Hank Wesch

Gonzaga’s Bouldin defies his very own celebrity status, engaging children throughout Spokane

by Hank Wesch March 01, 2010 in Men's Basketball


How CLASSy is Matt Bouldin?

In this day and age, what 21-year-old guy, about to embark on his senior season of college basketball, the undisputed leader of the team at an elite-level program and an All-America candidate, wouldn’t be tempted to milk being connected to a contemporary major celebrity for all it’s worth if the opportunity presented itself?

Gonzaga guard and CLASS finalist Matt Bouldin.

One day last September the word suddenly was out on blogs, Web sites and other forms of media from Spokane, Wash., and beyond that there was something going on between Bouldin and 20-year-old singing star Taylor Swift. Rumors that Bouldin opted not to promote, because they were lacking the element of truth.

“It was funny how that was created and how it built up,” Bouldin said. “Pretty much all that happened was that I was in the front row at her concert in Spokane with some people who pointed me out and she said hi to me from on stage.

“The next day, I get an email from my sister in New York who had heard somehow and was wondering what it was all about.”

Bouldin remains quite content with the level of celebrity he has earned on his own in the environs of Gonzaga and the West Coast Conference, and to lesser degree across the nation. And to continue to display the class that has made him an award finalist.

“Matt’s shown impeccable character throughout his career here,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “He’s always been very responsible and mature, on and off the floor, in season and in the off season. There have never been any issues.

“This is Matt’s team and he has the full respect and trust of the players and staff.”   

A major contributing factor in Gonzaga’s success in Few’s decade as head coach, which has included advancing to the NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen four times, has been the family atmosphere that encompasses the program and attracts quality players like Bouldin. And the Zags basketball family does not set itself apart from the surrounding community and the world at large.

Few and his wife, Marcy, and the rest of the Zags’ staff headline, and players have roles in, the annual Coaches vs. Cancer BasketBALL and Gala, a black-tie affair at the historic Davenport Hotel in Spokane that has raised nearly $4 million since its inception in 2002. In the summer, Camp Goodtimes is held at a lake 40 miles north of the city where kids with cancer engage in activities with the Gonzaga staff and players.

At such times, Few said, Bouldin shines.

“Matt really likes kids and he’s very good, very natural around them,” Few said. “Whether it has been at the dinner, the camp or visiting hospital oncology wards, he has always been very willing and very generous with his time.”

On the court, Bouldin’s team went into the week of February 16 with a 21-4 record, ranked No. 9 nationally in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 13 in the Associated Press Poll. The Bulldogs were on track for a 10th straight WCC regular season championship.

Individually, Bouldin ranked in the top 250 nationally in seven categories, with the highest being 34th in free throw percentage at 86.2 percent. He ranked in the top five in the WCC in six categories, including most of the “hustle” ones, and was No. 1 in minutes played, averaging 36.1 per contest.

And as good a college player as he has been, Few and others believe Bouldin could be even better at the NBA level if given the opportunity.

“Put him in with the best athletes in the world and he’s going to shine,” Few said. “Maybe not from the scoring aspect, but as far as playmaking and doing all the other things.

“The better the players are that he’s with, the better Matt’s going to be. I really believe that.”