“When I got the call I was playing Call of Duty with my brother,” says Toronto Raptors forward Chris Boucher. “It was a happy moment for me—I didn’t really take it in until I signed the papers though.”
That call officially made Boucher a member of the Raptors organization for the next two years. When Boucher talks about that career-defining phone call, and the moments immediately after, he shows little outward emotion.
After all, the path that led him to this point was the path less travelled.
Scotiabank Arena is a far cry from Montreal’s St-Hubert, a chain of rotisserie chicken joints, where, as a teenager, Boucher used to work as a part-time cook and dishwasher. Boucher and his mother, Mary MacVane, immigrated to Canada from Saint Lucia when Boucher was just four years old. They came to join his Quebecois father Jean-Guy, who MacVane met when she was working in the city before Boucher was born.
At nine years old, Boucher’s parents divorced. At 15, he moved in with his father, but their relationship was fraught with conflict. Boucher, who didn’t exert himself at school, dropped out. It was a decision his father couldn’t get behind.
But there was always basketball. And whenever Boucher could, he would play. In 2012, Boucher was spotted at a local Montreal tournament by the coaches of the now defunct basketball school Alma Academy.
At Alma, Boucher’s game improved, and NCAA schools were interested, but his academics weren’t up to par. Thus, another detour: junior college at Northwest Junior College in Wyoming, where Boucher would be named the 2015 NCJAA Player of the Year.
And then the colleges came knocking. Boucher entered the University of Oregon and began playing for the Oregon Ducks (hence the “Slimmduck” nickname). There, he was an instant success. But so were his teammates—Tyler Dorsey, Jordan Bell, and fellow Canadian Dillon Brooks, all of whom were drafted to the NBA in 2017.
Boucher was on the same track as his peers, until his senior year, when he tore his ACL in the NCAA PAC-12 tournament. He couldn’t compete in the spotlight of March Madness, another major roadblock to his dream of entering the world’s best league.
While Boucher was recovering from his injury, the Golden State Warriors signed him to a two-way contract, which was waived in June of 2018. But he was soon scooped up by the Raptors, who saw Boucher’s potential.
At the start of the 2018-2019 season Boucher was on a two-way contract with Toronto’s G-League affiliate, Raptors 905. He tore up the G-League to the tune of nearly 27 points, 11 rebounds and a league high of 4.2 blocks per game in 25 contests. Boucher became a regular in highlight reels for his emphatic blocks and vicious dunks. In February, the team handed Boucher a full-time NBA contract, a decision, which Boucher says, surprised him.
Even though Boucher’s found a home with Raptors, he’s staying grounded. “I’ve been through lots of ups and downs that now I stay level-headed,” Boucher says. “It’s easy to say that you’re in the league, but making it is one thing, and staying in it is another…I’ve showed that I’m capable.”