Charismatic Boyden expected to lead Toppers

Danny Schoenbaechler

David Boyden is one of the most recognizable people on Western’s campus.

His 6-8, 230-pound frame is large, but that can’t compare with the size of his magnanimous personality.

He is as humble as a local celebrity can get. And one thing he doesn’t do well is talk about himself.

“I have been playing well, but I couldn’t do it without my teammates,” Boyden said after scoring 27 points against Ball State Feb. 22.

Thinking like that is what makes Boyden the heart and soul of his team.

When asked what Boyden has meant to his program, Western coach Dennis Felton can answer it in one word.

“Everything,” he said.

It’s that simple in the eyes of the Western coach. When Felton arrived in Bowling Green, he suffered through a 13-16 season. That was the year before Boyden showed up as a member of Felton’s first recruiting class.

The Western coach must now watch a man who helped him build a program play in his final games as a Hilltopper.

“He’s been a guy that we’ve been able to build this program around,” Felton said.

Boyden is averaging 12.8 points and 5.3 rebounds a game, but he means much more to his team than a few numbers.

The charismatic senior captain is the backbone of the team and his contagious energy is impossible to ignore.

This past Saturday during Senior Night, Boyden’s emotion took little time to spill over. He scored the Toppers’ first bucket less than a minute into the game, and immediately sprinted down the Diddle Arena floor pointing his right index finger in the air and laughing.

The players on the bench laughed along and cheered him on as if he had just hit a buzzer-beater. It was the perfect microcosm of what he brings to Western basketball.

“He’s brought the kind of enthusiasm that we look for in all of our players,” Felton said.

While former center Chris Marcus has been the biggest name and body on campus for the past three years, it has been Boyden that has been primarily responsible for the Toppers Sun Belt East Division three-peat.

“He’s our captain,” freshman Anthony Winchester said. “I mean that’s really the only thing you need to say about David.”

Felton agrees that Boyden’s leadership off the court is crucial to his team’s success.

“He is certainly a guy that fosters team because he cares about everybody else as much or more than he cares about himself,” Felton said.

While Boyden’s coaches and teammates are quick to praise his irreplaceable intangibles, they also know that his on-court abilities are equally necessary for any Western postseason success.

“He’s been one of the top players in the league almost from day one,” Felton said.

When Western played Ball State in the ESPN Bracket Buster, Boyden almost single-handedly delivered the victory. He scored a career-high 27 points, including 23 in the second-half.

The Cardinals had no answer for his superior positioning inside and his tireless work on the offensive glass.

But that performance was not unusual for Boyden. In the past four years he has been a staple in the Hilltopper starting lineup.

Western has competed in 121 games over the past four years and Boyden has started 119 of them. The Toppers are 84-37 since Boyden arrived, including 73-19 over the past three seasons.

That is the type of solidity that helps create championships.

“A lot of times players will be down, and David always says to get your head up,” freshman Danny Rumph said. “He really brings a lot of poise and leadership to the team.”

According to Felton, the fact that talented players like Rumph are even on the team can be traced back to Boyden.

“He helps us attract other good players to the program, because when people visit he’s just so engaging and so impressive that people like him so much,” Felton said. “He’s the kind of guy that you would want as a teammate. He’s just so caring as a teammate and a leader.”

Now as the Toppers take on the postseason, Boyden and his teammates will try to capture their third straight Sun Belt Conference Tournament title.

The three-peat would give Boyden a third chance to accomplish something that his career is missing, a win in the NCAA tournament.

And with the chemistry provided by Boyden’s leadership, it just might happen.

“We really play as a team,” Boyden said. “And we are definitely playing well right now.”

Reach Danny Schoenbaechler at [email protected]