SPOKANE, Wash. (AP)—Matt Bouldin came to Gonzaga because he wanted to win basketball games. He accomplished that and became one of the finest players in the program’s history along the way.
“Matt’s going to go down in history as one of the all-time greats here at Gonzaga,” coach Mark Few said. “He’s as complete a player as you are ever going to coach. He’s a great passer, great shooter, great scorer, great guy off the bounce. He rebounds.”
“He’s a Gonzaga guard,” Few concluded, part of a line that runs from John Stockton to Matt Santangelo to Dan Dickau, Blake Stepp, Derek Raivio and Jeremy Pargo.
Bouldin, who on Monday was named the West Coast Conference player of the year, plays his final home game Tuesday when No. 18 Gonzaga (24-5, 12-2 West Coast) faces Cal State-Bakersfield (7-21) in a nonconference match.
“It’s been a fun ride,” Bouldin said.
Statistics don’t tell the whole story, but they tell plenty.
Bouldin leads the Zags with 16 points per game, plus 4.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists. The 6-foot-5 guard is shooting 46 percent from the floor, 37 percent from 3-point range and makes nearly 87 percent of his free throws. He plays 36 minutes per game, which is why he is generally wearing numerous ice packs in the locker room afterward.
About the only thing Bouldin hasn’t done in his career is date singer Taylor Swift, despite persistent rumors making the rounds for months in Spokane. Bouldin did attend a Swift concert in Spokane, sat in the front row, and she said hello to him from the stage, Bouldin has told reporters. That was it.
The rumor gained traction in part because Bouldin looks like the sort that could, well, date a pop star.
Bouldin grew up in the Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch, where he was Colorado state player of the year after both his junior and senior seasons at ThunderRidge High.
Rated one of the top shooting guards in the West, he spurned programs such as Notre Dame and California for Gonzaga because he admired the guard play under Few.
He also wanted to play for a consistent winner.
“That was one of the biggest things about coming to Gonzaga, I knew they were going to win,” Bouldin said.
He hasn’t been disappointed. The Zags have won the West Coast Conference title and made the NCAA tournament all four of his seasons.
He moved into the starting lineup midway through his freshman year, averaging nearly 9 points per game. He averaged 12.6 points as a sophomore and 13.6 as a junior.
Bouldin’s 1,617 points rank ninth on the program’s career scoring list, four points behind Richie Frahm. Assuming average performances through a minimum of four more games, Bouldin could move up to sixth. He also ranks fifth all-time in career assists and fourth in steals at Gonzaga.
This season he is a candidate for the Wooden, Naismith and Cousy awards.
After Bakersfield, Gonzaga has a bye going into Sunday’s semifinals of the West Coast tournament in Las Vegas, where the Bulldogs will play either Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine or San Francisco.
Bouldin said his college career has flown by. The biggest change he has noticed about himself is that he has become a tougher player. He’s played through numerous injuries, often as the focus of opposing defenses.
“I’m from suburban Denver, Colo.,” he said. “That’s not the toughest part of the country. One of the biggest things I feel proud of is that I played through a lot.”