Boyce hoping for one more title experience
D.J. Boyce knows all about the protocols and procedures for WPIAL championship basketball in early March at Duquesne University's A.J. Palumbo Center.
He's been in the title-game atmosphere there three times.
And he's hoping he can make it a clean sweep for his four years of varsity basketball at Gateway.
Boyce, a senior point guard for the Gators, a three-year starter and a two-year captain, said he wants to help this year's squad return to the ultimate game in the season schedule for WPIAL Quad-A basketball.
“I just want to make sure that the younger kids I am playing with know what it takes by playing hard game in and game out,” Boyce said. “Knowing from experience, anybody can beat you on any given day. When the playoffs come, everybody has the same goals. You have to bring it every time.”
Boyce is having another strong year for the Gators, who were 9-1 overall and 6-0 in Section 2-AAAA play heading into Tuesday's section contest at McKeesport.
Gateway entered this week ranked No. 2 behind undefeated New Castle (12-0) in the Tribune-Review Quad-A rankings.
Boyce averages about 15 points per game, but, he said, he doesn't worry about how many points he scores. Dishing the ball to a teammate for a jam, a long-distance field goal or a medium-range jumper; pulling down a rebound on offense or defense; or picking the pocket of an opposing ballhandler is fine with him, as long as it leads to a victory at the end of the night.
“I try not to worry about how many points I am scoring or looking at stats, because when you try to maintain what you have, that's when you mess up,” Boyce said. “I'm just here to help the team and do whatever I can to get us back to the Palumbo Center. When it's all said and done, no one is going to care how many points you have. They are going to care about how many rings you have. I just want to go out with three.”
Boyce is the type of player that makes Gateway head coach Mitch Adams smile.
“He understands me, what I want and how I want it done,” Adams said. “He does whatever I ask him to do. You don't get that out of too many kids this day in age. His decision making comes from years of experience,” Adams said. “He has transformed himself into a true point guard. His understanding of the game makes it easier to make smart decision.”
As a freshman, Boyce didn't play much on varsity. Even if there was blowout, older reserves usually got in before him.
That year, Gateway made it to the Palumbo Center for the first time.
“I had to wait my turn,” Boyce said. “I almost didn't have a seat for the WPIAL title game. The principal sat on the bench, and they had to go and find an extra chair for me.”
The Gators suffered a 57-51 loss to Mt. Lebanon in the 2010 championship contest.
“Even though I wasn't playing, I still felt the atmosphere,” Boyce said. “I could feel it during warmups. I loved it, and I wanted to get back. The people who were coming back that next year, like Devon (Cottrell), Barnett (Harris) and Tyler (Scott), they had a chip on their shoulder. When I got the starting job as a sophomore, I made sure that I did my part to help us win the WPIAL title.”
Two years ago, Boyce helped Gateway upend Chartiers Valley, 58-43, for the program's first WPIAL title. Last year, the Gators clamped down on Pittsburgh Central Catholic, 49-39, to repeat as champion.
Boyce had five points in the game to go along with several assists and steals. He enjoyed seeing the defensive effort and the scoring presence of players such as now-junior Tommy Kromka, who shook of the pressure of his first WPIAL title game and scored 10 points.
“D.J. wants three WPIAL championships,” Adams said. “It hasn't been done. There have been some great players to come through the WPIAL.”
Along with his goals on the court, Boyce has maintained his goals off the court as well.
“He's a very intelligent kid,” Adams said.
“He stresses academics, and he balances the classroom with basketball well. Our team GPA is about 3.4 or 3.5. We're really proud of our academic reputation with this basketball team, and D.J. is a big part of that.”
Adams said Boyce is a legit Division II prospect and academics will play a prominent role in where he ends up at the next level.
Gateway opens up the second half of the Section 2 slate Friday at Penn Hills.
The game is set for a 7:30 p.m. start.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.