The best ever leaves the building
She doesn’t love telling the story because she finds it a little embarrassing. But on the night of the final regular-season home game of her monumental career, she agrees to make an exception.
As a kid, she and her brother used to go watch McMaster basketball games at Burridge Gym. She was new to the sport, but even today she can vividly remember thinking how cool she thought the girls wearing white and maroon were.
So one day, they grabbed some markers, went down to the unfinished basement of their house and drew a key where the mini basketball net was. Then scrawled a giant M on the middle of the floor, just like they’d seen at Mac.
This enthusiasm must have warmed the hearts of her hoopsloving parents. “Oh, they were furious,” Danielle Boiago laughs.
While it’s not advised that any kids reading this follow her example, it wouldn’t be surprising if a few had over the past five years. Because Saturday evening’s Senior Night capped what many say is the greatest career any female basketball player has had in the school’s history.
The 22-year-old has two road games and then the playoffs still to go. She’s hoping for a provincial and a national title yet.
But, as she and the other seniors — Rachael Holmes, Clare Kenney and Vanessa Pickard who have been a terrific class — walked off the court 87-41 winners over Algoma, she was already the school’s all-time leading scorer (third in OUA history), as well as being Mac’s record holder in steals, second in assists, third in rebounds.
All as a diminutive five-foot-seven point guard.
“We’ve had some pretty phenomenal players come through here,” longtime head coach Theresa Burns says. “You can make a case for her being the best.”
The coach takes the case a step further. Burns says Boiago’s decision to come to her hometown school changed women’s basketball in this city.
Sharing her high school backcourt at St. Thomas More with future Olympian Kia Nurse, Boiago received dozens and dozens of letters from universities across Canada and the United States asking her to come. Everyone wanted her.
While she quickly ruled out the NCAA, she looked hard at north-ofthe-border schools elsewhere, figuring she had to move away to get the authentic university experience. But the more she looked around, the more she realized she wanted to stay home.
It was on a Friday night in the February of her Grade 12 year that she nervously called Burns and told the coach she was coming to Mac. Nervously, because she worried her spot might have been filled. Hardly.
“We just knew this was game changing for our program,” Burns says, recalling the conversation rather fondly. “This is a player you can build a program around.”
She has been. The high-scoring Marauders — the most-prolific offence in the country averages 78.1 points a game and has come close to 100 a few times — have spent several weeks as the top-ranked team in the country this season. Today, they’re sitting in second spot, but are a huge threat to win their first provincial title in a decade. Boiago is a huge part of that.
More than anything, Burns insists the kinesiology student’s decision to spend her career at Mac announced to other local players that you don’t have to leave town to be great or to be part of something special.
“We need those role models for girls playing the game,” she says.
It’s a compliment that makes Boiago blush — no kidding, it really did — but it’s not hard to see what she means. There are plenty of girls in the seats every game. Potential someday-Marauders who surely imagine they are No. 3 when they get back to shoot at their driveway basket.
What’s left now is to cap all this is to do what Mac has never done and win the national title. The team’s never been in a better position to take a run at it. If there was ever a year, this is it.
As for next year, well, they’ll figure out next year, next year. Filling Boiago’s shoes won’t be easy, though. Does Burns worry about that?
She looks away. Then breaks into a pained smile.
“I don’t want to think about next year.”
email@example.com 905-526-2440 | @radleyatthespec Spectator columnist Scott Radley hosts The Scott Radley Show weeknights from 7 to 9 on 900CHML.
Danielle Boiago changed Mac game.
Danielle Boiago has had the greatest career any female basketball player has had in McMaster history.