Generously listed at 5-foot-10 inches tall and 165 pounds, Grayson Boucher hardly strikes the most imposing figure on the basketball court, or anywhere else for that matter.
Clean-shaven with short brown hair and a friendly smile, the baby-faced 28-year-old looks like he should be handing players Gatorade rather than stepping on the floor himself. That impression only lasts until you see him with the ball and understand why his nickname, “The Professor,” fits him as snugly as his Nikes.
YouTube is loaded with videos of Boucher making anyone who tries to guard him look silly. Besides top-tier ball-handling ability, the viral vignettes show Boucher routinely displaying an ankle-breaking crossover dribble, freakishly quick footwork and a deceptively good outside shot.
Not bad for a guy who was on JV as a junior in high school
He went on to become one of the best professional streetballers ever, first for And1 and now for startup league Ball Up.
Originally from Keizer, Oregon, Boucher transferred from public school to private Salem Academy for his senior year of high school. Despite averaging 20 points and seven assists that season, he received no scholarship offers and opted to walk on at Chemeketa Community College. He didn’t stay long.
When the AND1 Mixtape tour, a traveling street basketball showcase featuring a Harlem Globetrotters-esque playing style, rolled through Portland during the summer of 2003, Boucher was ready.
Locals had a chance to tryout for the AND1 team, and Boucher took full advantage. His flashy moves and dynamic playing style caught the attention of spectators and players alike, and when the tour left Portland, Boucher was a part of it. At the tour’s conclusion, Boucher, then 18, was named a full-time member of the team; he’s been playing professionally, including stints in the International Basketball League and the Continental Basketball Association, ever since.
Boucher enjoyed his time with AND1 (he last played for them in 2010) but has been hooping for the new Ball Up league since 2011.
Many factors played into his decision to make the switch, but Boucher ultimately felt Ball Up offered him better growth opportunities. Specifically, Ball Up executives, who view streetball as a professional sport, see the potential to expand it globally, similar to the way that UFC popularized mixed martial arts.
After being pitched his new employer’s vision for commercializing streetball, “I was all about it,” said Boucher. Ball UP CEO Demetrius Spencer, a former record executive who also heads up One Media Worldwide, is ecstatic to have Boucher’s familiar face on board. “He’s the Eminem of the streetball industry."
Boucher will be part of a tour through China beginning this November that will be joined by two former NBA stars Boucher molded his game after: Jason Williams and Allen Iverson. “Outside of Michael Jordan, those are the two players I mimic the most,” said Boucher. “To be on the court with them both will be like everything coming full circle.”
Some things you might not know about Boucher:
He’s an Apple junkie. “I have an iPhone, an iPad, a desktop—more than I need.”
He carried an oversized doll during hazing for AND1. “It was from a truck stop.”
His favorite sneakers come from a cartoon. “I love the Space Jam Jordan 11s.”
He starred in the indie film Ball Don’t Lie. “One of the greatest experiences of my life.”
Touring takes up a lot of Boucher’s time—he’s played ball in more than 30 counties and been to six continents—so he doesn’t get much time to relax at his Los Angeles apartment. When he can chill, Boucher does things that you’d expect most guys his age to do like going to the movies, hitting the beach and hanging with friends. However, unlike a lot of his demographic, he also goes to church every Sunday.
Boucher really got serious about his “walk to Christ” in 2010, but acknowledges that his year at Salem Academy did make a “lasting impression,” even if he didn’t realize it back then. Although it was a Christian school, Boucher went there to play basketball and wasn’t interested in the religious aspects. “That was God’s way of calling me even though I wasn’t looking at it like that at the time,” he says.
At Ball Up, Boucher isn’t alone in his beliefs.
Larry “Bone Collector” Williams is part of the team and one of Boucher’s best friends off the court. The two hang out frequently, train together and attend church on Sundays. Williams feels that everyone’s walk is different but is appreciative of the path Boucher and himself find themselves on.
“Not everyone is blessed to do what we do,” he said. “Before it was just basketball. Now it has more meaning behind it.”
Boucher (whose Twitter bio lists him as follower of Jesus first and a streetball player second) thinks he might start doing some outreach in the future. Already schooling people in basketball, "The Professor" is putting faith on the lesson plan as well.
“I really want to start spreading the gospel,” he said. “Not exactly preaching, but using basketball as a tool to bring people to Christ.” How this plan will actually manifest itself is unclear, but the chances it comes to fruition are quite good.
Boucher’s faith, like his love for streetball, runs deep.
Though Boucher’s career has taken him from throwing behind the back passes at Marion Square Park in Oregon to shooting jumpers in Angola, as long as the hoop measures ten feet, Boucher doesn’t care where he’s playing, as long as he is.
“My job is to play basketball,” he says. “It never gets old.”
Follow Boucher on Twitter @Professor12 or check him out at theprofessorlive.com
Evan Bleier (@itishowitis) is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from Ball Up.