By Rich Fisher | Correspondent
Because of her skills as a basketball player, Trenton Catholic Academy freshman Giana Boulden is playing basketball on an international stage next week.
Because of her abilities as a good person, she is making a lot of people happy about her exploits.
Boulden is preparing to play for the Puerto Rican U-16 National Team at next week’s International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Women’s U-16 Americas Championship. The best part about Giana is she will not only represent the Iron Mikes well as a player, but as a class individual.
“TCA is very proud of Giana making the Puerto Rican National team,” Athletic Director Giancarlo Riotto said. “Giana has made a positive impact in the classroom, on the court, and has become another one of our always growing list of successful student-athletes who will play sports internationally.”
Boulden, a parishioner of St. Raphael-Holy Angels, Hamilton, said she often turns to her faith in her sport.
“Before the games me and my teammates pray,” she said. “It’s a prayer called the Athlete’s Prayer.”
Boulden grew up playing in the Hamilton PAL basketball league. She played under Jennifer Caterson in her first season, and Caterson is now the league’s executive director.
“Giana is one of the best kids that I have ever met,” Caterson said. “She still comes over to me and gives me a hug and says ‘Hi Coach Jen.’ Giana works well with her teammates and I cannot think of any player or coach that would not be thrilled to have her on their team.
“She is respectful, polite, and always has a smile on her face. I reached out to her mom and stepfather when I heard the news and even swelled up with tears while exchanging messages with them, because I am so proud of her and she truly deserves this opportunity.”
The opportunity came quickly and with decisiveness by Puerto Rican National Program Director Gerardo Batista. While Boulden was playing in the Boo Williams AAU Tournament in Virginia, Batista was there to scout one of her teammates. He was so impressed by Giana that he got the cell phone number of her stepfather, Dewayne Lewis, and tracked him down to talk after the game.
The PR National Team was adamant about putting all players through tryouts, but just from seeing Boulden on the court, they put her on the U-16 team. A rangy, 5-10, 120-pounder, she is eligible for the Puerto Rican team because her mom, Luceneida, is a native of Puerto Rico.
Giana left May 28 for Puerto Rico and is involved with team workouts until June 2. On June 3, the team leaves for Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the event runs from June 7 to 11.
“It’s exciting,” Boulden said. “I’ve played point guard and shooting guard (at TCA) and a lot of times in AAU they’ll put me at the foul line. The coach (Jerry Batista) says I’ll probably play the point and shooting guard.”
Lewis has known Boulden since she was an infant and gave her a basketball at age two-and-a-half.
“I worked with her a little bit as a kid,” said Lewis, who played college football at Marshall. “I coached her a little bit but she worked with some influential people over the years. Craig (Haley) and Jen Caterson worked with her at PAL, and she’s had AAU coaches help her.”
Boulden has played with numerous AAU teams over the years and said that has helped her become a better player.
“You get different coaching styles,” she said. “You meet new girls, and it’s fun playing with different girls.”
Boulden wasted little time making an impact on her high school team. This past season she led Trenton Catholic with a 12-point scoring average and had 30 3-pointers; earning team MVP honors in the process.
“She is one of our go-to starters,” Riotto said. “Giana is a very disciplined and goal orientated person who leads by example. I'm looking forward to following her success on the Puerto Rican team and the rest of her basketball career.”
And while basketball is a huge part of her life, Giana spent much of the past few weeks getting her academics straightened out in order to take the trip. Lewis and his wife each have master’s degrees and emphasize the importance of education to their daughter.
“She still had to go through the whole school process,” Dewayne said. “We’re very happy with her (academically). She’s in all honors classes. She’s a good student, too. That’s going to help her out. I always tell her ‘You want an offer from Princeton as well as you want one from UConn.’ My wife and I are big on education and don’t expect anything less from our kids.”