LEWISBURG — There have been times throughout his coaching career when Dave Paulsen talked to a player about setting goals, encouraging him to use a journal to keep track of his life. The Bucknell coach admits, however, that very few, if any, actually ever did it. G.W. Boon does and perhaps that says more about the Bison senior than anything else.
You see, of the more than 4,000 Division I men's basketball players, there are plenty who aren't student-athletes. The problem is there are a lot more athletes than students.
G.W. Boon, a senior from Harvest, Ala., is both, and somehow he balances them perfectly. And despite the fact that he is not a starter for the Bison, there is no question he is one of the reasons why Bucknell will host Lafayette on Friday night in the Patriot League final.
In the classroom
In terms of majors at Bucknell, biomedical engineering is arguably one of the toughest. Yet that's what drew Boon to Bucknell after an all-state basketball career in Alabama.
"When they were recruiting me, I asked if they had the program. They had a top 10 program in biomedical engineering and they were 25th in basketball," said Boon. "It was exactly what I was looking for."
He knew the academic work was going to be a challenge and it has been — "We design medical devices and systems that can aid the human body," he said. With a scheduled filled with classes like Biotransport, Medical Device Assessment and Development and Neural Signals and Systems, Boon has thrived over the past four years in the classroom.
As a senior, rather than coasting toward the finish line, he's carrying 16 credit hours, in addition to playing basketball and working on his senior design project, where he is developing an arterial sensor.
Boon said it's probably one of the easiest class loads he has had since he arrived in Lewisburg.
"This is probably the least I've had since I've been here," he said. "It's easier than normal but still harder than most."
Like every student-athlete in the Patriot League, Boon has to find a way to balance everything. There were times, early in his career, when he struggled with it.
After playing for Pat Flannery as a freshman, Boon and fellow seniors Stephen Tyree and Darryl Shazier had to go through the transition to Dave Paulsen and his staff.
Paulsen said right away he see the potential in Boon on the court, but knew the class load was weighing on him.
"What he's been able to balance is really remarkable," said Paulsen. "There were times my first year I rode him hard because I saw this potential that wasn't coming out. But a lot of it was because I don't think he slept the night before.
"But he's found a way and he's been phenomenal."
One opportunity Boon had because of his work in the classroom was a chance to stay in Lewisburg over the summer while doing research at Geisinger. He and his research partner developed a salifer, a high-tech pacifier to collect DNA from infants.
"Summer was rough. Up at 6:30 to get in the gym, get shots up, lift, then go to work," said Boon. "Seven or eight hours at work then I'd go right back to the gym. I really have to thank Bucknell for providing students with a chance to do things on or around campus."
"It's pretty darn impressive what he does," said Paulsen. "One thing I know, whatever that kid does, he's going to be very, very successful."
On the court
There was a stretch of games this season, when Joe Willman was injured, that Boon moved into the starting lineup and he thrived. For a senior captain, it seemed like his time had come to finally break into the starting lineup as a regular for the first time in his career.
Instead, when Willman was healthy, it was back to his familiar role as the sixth man.
"We talked after that and I said 'G, there's nothing you did that should merit you coming off the bench, but you're coming off the bench," said Paulsen. "That's not what he wanted. One of his goals was to be a starter. But we wanted his goal to be someone who finishes. The five guys that finish are important and he's finished a lot for us."
Heading into Friday's Patriot League final, Boon, who has played in every game of the past four years, is third on the team in scoring. He ranks fifth in school history with 159 career 3-pointers.
"Coach talked to us about accepting roles," Boon said. "Whatever role I am given, I'm going to take it and run with it."
Paulsen said he has certainly noticed Boon's willingness to do whatever he needs to get the job done. He's seen him become more consistent in practice and while the senior has kept up his offensive production, scoring nearly nine points a game, it's his play on the other end of the court that has made the biggest difference.
"This is the most consistent he's been," said Paulsen. "He scores and that's good. But there have been a lot of games he has impacted without scoring, which he never did before. He's taking charges, blocking shots and (grabbing) huge defensive rebounds. He didn't score a lot against Lehigh (in the semifinals), but we wanted him on the floor during crunch time."