By Joe Henricksen

The 'Boat Show' best in Illinois

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By Joe Henricksen

The superlatives are endless and the comparisons are hard to find when watching and talking about East Aurora's Ryan Boatright.

In the biggest week of the season for Boatright's Tomcats, the freakishly talented guard put his team on his back and carried it to wins over Neuqua Valley and rival West Aurora in front of 4,300-plus fans and a sold out East High gym. Every time East Aurora really needed something, he got it for them.

After taking in both of Boatright's games on Thursday night and again Saturday -- and a few others this season, including the 55-point highlight reel he put together against St. Charles North -- it's become more and more clear: Boatright is the state's greatest show this side of Simeon.

When Boatright is in the gym, there's a buzz. And that's rare in high school basketball for an individual player to pump that much life into a gym. In fact, in the last 25 years, the only players to bring the same anxious anticipation from those in attendance were Farragut's Ronnie Fields, Simeon's Derrick Rose and Glenbrook North's Jon Scheyer. I remember the buzz Fields, the former Farragut dunking machine, generated in the 1990s in front of overflow crowds. Scheyer became a bit of a folk hero over the course of his four nearly unmatched varsity seasons. Rose's arrival and subsequent three years of varsity greatness became must-see events several years back. Now it's Boatright's turn to fire up the masses.

With each headline-grabbing performance, the expectations on Boatright are reaching seismic proportions. That happens when you regularly put up 40-plus with games of 63 and 55 points in a season and have a style that makes fans put off the bathroom breaks until halftime or after the game. People enter that gym waiting to see just what he will and can do next. Typically, his production comes in such grand fashion.

For the first four minutes of the game against West Aurora on Saturday night, Boatright didn't put up -- gasp! -- a single point. You start to think, "OK, veteran coaching icon Gordie Kerkman and West Aurora's typically strong halfcourt defense has an answer for Boat."

Yeah, right.

A four-point play jumpstarted the UConn recruit and he promptly went on one of his scoring binges. West Aurora tried it all -- started in man, tried a zone, gave a box-and-one a shot and nearly called Kenny Battle out of the stands to try and defend Boatright, who scored 41 entertaining points over the next 28 minutes.

The pure Boatright excitement-meter is due to how he goes about getting his points. I can't remember the last time a player scored this many points in such a dazzling, don't-you-dare-blink-and-miss-something flashy fashion. We're talking about the fastest, most explosive coast-to-coast player with the ball in his hands in the state, period. He has the type of speed, change of gears and explosion that makes him absolutely unguardable in the open court.

Boatright has put the time in to shore up deficiencies over the last three years. The result has been a steady progression in becoming a complete and unstoppable scorer and creator. He'll break three or four pairs of opposing player's ankles each game in leading to some wow finishes at the rim in the halfcourt, but he has become an efficient shooter with a quick release, elevation and range. There aren't many guards at his size that gets more done in the 5 to 10 feet range with his stop-on-a-dime, rising, pull-up jumpers and floaters.

And the underrated aspect of his game is an unmatched confidence he has over nearly everyone he plays against. Sometimes the swagger may rub some the wrong way, but it's a thrill ride that energizes him and takes his game to another level.

East Aurora is not blessed with a whole bunch of talent, though Snoop Viser's recent revived shooting stroke makes them an awfully dangerous 1-2 punch. But when you watch the Tomcats, they get so many trouble-free scoring opportunities. Boatright creates his own piece-of-cake scoring chances in transition, but he also draws so much attention that it leads to three or four layups off beautiful assists and three or four easy put-backs on the offensive glass because defenses are scrambling and out of position in sending two and three players at Boatright.

Boatright, though, is not at his best in the open court or when he's one-on-one with a helpless defender or when his jumper is falling. He's at his best when the ongoing transformation that has taken place over the last three-plus years is in effect, which is staying composed and keeping his head on straight and mind clear when things aren't going just right.

Considering how combustible Boatright has been at times throughout his career, he has clearly handled on-the-floor situations in a much more calming way. He's matured as a player. The bouts he had early in his career with griping at officials, snapping at a teammate and showing his frustration truly impacted his game. For the most part, those negatives have disappeared over the course of a 32-minute game during his senior year. He's now a better and more dangerous player because of it, playing freely and not letting a bad call, a teammate's mistake or physical play get the best of him.

