Freshman hooperstar Nancy Boutillier has gotten out of the same old racquet, gotten on the ball, and won't trade sneakers with anyone.
And who can blame her? Those sneakers have glided, spun, and jumped for 96 points so far this season, the highest total for any guard and third highest for the team behind centers Elaine Holpuch and Karen Smith. She leads the cagers with 23 assists and a staggering 81 per cent in foul shooting.
Not bad for a kid who's played tennis all her life. Tennis? Yes, Boutillier has been a regular on the New England tennis circuit since she was 12, competing against the likes of Crimson stars Tiina Bougas, Betsy Richmond, and her old doubles partner Martha Roberts with whom she travelled to the Indoor Nationals in 1976.
But her first love is basketball. "I'm the type who likes to do something all out or not at all. I demand a lot from myself. And I really love basketball. That's why I quit tennis. I didn't put down my racquet, I just picked up a basketball," she says.
Her smiling blue eyes, page-boy haircut, and lithe figure mask the passionate intensity and determination concealed inside. Her walls display pin-ups of favorite sports heroes, including Celtics star Dave Cowens--she taught at his basketball camp last summer. A favorite quotation by O.J. Simpson hangs near-by: "Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident; the only thing that endures is character."
For her, the Juice's words express the spirit of sport.
Laughing, she points out a small ivy plant on her desk, a present she'd bought her roommate Crimson swim team star Norma Barton for being named Ivy Woman Athlete of the Week. "Ivy, get it?"
Raucous cheering from the stands accompanies her introduction before each game. Things haven't always been this easy for Boutillier. Plagued by knee trouble earlier this season, and by what she described as impossibly high expectations, Nancy had a rocky debut with the cagers.
"Nancy had her troubles in the beginning, but I think her positive attitude, her willingness to keep on trying, and the way she cares about the team as a whole got her to where she is now, a regular starter," says team captain Caryn Curry.
And a regular fixture she is from start to finish, sinking her characteristic held-wrist jump shots from anywhere on the floor. "It's just my follow through. My dad taught me to shoot like that. I guess you could say I follow through for Dad," Boutillier says.
She attributes much of her success to the constant and enthusiastic support of her parents, who have seen every hoopster home game this season.
Boutillier also says she has received a lot of help and inspiration from her teammates, especially veterans Caryn Curry, Wendy Carle, and Doris Woolery.
Why did she decide to come to Harvard? "I went to the Ivy League Basketball tournament last year, saw Harvard play, and without even knowing anyone on the team I was so impressed with Kleinfelder, with how the team played and how well they cooperated and seemed to get along, I decided to come. And I haven't been let down."
As for the season, despite a frustrating 4-8 record, Boutillier had only positive things to say. "We had trouble working with each other in the beginning, getting used to each other's styles, but now we're playing much better. I think we've got a shot at the Ivy Champs," she says.
Coming from a small-town environment, a fact that earns her considerable amounts of good-natured flack from teammates, Boutillier claims Harvard has been good for her. "I was naive, I guess, and this place really opened my eyes."
The process has been mutual. A tennis phenom who chucked it all to play basketball, a freshman who runs plays on the court and shoots with the poise of a three-year veteran, Boutillier has been opening the eyes of Crimson fans for a while now.