At this point he’s more of a phoenix than a Blackbird. Julian Boyd rose from the ashes once again to take part in the second annual Gotham Hoops Invitational Saturday afternoon at Adelphi University with one simple declaration: “I’m ready to play.”
Boyd, now 25, began his college career at LIU-Brooklyn when George W. Bush still occupied the White House. His playing career has been an odyssey highlighted by unparalled success in the Northeast Conference and marred by one untimely injury after another.
Named the NEC Rookie of the Year in 2008-09 with 10.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg and a .512 field goal percentage, Boyd quickly established himself as one of the top talents in the conference. However, the 6’7” forward’s first setback came in the summer of 2009 when he was diagnosed with noncompaction cardiomyopathy and forced to redshirt the following season.
Boyd returned with a vengeance in the 2010-11 season to lead the team with 13.0 ppg and 8.9 rpg while being named to both the All-NEC and All-Met First Teams. His leadership and domineering presence on the court helped the Blackbirds to a first place finish in the NEC with a 16-2 conference record and 27-6 mark overall. Their 85-82 overtime victory over Robert Morris in the NEC Finals launched a run of three consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament.
Not satisfied with a loss to North Carolina in the first round of the Big Dance, Boyd improved even further during his junior campaign. His 17.4 ppg and 9.3 rpg led the team and earned him the honor of 2011-12 NEC Player of the Year.
The Blackbirds once again defeated Robert Morris to earn the NEC Championship, but this time in much easier fashion. The highlight of their 90-73 blowout came on Boyd’s alley-oop finish of a half court pass from teammate C.J. Garner. The spectacle earned SportsCenter’s top play of the night.
The victory earned Boyd and the Blackbirds another trip to the NCAA Tournament where they once again fell short in the first round, this time to #1 seed Michigan State. It was also the last time Boyd would suit up for an NCAA Tournament game.
Over eight games early in the 2012-13 season, Boyd was averaging 18.5 ppg and 6.1 rpg and seemed well on his way to repeating as NEC Player of the Year. However, during a December 12 contest at Rice, Boyd suffered a torn ACL in his right knee, ending his season. Teammate Jamal Olasewere would go on to earn the mantle of conference player of the year as the Blackbirds became the first team to capture three consecutive NEC championships.
Boyd applied for and was granted a sixth year of eligibility for the 2013-14 season, but re-tore the same ligament twice more – once over the summer and again in December 2013 while attempting to return to his team for conference play.
“The first time it happened I thought, ‘I’ll be good. I’ve got my redshirt year and I’ll come back and play,’” Boyd said. “It happened again before the season and I said ‘Okay, I need to chill.’ I was supposed to come back for conference play and we were trying to rush back a little bit so I could at least have some of my last year to show I could still play, but rushing obviously was not the answer. It happened again, so by then I thought ‘this is ridiculous.’”
After taking the time to finish classes at LIU, Boyd returned to his home in San Antonio to focus on rehabbing and getting back in game shape. He has only returned to playing in a competitive atmosphere within the last month.
“At the end of this past year I went home to Texas and just put my mind to it – rehabbing, getting healthy – so this wouldn’t happen anymore,” Boyd said. “Now I’ve put my mind towards letting [the ACL] get the time it needs, so I’ve just been at home working out, rehabbing, and trying to get ready. I haven’t played any serious games, but playing pick-up. About a month ago I started just getting into the flow of the game and everything to get ready.”
Wherever he winds up, Boyd will be remembered as one of the most electrifying players to pass through New York City in recent years. With his health back in hand, he is ready to remind everyone what he’s capable of and take that next step toward a professional career.
“The next couple of months are about getting my name out there,” Boyd said. “Hopefully get signed with a team and be able to play for them this upcoming season. Now it’s just trying to market myself and show I can still play and get that opportunity.”
— Vinny Simone (@VTSimone) May 30, 2015
Vincent Simone covers Quinnipiac, the MAAC, and Hofstra among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.