Crowd pleaser Boucher shines in fourth U.S. tour

About 6,000 hip-hoppers and basketball homies witnessed the And 1 Mix Tape Tour event at the Rose Garden this week, but two of them really stuck out.

The grandparents of 'the Professor' - Grayson Boucher - sat courtside amid the many youths with their baggy clothes and backward hats, watching the dunks and dribbling and rapper E-40 and his bouncing brigade of dancers at halftime.

'They love it,' says Boucher, the street ball sensation from Keizer who is traveling the country for the fourth consecutive year on the shoe company's tour. 'They're some of my biggest fans.'

Boucher has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated and featured in many newspapers and publications nationwide, including ESPN Magazine.

'Every magazine I'm in, my grandma subscribes to it,' he says. 'She's probably the only 82-year-old grandma with a subscription to Slam magazine.'

'Grayson has been playing since he was 3 years old,' observes grandmother Betty Crippen, who attended the event with her husband, Dale, 84. 'He used to have a Larry Bird hoop and a tennis ball, and he'd say, 'Weddy' (meaning ready) … and throw the ball.'

The Professor's other grandparents, Ray and Louise Boucher, seventysomethings, also sat courtside. In all, Boucher had about 50 family and friends at the Sunday night event, his first in Portland since attending the 2003 open tryout here and making the And 1 tour as an auditioning member.

Since then, he has signed lucrative contracts and traveled the country and world extensively on street ball missions, missing only last winter's South American tour while playing for the International Basketball League's Salem Stampede.

No one should be under any illusion that the And 1 guys and their opponents from city to city play anything resembling fundamental basketball. With tricks, passes, alley-oops, dunks and dribbling, it's serious street ball and all about the show. Rarely are fouls called, and free throws are not shot. But the opponents are not stooges.

There goes 'twinkle toes'

The players have skills - Boucher can drive to the hoop and shoot from the perimeter. Still, it's pretty obvious that the And 1 show doesn't go on without the Professor staging his dribbling talent on three or four trips down the floor. He'll be all arms and legs and head movements as he tries to face an opponent - he bounced the ball off an unsuspecting defender's forehead Sunday.

When he hesitates and blows by an opponent, he'll glance and smile back at him - the 'twinkle toes' move, he calls it. On Sunday, he tried unsuccessfully to pull off a between-the-legs alley-oop pass from halfcourt, which Boucher says he has executed before.

'He's consistent. If he puts up 10 to 15 shots, he might miss two,' says teammate Waliyy Dixon, aka Main Event. 'That's what's special about him. And he's getting more heart. When he first started, he was timid.'

Clearly, the players have taken to the only white guy on the team, the guy they affectionately call 'Fess. They continually refer to his 2003 tryout tour when he hit one memorable, game-winning shot at Madison Square Garden. 'He ain't no fluke,' Main Event points out. And the skinny, 5-10 Boucher remains one of And 1's top drawing cards.

'He listens,' says teammate Aaron Owens, aka AO. ' 'Fess didn't come, saying, 'I'm the man.' We're older, we have a lot of ball in us, and he listens. He's humble.'

On the East Coast, street ball, or 'the dirt' as players call it, reigns supreme. Other guys have skills like the Professor's. 'We can find a million guys who can play ball, but many things go into being an And 1 baller - swagger, keeping the crowd into it, enjoying yourself,' AO adds.

The sparkle comes easy

Boucher's parents own a jewelry store in Salem. 'Yeah,' Main Event says, 'his pops keeps him fresh in the diamonds,' which he wears in his earlobes during games. Adds the Professor: 'I get 'em wholesale.'

It's quite an unusual success story.

'It's crazy, really,' says Steve Boucher, Grayson's father. 'When he talks, though, he doesn't lead on to where he's doing anything special.'

Is there another Boucher on the way to fame? The Professor's younger brother, Landon, also plays street ball, but he would like to first play at Chemeketa Community College. Before he became the Professor, Grayson Boucher played backup point guard at Chemeketa.

Boucher still likes regular basketball, but he makes a lot of money in the trumped-up game and has gained international notoriety. It is what it is, the Professor says - 'it's all about flair and flashiness.'

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