Boissard settles into home and role with Owls
Sam Tapper – Sports Writer
Many top-tier basketball recruits have a clear path to playing collegiate ball, but it was not so for men’s basketball guard Isaiah Boissard, as his journey to Southern involved two other programs and a lot of miles in between.
Boissard, a redshirt junior, is originally from Walden, N.Y., located about 60 miles from New York City, where he grew up with his parents and three brothers. While in Walden, Boissard’s basketball career began, and he said his love of the game started “right out of the womb.”
“I think [my mom] said my first words were like, ‘score,’” said Boissard. “I had ‘Little Tikes’ basketball hoops. She said at like 18 months I was shooting free throws on ‘Little Tikes’ hoops and going to the park every morning with her. I always just naturally loved the game.”
When Boissard was just 4-years-old, he says he began playing organized basketball at his local YMCA. Despite being just 4-years-old, Boissard was known as a “big kid” and ended up playing up with the 7-year-olds, forcing him to quickly adapt, including learning an important lifelong skill. “I looked like I was seven, so they put me in a YMCA league when I was four with a bunch of older kids,” Boissard said. “This is when I learned how to tie my shoes because all the other kids knew how to tie their shoes and I didn’t because I was too young, so they had to hurry up and try to teach me.”
Despite being the little kid, Boissard’s young career was underway. As he got older, he began to work his way up through the rec leagues and middle school ball into high school, where he attended Valley Central High School. Going into high school, Boissard says he struggled with confidence as a player, despite being asked to play varsity as a freshman, saying he “didn’t know if he was ready for it.”
“[My teammates] broke me down a lot, they used to send me home crying all the time. They just helped me get some tough skin, really,” Boissard said.
Once he took the court as a freshman, he credits his high school teammates — some of which he is still close with to this day — for helping build him into a confident, young contributor for the Vikings. Over his four years at Valley Central, Boissard helped his team to three conference championships, became an All-State selection and fielded multiple collegiate offers across Division I and II. From here is where Boissard’s journey really begins.
Coming out of high school, there was much uncertainty for Boissard. He had offers to play college ball, but he said each offer ended up falling through. His first move was leaving his home in N.Y. to attend Tennessee Prep Academy in Memphis, Tenn. for one season. He, again, had multiple collegiate looks, but they too fell through.
From Memphis, Boissard took it even further south, to Baton Rouge, LA, where he attended Baton Rouge Community College for his freshman year. After a brief stint there, Boissard ended up even further from home in Snyder, Texas and attended Western Texas College of the Western Junior College Athletic Conference — one of the top junior college basketball conferences in the country.
“[The conference] had three or four teams ranked in the country. We were a really good team, but that season didn’t end up going as we planned,” said Boissard. “That was my first real experience playing high major guys, played against some guys that are at some high major schools right now.”
By this point, Boissard was at his fourth different school in four years, high school included. Though he didn’t love being as far from home as he was, he says the journey helped him learn about himself.
“Being away from home, struggling to find meals and make way for myself,” Boissard said. “As far as what I learned about myself was, no matter what it takes I’m going to make it work regardless of if it’s on the court or off the court.”
Amid all the uncertainty, Boissard came into contact with Southern and Owls’ men’s basketball head coach Scott Burrell. Once he got in touch with Southern, it was a done deal for Boissard.
“I was really interested in Southern because I had taken a visit here my junior year in high school,” said Boissard. “I don’t know why; I don’t know what about the school, but I loved it. I remember we took a tour of the campus, and that’s how I found out what major I wanted to do — they told me about the exercise science program.”
Now, the pieces were falling into place with Boissard. He had found a program that he wanted to play for and had figured out what he wanted to major in. And in the end, the interest between Boissard and Southern was mutual.
“We needed a wing, a bigger wing, a combo two/ three guard,” Burrell said. “Being from New York, not too far from here, it was a big part of it. He went to a lot of schools, so we knew he was well traveled. And every coach we talked to said how much of a good kid he was.”
Boissard ended up redshirting the 2018-19 season at Southern, looking on and adjusting to Burrell’s play style. In his first year eligible, Boissard has averaged 10.2 points per game and 4.0 rebounds while being a consistent member of the starting lineup.
In addition to the numbers, he was named a captain before the season, before he ever played in a game in a Southern uniform, something that speaks to his leadership and his character.
“[I’ve learned] how to control my emotions, how to lead a team better [from Boissard],” said guard Lyron Bennett, a freshman.
“I just look at him and I see how he brings it day-in and dayout, and I just needed to learn to be more consistent with my emotions just like him.”
Boissard will have one more year of eligibility following the 2019-20 season. All the miles and long flights seem to be in the twilight of Boissard’s career, as he has found a home at Southern. Despite the close proximity, Boissard’s journey is far from over as he says there is more he wants to accomplish before he hangs up his sneakers for good.
“I just want to win,” Boissard said. “I just want to win a championship and I want to be able to come back here one day and say, ‘I was on that team that’s on the banner.’ I just want to be able to be remembered, somehow, by winning. I don’t really care about individual accolades.”
Photo Credit: Hunter Lyle