The best ever leaves the build­ing

DANIELLE BOIAGO

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - SCOTT RADLEY

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.”

sradley@thes­pec.com 905-526-2440 | @radley­atthes­pec Spectator colum­nist Scott Radley hosts The Scott Radley Show week­nights from 7 to 9 on 900CHML.

MICHAEL P. HALL PHOTO

Danielle Boiago changed Mac game.

ALISTAIR BOULBY PHOTO

Danielle Boiago has had the great­est ca­reer any fe­male bas­ket­ball player has had in McMaster his­tory.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.