Made U Look
This article appears in the December 2005 edition of SchoolSports magazine.
After a few minutes of watching ThunderRidge point guard Matt Bouldin turn the court into his personal playground during a workout prior to his junior season, UConn head coach Jim Calhoun broke out his cell phone and placed a call to one of his assistants.
Grizzlies coach Joe Ortiz remembers the moment well.
"He told his assistant, ‘I feel like I'm watching Pete Maravich. I've never seen a high school kid play like this,'" Ortiz says.
Calhoun had no idea how right he was. Bouldin, now a senior who's rated the nation's No. 68 hoop recruit in the Class of 2006 by SchoolSports.com, has emulated Pistol Pete for as long as he can remember.
Bouldin's father gave him videotapes of Maravich, the NCAA's all-time leading scorer and one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players, before the youngster could even pronounce Pistol Pete's last name. Bouldin, who was captivated by Maravich's one-of-a-kind moves and inspired by his work ethic, watched the tapes every day and mimicked every aspect of Maravich's game. While his classmates were trying to Be Like Mike, Bouldin wanted to be like Pete.
"I love that [Maravich] was such an innovator," says Bouldin, who was inspired by Maravich to carry a basketball with him everywhere he went until fifth grade. "He did things nobody else did. He was putting up 65 points a game before there was a 3-point line and making it look easy."
Apparently, trying to be like Pete served Bouldin well.
He's now a third-year starter for ThunderRidge, which has been to four consecutive Class 5A state championships, losing in the finals the past two seasons. And though colleges from coast to coast tried to land the 6-foot-5, 200-pound prodigy, nobody was surprised when Bouldin committed to a winning program like Gonzaga.
"Matt makes the players around him better just by being himself," Ortiz says. "He's the most unselfish player I've ever seen. When his teammates look at his success and realize the team's best player is also its most unselfish, they have no room to be selfish themselves."
By the time Bouldin got to high school, Ortiz knew he could make an immediate impact, even on a team that was coming off a state championship. But Ortiz returned too many quality starters, meaning Bouldin wouldn't get enough minutes to make starting the season with the varsity team worthwhile.
So he spent much of his freshman season on junior varsity, averaging a double-double before joining the varsity squad late in the season to help the Grizzlies successfully defend their state title.
During a team workout the following summer, Bouldin officially introduced himself to his varsity teammates by doing his best Maravich impression. With plenty of downtime during the long session, Bouldin made it his goal to dribble the ball through the legs of every varsity player while they tried to defend him.
Even though they knew what was coming, Bouldin nutmegged every single one, prompting Ortiz to try and put an end to the humiliation by guarding Bouldin himself. The rising sophomore didn't hesitate to embarrass his coach in front of the entire team, adding insult to injury by first dribbling behind his own back to get Ortiz going one way before coming back through Ortiz's legs on the way by.
"I got right up on him because I thought he might get a little nervous and make a mistake to break his streak," Ortiz says. "After that day I had seniors coming up to me telling me how good the team was going to be with Matt at the point. And these were kids that had just won back-to-back state titles."
Bouldin went on to earn All-State honorable mention honors as a sophomore by averaging 11.5 points and six assists per game. He then became a first team All-State selection as a junior after averaging 14.7 points and seven assists per game. In both seasons, he led the team to the state finals with the same effortless ability he admired in Maravich.
But the Pistol wasn't the only one who helped mold Bouldin into the player he is today.
Bouldin's father, Ron, played basketball at Colorado State, where he exhibited an impressive 42-inch vertical leap. Ron also starred on the diamond, having received a baseball scholarship offer from Colorado, and on the football field, once earning a tryout with the Denver Broncos.
The younger Bouldin got some of his dad's baseball genes. He's been a pitcher for the Grizzlies' baseball team since freshman year, but he pours so much into each pitch that he usually only lasts part of the season before his arm wears down.
Nothing, however, has kept him off the basketball court. When Bouldin was young, his father insisted he learn the game as a guard even though he had above-average height for his age. Ron had been misused in college as a small forward, a position that didn't put his natural athleticism to good use. Ron felt playing forward in college potentially cost him a professional career, and he didn't want his son to make the same mistake.
Bouldin was 6 feet tall after eighth grade and grew five more inches by the end of his freshman year. But a move to forward wasn't even considered in conjunction with his growth spurt. Bouldin was a point guard, is a point guard and would like to remain a point guard for as long as possible.
"Basketball is my love," Bouldin says. "There's nothing more important to me than playing basketball."
That must be music to Gonzaga coach Mark Few's ears. During his tenure at the basketball-rabid school in Spokane, Wash., Few has coached stud guards like Dan Dickau and Blake Stepp, who were both part of memorable March Madness moments.
Ortiz believes it's just a matter of time before Bouldin joins that list.
"Matt plays the game like he's in slow motion," Ortiz says. "Other guys have to work so much harder just to do what is second nature for him."
Sounds kind of like Pete Maravich.