By Rick Assad
This is a story about redemption. Specifically, Faith Boulanger’s redemption and a second chance to play the game she loves.
As a highly decorated, four-year starter on the Burroughs High girls’ basketball team, it seemed the world was Boulanger’s oyster.
Ultimately, Boulanger, an All-CIF Southern Section first team selection as a junior and senior and the Pacific League Most Valuable Player as a junior, picked Cal State University San Bernardino to continue her education and hoop career.
Looking back, it was the wrong choice after playing sparingly as a freshman last season.
The 6-0 power forward/center decided to leave and transferred to Glendale Community College where she will be reunited with former prep teammates Dyani Del Castillo, Sydney Martin, Kayla Wrobel, A’sia Morales, Sophie Hawkins and longtime Burroughs coach Vicky Oganyan, who is an assistant at GCC.
“I’m really excited for this season. We’ve been practicing twice a week this summer and those practices show lots of potential for this upcoming season,” Boulanger said. “It’s going to be a fun year.”
Boulanger, who poured in a school record 1,484 points for a 13.4 average and grabbed 7.3 rebounds across four seasons, thinks playing for the Vaqueros is a good fit.
“GCC’s style of play is extremely similar to the Burroughs style, granted coach Vicky is the assistant coach,” she said. “However, thinking past GCC, Burroughs basketball required me to become a versatile player and adapt to work through adversity which helps in life outside of basketball.”
Oganyan believes Boulanger is going to have a stellar season based on past performance.
“As a four-year starter on the varsity, Faith improved and matured every year. She worked hard on her game and was determined to be her best,” she said. “Watching her now, I see a mature leader with great character and with a big future ahead. I’m looking forward to coaching her again.”
Playing at nearby GCC is important for Boulanger because it will offer college coaches and recruiters a second opportunity to see what she brings to the table.
“Yes, if I’m able to get my education paid for, why not, plus I’ll be getting an education for doing something I love,” she offered on the prospects of playing at a four-year school. “I don’t exactly have a dream school picked out, but I would love to stay in California and go to a school by the beach or if I was to go out of state, Hawaii would be the dream.”
Though CSUSB wasn’t what Boulanger envisioned, that experience didn’t change her view of the game.
“I did begin to lose that love for basketball that made it fun last season. The good news is this summer I found that love again and I actually enjoy being on the court and in the gym again,” she said. “I think I was born with a natural love for the sport because both my parents [Tom and Gina] did play at one point and my dad is a coach. So, when my dad put me into a recreation league when I was six to play, it just ignited that love. Basketball was also and still is a big bonding area for me and my dad.”
A deft shooter with keen ball-handling skills and an eye for the open player, there is one aspect of Boulanger’s game she’d like to improve.
“My defense. My defense. My defense! I’ve been asked this question since freshman year of high school and every single time my answer is my defense,” she said. “One way I look at it is I can’t guard myself. I believe my post defense is pretty good, however, guarding a guard I struggle to keep them in front. I need to improve my lateral quickness.”
Oganyan is not only a coach but a former player at Glendale High and GCC. She knows the game and knows what Boulanger, who was named All-CIF second team as a freshman and sophomore, is capable of achieving.
“Faith helped us on both ends of the court as she could score from the inside and outside as well,” she said. “She was a big presence on defense in the paint and helped our program to a league title in 2018 and back-to-back appearances to the Division II A CIF semifinals in 2019 and 2020. She was an All-League player and Most Valuable Player and an All-CIF first team her senior year.”
Multiple skills are required in basketball along with being improvisational. Being heady on the court is a must.
“I would say my basketball IQ,” said Boulanger of her perceived strength on the floor. “I am relatively skilled offensively, but skill means nothing without IQ.”
When it’s time to take the court, Boulanger, who averaged about two assists, two blocks and two steals across four seasons, is prepared.
“My pregame routine is really nothing special. Of course, during practice I listen and follow what the coaches say during practice to prepare for the physical and strategic aspects,” she said. “However, to mentally prepare I usually just listen to music that gets me hyped and locked and I eat a light snack, nothing crazy.”
Most matters, even for successful people, don’t go smoothly all the time. There are peaks and valleys but keeping focused and level-headed is helpful.
“This is something I have still yet to master. As of right now I just continue to practice and try to learn from the experience,” Boulanger pointed out. “You can’t dwell on the past. I also think it’s important to remind myself that basketball is just one aspect of life.”
Boulanger said she misses the time spent with former high school cohorts.
“I miss my teammates. Coach V throughout my high school career always put emphasis on the team’s culture and I think that helped form friendships that will last forever,” she said.
Boulanger then cited an example of her keeping in touch.
“I mean, I still text Camryn Lotka from time to time and she graduated my sophomore year, I believe,” she said. “My senior class is still relatively close, and I can’t wait to play against Sydney Martin and Dyani Del Castillo this year. I’m going to beg Coach [Joel] Weiss and Coach V to guard Syd.”
That’s definitely something Boulanger is going to do as she pieces back her hoop future.