By Sam Finley

Chris Boucher arrived at Oregon last season from a climate that might be just a “little” colder in the wintertime. The 6’10, 200-pound senior forward from Montreal, Quebec admits there’s no shortage of snow in his hometown.

“A lot of snow and watching hockey,” he laughs with a soft-spoken voice. “They say it rains a lot in Eugene, but nothing compares to the snow in Quebec. Very few countries get snow the way Canada does.”

Quebec is also known for a very bilingual population with many citizens fluently speaking French and English. So which language does he prefer?

“Both are cool,” Boucher says. “But I prefer English, because it’s way easier. French takes more time to explain. But with English, I can say two words and I’ve expressed how I feel about something.”

Boucher certainly has no problems expressing why he traveled here to become a part of the UO men’s basketball team.

“The program uses big guys in a way that others wouldn’t,” he says. “They use me in a way I’m capable with my abilities, but I can play inside yet also be able to shoot ‘threes’ in the corner if needed.”

There is no question that Boucher possesses a rare ability for a guy his size. Not only can he get the monster dunk, he can back up and hit a three-point shot. (He hit 35 threes in 2016). It came in handy last year when he played a key role during the Ducks’ run to the Elite Eight, and it’s a big reason why they’ve got a chance to make a big splash in this year’s NCAA Tournament. His teammates and coaches can’t say enough good things about him.

“Chris can do things that a lot of other players in the country cannot do,” says guard Dylan Ennis. “He stretches the floor and is able to get rebounds when he’s not blocking shots. He brings a lot to the team for sure.”

“He’s meant a tremendous amount to us,” says head basketball coach Dana Altman. “There’s absolutely no doubt about it. He has the ability to alter shots, change shots, block shots, and he’s been our best rebounder per minute. Chris has also given us a big lift offensively and is so unselfish in how he plays. He saved us down the stretch last year and he’s been equally important this year as well.”

Perhaps the largest part of Boucher’s game is his shot blocking. Last season, he set a new school record for rejections with 110 blocks. This year, he’s again the leader in that category. Even more unique is how he’s consistently able to swat the ball away from potential opponents without getting called for a foul. He says it’s a hard thing to teach and it came with a lot of practice.

“I just learned over time after fouling out in games trying to block shots,” Boucher explains. “I figured out how to position myself for the block without getting called for the foul. It’s hard to explain or to teach. And sometimes it’s better to try and alter the shot when a guy goes for a layup and be in position to get a rebound.”

When this season ends, it’s very likely that Boucher will find himself on a NBA roster. And while he doesn’t know exactly what he’ll do with his sociology major when his basketball days are over, he does have at least one idea:

“I want to officially graduate first and see what I can do at the next level, as well as with my degree. But I want to help kids and help them realize they can make it as far as I’ve been able to.”

In the meantime, he’s focused on helping his Ducks get ready for another potentially outstanding postseason stretch. Oregon started a little slow with many underwhelming wins and a couple losses. Since the start of Pac-12 play, however, they’ve lived up to their hype with huge wins over UCLA and Arizona and he thinks that the team is pulling it together at the right time.

“We’re a lot more focused than we were earlier in the year,” Boucher claims. “We’re now playing better offensively and defensively. Everyone knows their roles. We have the confidence that we can play with the best of them when we play together. I think, as a team, we can do anything. Every game counts.”