As a result, Boatright is dissecting, devouring and dicing up any defense thrown his way. And there is no one in this state playing better or at a higher level or in a more dominating fashion than Boatright.

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26 Comments

Perfect blog timing! I have been trying to describe Boatright to friends and get a loss for words. This blog put it all together for me. Thanks and great job. You describe this kid's talents perfectly.

Great job of sizing this kid up. I have caught 2 or 3 of his games this season and wish I had gone to more. He is a showman and really is a one-man team. I can't believe he doesn't get more recognition than he does. Guess because he doesn't play in the city? I don't know but your hype you have given him is more than worthy.

He's unreal- I can't imagine 24 better players in the Country that McDonald's chose for their All American game. There may be better recruits out there, but not players and showman.

He is amazing to watch in person!!!

Hi Joe,

Very well stated in regards to Boatright's talent. As you stated some may like him and some may not; but this kid can flat out play and is the most entertaining player in the state! Bar none! His individual statistics aside! He has made his team better. I will disagree with you on the small amount of talent remark. When you have a superstar like that your other players are forced to play certain roles on the team. You mentioned Visor who is known as a dangerous streak shooter, however Dominique Johnson and John Williams can flat out play! They have both had games scoring in double figures several times this year, and would both average about 15-16 points a game if they were on other teams. With Boatright and Visor obviously their shots are more selective. The other rotation players like Okapal, Pryor, Robinson,Oliver, and Savage do the necessary things in order to win games!

You are right in that boatright is not as demonstrative, doesn't throw fits like he has in the past and that is a big help. But East still does not rebound well (pretty small) and like you said does not have the parts to beat the top teams in the sectional.

In the moment a little bit here Joe....Boatright is an amazing talent,but to put him before Livingston is not right...Livingston was a preps to pros,Duke commit,two state titles champion....He went top 4 in the lottery!!!!....Boatright is showtime but to put him up there with Jon,Derrick, and Ronnie is not fair...

Come on Justin G, Shaun Livingston was a great talent, great prospect and had an unfortunate injury, but he wasn't the player that just took over and dominated like a one-man wrecking crew. He averaged a modest 18 points and 6 assists a game as a senior. He only scored over 20 points 5 or 6 times the entire senior season. Completely different types of players.

Richie O, Shaun Livingston was/is a PRO... Boatright NEVER will be...

Let's HOPE he gets to Uconn and has a solid career... Personally think he shouldve signed wit Providence were he'd get to take the 30+ shots he's used to...

Do people read what is written? No one, not Richie O, not the writer of the blog or any one else who has commented is talking about who will or won't be a pro. I hate debates that aren't really there to begin with. Its about being a great high school talent, right here, right now, during their senior year of high school. We are not debating who is a prospect, how they will pan out, whether they will play for money, who is ranked higher. Javale McGee is a pro, so is Tony Allen and Luther Head. That doesn't mean McGee, Allen and Head were all better high school players or more dominant than Boatright was as a high school senior.

Amen to Carlton from the Bev! Seen Boatright. Haven't been many players that dominate the high school game like he does. That doesn't mean he will be a pro but right now, today, he is one of the most dominant high school players we have seen. He puts up 35 a game. Just because he don't project to be a Lottery Pick? Look at Jon Scheyer? Still to this day one of the greatest high school basketball players this state has ever seen. He didn't even get drafted. Does that mean he is no longer one of the greatest high school players we have ever seen in Illinois? Dominant. one of state's all-time leading scorers. Like it was just said, this debate over pro vs. high school is stupid.

Joe I drove from Evanston after the Evanston-New Trier game to take in Boatright and East Aurora-West Aurora. RYAN BOATRIGHT WAS FLAT OUT ROBBED FOR THE MCDONALDS ALL-AMERICAN GAME!!!!!!!!!! The most impressive thing to me is how he controls his sped on the court. It may not have always been that way but he finishes at the basket like a 6-6 kid. Very impressed. I think he will do well at Connecticut. One other thing: very creative of the West Aurora students chanting, ACT, ACT at Boatright.

