he says. 'We had refs, and no carries. We won.'
On ESPN's recently released 'Street Ball Season 2,' which contains footage of Boucher, the company gives props to the kid who 'stole the heart of America.'
His notoriety still 'is amazing' to Molly Boucher, his mother, although she says 'Gray' has remained humble, buying the Mustang and a watch, but not much more.
'He's only 19, and he still does what we would kind of like him to do,' says Molly, who owns a jewelry shop in Salem along with husband Steve.
'He had a beater car before,' she adds. 'In the end, he had to put oil in it to go anywhere.'
The Professor doesn't regret giving up his college eligibility, especially because And 1 has talked about employing him after his playing days end. He figures he can milk his shtick for several years.
He doesn't have any illusions about playing in the NBA, like former street baller 'Skip to My Lou,' aka Rafer Alston, who's hooked on with the Miami Heat.
'There's only two or three guys who might be able to do it,' he says, referring to 'Alimoe,' 'Prime Objective' and maybe '50' or 'Helicopter.'