WORCESTER, Mass. — Jim Tildsley can remember the first time he saw her.
He remembered seeing a young girl — maybe no older than the fourth grade, he recalled — firing up perimeter shots at an ease that was maybe a little more advanced for a young person with that kind of strength.
But there was Nicole Boudreau, honing a craft that will put her in the history books as maybe the greatest player to don an Andover Golden Warriors jersey, and maybe one of the better players to grace the hardwood in Massachusetts -- with gender totally thrown out the window.
So when that girl was old enough to get her first taste of varsity action for Tildsley, the obvious decision was to get her directly into the starting lineup.
“Nicole from the start I knew she was going to be a great player,” said Tildsley. “I’ll never forget the first game against Tewksbury and they were supposed to be very good that year, and she comes out in the first quarter and wracked three 3's. I said ‘Boy we’ve got a good one.’ She’s a winner and a great player.”
Four years after that first appearance, Boudreau goes out as one of the most decorated players in recent history. Three straight Div. 1 state titles — the most recent coming on Saturday night at the DCU Center in a 61-45 victory over Holyoke — 2,200 points and two straight Mass. Gatorade Player of the Year awards can be found on her resume.
“I came in as a freshman and I was trying to get better as a basketball player and as a person,” said Boudreau. “Mr. Tildsley preaches that it’s not all about basketball and it ends at some point, so you are going to have to become a great person too.”
Boudreau has made a name as one of the deadliest shooters in all of Massachusetts, again throwing gender completely out of the equation.
She possesses a quick release and a talent to let an effortless bomb fly from just about anywhere on the court (see her halfcourt shot at the Garden last year) without breaking her form.
But what might set her apart is her ability to exhaust her opponents by running tirelessly around the court, through double teams and around screens, just to get a miniscule amount of airspace to let a dagger fly.
“It’s been consistent and she’s been getting better and better every year,” said Tildsley. “The first two years she was just more of a 3-point shooter. Her junior year she came back and had the drive, and now she put that 15-foot jump shot in. She put all the tools together and she’s just an unbelievable player.”
Boudreau may have saved one of her more complete performances for her grand finale with a 31-point, 11-rebound performance on Saturday. With Holyoke hanging around in the early stages of the fourth quarter, she launched a deep shot — directly in front of Tildsley — into the net and drew the foul for a four-point play.
The Golden Warriors never turned back in the game, and at the 1:01 mark it was over for Boudreau.
Waiting at halfcourt was fellow four-year starter Ally Fazio, and a quick trip down to the end of the court was the waiting arms of Tildsley, the coach who remembers the girl before she was Miss Basketball.