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Alycia Gervaisbrings theball up the court as Vanessa Bosques follows her during a recent Daniel Webster College game.
Monday, January 31, 2011

Longtime pals leadDWC’s hoop charge

NASHUA – Vanessa Bosques remembers the first time she met Alycia Gervais at an AAU practice in Connecticut, and her first impression.

“She was goofy,” Bosques said. “Just because of the way she is, she’s very clumsy on the floor. It’s like, ‘Alycia, how’d you fall? There’s nothing there in front of you.’ ”

“We started talking to each other,” Gervais said, “and we began hanging out. I thought she was very good.”

Two different personalities, as one might be able to tell, with Gervais being more laid back and Bosques more direct. One might think they would clash. But on the basketball court, the two who have played the last half dozen years together in AAU, high school ball in Windham, Conn., and for nearly three seasons at Daniel Webster College, complement each other very well.

It’s one of the main reasons the Eagles are atop the New England Collegiate Conference, unbeaten in league play at 7-0 and sporting a 14-2 overall record with a 13-game winning streak at last look. They’re the top two scorers on the team, Bosques averaging 16 points a game and Gervais right behind her with 15, but the latter has been the Eagles’ top scorer the last five games and recently earned NECC Player of the Week honors. The 5-8 junior also averages a team high 10.4 rebounds a game.

“When you play with someone for three years prior to college, it’s obvious there’s a connection out there on the court,” Eagles head coach Kristin Kunzman said. “So it definitely benefits. They were our only captains last year as sophomores. The fact they get along and are so different, they help with the rest of the team.”

Bosques is a known force, named NECC Player of the Year last season. But Gervais is now just coming into her own.

“I’ve just tried to work harder,” is her simple explanation.

Bosques has a more involved one. The two go hard at each other in practice, but Bosques gave Gervais some encouraging words.

“She is shooting the ball more which I love,” said Bosques, who now has the option of dishing it to Gervais down low. “I told her that last year and she didn’t listen. She’s making teams respect her which is the best thing. If they’re going to let you take that shot, take that shot. Make them respect you. If they come out on you, that’s all right, you drive by them or post them up. She’s giving us that threat; that’s what we need. We need more scorers.”

Sticking together

The pair began their journey together in AAU basketball, the Connecticut Wave in the Windham, Conn. area, and while Bosques played at a private high school her freshman year, she joined her friend at Windham High from her sophomore year on, transferring in because of what she called accreditation issues at the school she was originally at.

They even live nearby; Gervais’ family lives in North Windham and Bosques’ in Windham, but those homes are basically about five minutes away from each other. Thus it was no surprise that the two best friends would go to play college basketball as a package deal.

And former Eagles coach Heather Jacobs landed the package, beating out Elms College. The pair had overnight visits at both DWC and Elms, and they decided together that Daniel Webster would be their choice. They are both sports management majors and want to coach someday.

“To get two strong players to come in together, that was definitely something that was exciting,” Kunzman, a former assistant, said.

What convinced them?

“Just overall,” Gervais said. “First, the education was good, and the team was more welcoming. We just felt like we could fit in. Our personalities fit perfect.”

“We just liked this environment a lot better than Elms,” Bosques said.

How do they describe each other’s game?

Here is Gervais on Bosques:

“She’s a shooter,” Gervais said. “She’s not selfish, she sees the court very well and plays very good defense. She’s very communicative and a team player.”

And Bosques on Gervais:

“A hustle player who gets every board you can imagine,” she said. “You’re looking one way and next thing you know Alycia is crashing and the ball’s in her hand and you’re like ‘Where’d she come from?’ She hustles and she battles in the post. Most people don’t realize, because she’s not tall, that she can battle her way in the post, has very good post moves, and she’ll come out and she’ll shoot the three. Most teams aren’t expecting that now.”

“She is a worker,” Kunzman said of Gervais. “Bottom line she’s a hard worker, she’s had nine double-doubles this year. She’s just exploded. The big thing for me dealing with her is giving her confidence.”

Meanwhile, Kunzman calls Bosques “our dominating force” and marvels at her intensity level at both ends of the floor, and also her vocal leadership.

“For her to guard the best player on the other team and then to perform on offense just as aggressive as she is on defense, that definitely shows her character on the court. … She’s in the gym more than anybody I know, she’s definitely driven. Alycia’s personality isn’t as intense, but when she steps on the floor she’s ‘I’m putting all my heart into this.’ She’s big with that. They’re both intense in their own ways.”

Of course, the fact that they know each other so well gives other teams problems, especially in transition.

“It’s so obvious,” Kunzman said. “It’s one of those things where I stress communication on the court and they don’t even have to talk and they know where each other is on the court because they know each other’s game.”

“We know how to read each other,” Gervais said. “Our favorite play is the give and go.”

“Because we both knew each other, it helps,” Bosques said. “I flare out on the fast break, she cuts to my side, I hit her for a layup every time. It’s our best play together. We know where each other is going to be. I know if she posts up, she has me on the out, and I can get it right back to her. We just know each other on the court.”

At the same time, they had to blend with the other players.

“No one put us on the same team for pickup, because they didn’t want us to play with each other,” Bosques said. “We had to be separated.”

But it’s tough to do that off the court. They were roommates originally here until Bosques got a place off-campus, and now Gervais can be spotted over there. Or the two will hang around on campus and play pranks on the men’s basketball players, something they both have loved to do.

But friends who spend so much time together can get into spats. How does that work itself out?

“That’s happened,” Kunzman said. “They’re together all the time. I have an open door policy, they can come and talk to me, or they go to their teammates and they figure it all out. It’s cool, because they do a great job of preaching family. … We’re a family.

“You’re not going to be mad at your family together.”

The future? They coached their former AAU team this past summer and both want to coach for a career. Gervais has a simple goal: To be the first woman to coach an NBA team.

“I definitely want to coach,” she said.

Gervais wants it to be a full-time gig; Bosques would like to find another career to go with it.

But first, they want to win a championship as players.

The two won their high school league title in Connecticut in their junior year, playing on a team that won 20 games. They’d love to repeat that feat their junior year in college – an NECC title gets them an automatic NCAA tourney berth.

Both felt the bitter taste of losing in the NECC semis despite being the top seed a year ago.

Kunzman says although the pair will be back for a senior season that the focus clearly on winning.

“It’s difficult,” Bosques said. “We have the biggest targets on our back. It’s going to be a battle, we’re going to have to work for it.”