His family is stellar, his Grandfather has a track & field club in Aurora, that is where everything begins, the humbleness of this man has trickled down to all Boatrights, Ryan is an athlete that with hard work became a talented basketball player, alot of people wanted to make a mockery about him orally committing to USC coming out of 8th grade, but Tim Floyd knew what he was looking at,at the time, would be, what everyone see's today!
He will be a McDonald's All-American, along with Blackshear, the game is at the United Center, Ryan puts people in the seats, he is the real thing, U-Conn is getting a Phil Ford type athlete, don't let his size fool you, he has the heart of a lion, and a game to go with it!
If you go on youtube, you can see Ryan with his grandfather, when he was apart of his track & field club, his grandfather molded him into shape, and with his toughness mentally, he can run all day, his mind and body are solid, why, because he is a Boatright, and in Aurora that special name is respected, and now in the entire state, Ryan Boatright is a special basketball player, and U-Conn is going to love him next season!

Great player is Boatright. If he picks up some weight and keeps his attitude under control, he will be a good college player. If not, he will become frustrated and leave his current college choice after a season. The pressure on him will be immense. I wish him the best.

boat is incredible for the type of competition he's playing...but college is a whole another level...and after that the nba is the final chapter....i think once he gets with a team and bring all the other aspects of the game in to his style of play you will then be able to tell where his future is....its clear to see that he has the green light to do whatever he wants on the court...good players put up numbers great players make history....

Great high school players, even the greatest of all time here in Illinois, don't always mean greatness beyond. It is hard to come up with five players greater than Jamie Brandon as far as a high school player is concerned in this state in the last 25 years. So why bother to argue about players that made it to the NBA vs. players who didn't? We are talking high school basketball here.

Phil, Ryan didn't make the McDonald's AA team...that's already official. I'd also argue that Boatright isn't "humble" at all. That's not neccessarily a bad thing...he's a competitor and has the swagger/confidence/arrogance of a top player. BTW, for anyone who wants to see him, the East/West game was broadcast by CN100...if you have Comcast, either check channel 100 for listings or go On Demand in Get Local to watch the game.

Regardless of where his future goes or what kind of impact he has in college basketball, there are so many different variables to determine that, I have seen enough to know he is one of the more dominating players I have seen at the high school level. Again, that doesn't mean anything for his future, but I have been watching high school ball and many of the great ones and he just toys with the opposition. Plus he is absolutely one of the most entertaining players you will ever watch.

So does Boatright have any chance at Mr. Basketball? Will be interesting to see how this year's voting goes. I think several players could make a strong case... Blackshear, Chasson Randle, Boatright, how about Max Bielfeldt? Big numbers for No. 1 team in the state.

The humble part I was referring to was to his Grandfather, I have never met the player, I know the character of his Grandfather, I have met this great man, that is where the athletic ability comes from, it starts with Mr. Tom Boatright, if you have an athlete that is interested in track & field, take them to Coach Boatright and the Aurora Track & Field Club!

If a player is injure or can't play, Ryan will get the call, he is the best small guard in the nation, and if does what he is doing now at U-Conn, he will play in the league!
Never count of the grandson of Tom Boatright!

Boatright at this point has to be a front runner for Mr.Basketball this year! He has the single handed abilty to change any game due to his athleticism! One of the most exciting players in recent years in this great state of ours!

I actually know the entire Boatright family including Ryan, spend many a post games with the family. Don't get it confused, Ryan is confident and although he does have his moments where that confidence turns to cockiness sit down and talk with the young man and he is very humble. The whole family from granddad to brothers, sisters, cousins everybody in the pretty much has some little talent but are some of the most down to earth, humble, grateful people you could meet. Phil is right thought Tom's track and field is where it is at if you want someone to trian and be a superb athelete in that area.

The whole West Aurora Rowdies chanting ACT...ACT...actually not all that creative...it's been chanted at many games. Just like they've chanted West Virginia, and USC and all types of rediculous other stuff at many games. It doesn't phase this kid though. And yes he has a qualifying ACT score.

Great article Joe! If Boatright is not named Illinois' Mr. Basketball there is something wrong with the system. He is a dynamic player that has carried this team on his back for two years. I like the role players around him but they are undersized, average and streaky. Boatright is the straw that stirs the drink. I was skeptical of what type of player he was before I saw him play in person. I thought he might have been one of those guys that shot a ton of 3's and picked up a bunch of garbage points but he is absolutely the contrary. This kid is a mini D. Rose! He goes to the basket with incredible speed and power but the key is....he FINISHES at the basket and his hopps are ridiculous! He actually is a better outside shooter that Rose was. Im blown away by this kid's skills and athleticism. After the Benet upset he has got to be the front runner for Mr. Basketball.

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on February 13, 2011 11:25 AM.

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