Jamaree Bouyea amps up his game during final season at USF
“Bouyea!” booms from the court loudspeakers for what seems to be the millionth time. Senior point guard Jamaree Bouyea has scored yet another three-pointer for the Dons in a home game against the Pepperdine Waves.
Bouyea cuts through the Waves as if an invisible current is driving him. All eyes are on him, including a few extra pairs of his own, with fans holding up cut-outs of his face watching closely from the sidelines.
If attendees don’t already know, they probably can’t help but wonder…“Who is Jamaree Bouyea?”
In short, he’s a star. The 6’2 guard is in his fifth season, now as a graduate student. After contemplating what to do at the close of last season, including some professional offers, Bouyea decided to return to the Hilltop, having been granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA under COVID-19 impacted rules.
“You know, when he decided to come back and exercise his extra year, it really elevated the potential of this group,” said men’s basketball Head Coach Todd Golden in an interview with the Foghorn. “What really kind of tied a bow on it all was his leadership, and obviously he’s a fantastic player. He’s put it all together for us and really completed the group.”
According to Golden, Bouyea has always been a “complete player,” as in both a great offensive and defensive player, but what has made him NBA-material is his improved “ability to shoot the ball.” As of Feb. 14, Bouyea ranked in the top 10 in Dons men’s basketball history for assists, steals, and scoring. Currently, Bouyea is enjoying a career year, averaging nearly 18 points per game, with 5 rebounds and 4 assists. After making last season’s All-West Coast Conference first team, Bouyea is poised to either match this performance or do better statistically this season.
“Can I swear?” said fellow graduate student, forward Yauhen Massalski, who formerly played for the University of San Diego, when asked about Bouyea. “Look, I can tell you this. I played against him for three years of my life. And now I’m here. So, do you think I would join a person I didn’t believe in? That’s it. I leave the mystery for the readers.”
“He’s like my brother,” said his backcourt teammate, senior Khalil Shabazz, seemingly on cloud nine from the bounce back win 105-61 against Pepperdine. “He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had.”
After the game, Bouyea stood courtside, looking tired and ready to eat the foil-wrapped burrito in his hand. For someone with such impressive player stats, and even his own Wikipedia page, he spoke humbly.
“I started playing when I was like two or three, both my older brothers played basketball,” Bouyea said. “And they taught me the game, as well as my dad. I just followed their footsteps when I was young, and now I’m here.”
On the court, Bouyea is serious, level-headed, and tries not to let any of his emotions show, because a lot of the time, the attention is on him. Off the court, though, it’s a different story. He admitted he doesn’t consider himself much of an outgoing or talkative guy, and when he’s not with the people he cares about, he’s by himself, reading a book, hanging out in the park, or watching Netflix. He said taking time to be by himself keeps him “down to earth,” which can be needed when you’re so often in the spotlight, but it wasn’t always this way for him.
Bouyea grew up in Seaside, a small city in Monterey, California. Before he could even dribble, he’d hang out on the sidelines watching his brothers, absorbing as much about the game as he could. He played multiple sports growing up – soccer, baseball, football. His mom wanted him to, at least, “try them out.” However, nothing else felt right, and he eventually realized that basketball was “the one” for him.
From the beginning, Bouyea showed potential, but he didn’t always think that highly of himself. “I’ve always envisioned the dream, the success. But when I was young, I would doubt it,” Bouyea said. “I got to high school, and I wasn’t really a highly-recruited player, or I wasn’t really known.”
After graduating, Bouyea had just one university offer him a spot on their team. “There was USF. That was kind of my only choice,” he said. “And I don’t regret making that choice, because I’ve enjoyed every moment since I’ve been here.”
When he first arrived at USF, Bouyea said he felt “new to everything.” However, since his first year as a wide-eyed 17-year-old trying to balance life as a student athlete, and who got “stuck with” the number 1 when he joined the team, he has only grown as a player, and he’s grown into that jersey.
“Now that I’m number one, it kind of fits me,” Bouyea said.
He attributes part of his success to the “watch and learn” dynamic he had with his brothers growing up, something that has continued at USF.
“I’ve gotten older. I’ve seen a lot of different things, I’ve played with a lot of different guys. You can learn from each guy in a different way,” Bouyea said. He brought up former USF star player Frankie Ferrari as someone who taught him “a lot of things that [I] use to this day.” Bouyea continued, “I think the more you play with guys, and the more you see, the better you can be at basketball.”
Although often overshadowed by his peers at rival schools Gonzaga or BYU, according to Basketball Reference, Bouyea is currently ranked top ten in nearly every offensive category statistically.
“I hope everyone appreciates the work that I put in, the work that I do,” Bouyea said. “And I’m trying to do my best to make some people happy and make people proud, like my family members and friends.”
Though he’s grown into a high-profile player, Bouyea is still driven to be better, for himself, his teammates, and his family – his greatest influences. “I learned from my mom and dad to just set some goals, and once you achieve them, you keep setting goals,” Bouyea said. “I don’t think you should become complacent. And that’s what I’m trying to do here, just keep building a legacy for myself and for my team and for the school, and be the best player I can be.”
“He’s one of the best dudes, on and off the court,” Shabazz said. “We just feed off each other’s energy, and try to play well for each other. We’re gonna miss him when he leaves, for sure.”
For the future, Bouyea said he hopes to play professionally for the NBA. But his master’s program in entrepreneurship leaves his options open for life after basketball.
“I want to start a business later on [in life]. I don’t know what it’s going to be. But once basketball ends, I’ll want to get my own business and keep my future going,” Bouyea said.
For now, Bouyea and his teammates are taking it one day at a time, conquering immense pressure, and putting in the hard work for a chance to play in March Madness. The win against Pepperdine brings high hopes for catalyzing a potential streak as they go on the road for four of their last five games, especially following their tough loss against the Portland Pilots 69-68 on Feb. 8.
The Dons have an overall record of 21-6 and are third in the WCC behind Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s, whom they face in a key matchup Feb 17. A win against the Gaels might cement their resume for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. USF has not made the tournament since 1998.
“This win feels close to amazing. I think the last game set us back a little bit, and the guys kind of lost spirit and belief,” Bouyea said. “But I think coming out and winning by 40, scoring more than 100 points, and having the crowd amping us up and giving us energy, gets us back on track.”
Bouyea, who described himself as a team player, wants his example this season to leave a similar, defining impact on his younger teammates as players like Frankie Ferrari had on him. “I want them to remember me as the kind of guy who would do anything to make a teammate happy, or see them succeed,” Bouyea said. “But also as a serious guy who came to work and did whatever it took to win games.”