Payen-Boucard leads R-Lions into championship weekend
A Canadian Elite Basketball League preview of its upcoming championship weekend raves about Niagara River Lion Guillaume Payen-Boucard.
“There’s no questioning the significant impact made by the Canadian of the Year award nominee,” reads the preview. “The former Carleton Raven from Montreal is the go-to guy in must-score situations.”
River Lions head coach Victor Raso agrees with that assessment about the 29-year-old, who led Niagara in minutes (31.0), scoring (15.9), offensive rebounding (2.0), making and taking the most field goals (111-223) and free throws (81-113). Payen-Boucard’s +142 plus/minus rating was tops in the league.
The CEBL preview also points to the play of 6-foot-5 American guard Dorian Pinson, who averaged 13.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.7 steals in 28.9 minutes of playing time and recorded the league’s only triple-double of the season.
“He (Payen-Boucard) affects the game in all aspects,” Raso said. “Him and Dorian impact the game in every single way. They guard the best players on the other team, they can both score, they are both good passers and their understanding of the game and how hard they play is huge for us.”
Raso has seen Payen-Boucard drastically improve his offensive skill set over last year.
“His combination of explosiveness on the perimeter and ability to post up smaller forwards has always made him difficult to cover, but now he’s shooting the three at a much higher percentage which forces teams to respect him on the perimeter,” he said. “We will use Guillaume in many different ways and we will ask him to influence the game in many different ways because of his unique skill set and competitive drive. ”
Payen-Boucard feels his game has improved over the course of the summer.
“I learned how to play my role,” he said. “They want me to play aggressive, which I tried to stay, and just do the little things and be more talkative.”
He is thrilled that championship weekend has finally arrived for the first-place River Lions.
“This is what we all play for, being able to compete in the playoffs, and I think we have a really good and competitive group,” he said. “We are excited to get there.”
Niagara meets Hamilton in the semifinals Saturday and Payen-Boucard knows it won’t be easy.
“We have to be able to play defence as a team,” the 6-foot-6, 197-pounder said. “They’re a very good iso (isolation) team and have guys who can score the ball really well. We have to be able to be in the gaps and make it hard for them.”
The reigning Canadian of the Year in the National Basketball League of Canada believes it will help that Niagara’s roster has seen little change since the beginning of the season.
“I think chemistry is big and it helps us be confident going to battle because we know who we are going in with and we have been fortunate to not have to deal with a lot of different lineups throughout the season.”
That has led to a tight-knit group.
“We like each other and we like to play for each other. It’s cool,” he said.
Payen-Boucard and his teammates have all been on squads that didn’t necessarily get along well.
“It makes it difficult on other teams but from the get go we were impressed with how well we bonded and it just got better throughout the season.”
Another factor in the team’s success was how hard the players go after each other in practice. That intensity led to a few altercations, but it paid off in the end.
“We made practice competitive and I think that helped make us closer too.”
When the season ends, Payen-Boucard will be heading to France Aug, 27 to play in the NM1 League.
“I played in the same league in my first pro year, just with a different team, but it is a good league.”
He is looking forward to returning to France.
“I had some troubles my first year playing there and I am looking forward to going back there and proving myself.”
His troubles came from trying to play in the post in France. This time around, he will suit up as a guard.
The River Lions (15-5) will play the Hamilton Honey Badgers (10-10) Saturday at 5:30 p.m. Eastern time at the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon.
The winner plays either Saskatchewan or Edmonton in the finals Sunday at 6 p.m. Eastern time.