Marco Bourgault has walked an unusual path to St. John's - beyond just acclimating to moving from France - in pursuit of his dream.
Studies say that roughly 40% of Americans settle in the vicinity of the town in which they grew up. An even higher percentage of those who go elsewhere do so for opportunity - some for an economic break, others for a fresh beginning.
For St. John's sophomore and junior college transfer Marc-Antoine Bourgault, aka Marco, "home" has taken on a whole new meaning. Having grown up across the world in northern France, he has come 3,600 miles to seek that opportunity, to obtain a degree in higher education and to play basketball at the highest of collegiate levels. At St. John's, he'll have the chance to make both a reality.
But St. John's wasn't the original plan.
After arriving in America and playing at a Maryland high school, Bourgault initially committed to play basketball at little-known Montana State.
There were complications with his NCAA eligibility, discovered after classes began. He was reportedly one half-credit short of the eligibility threshold, due to translations of credits from French coursework to the U.S. requirements. After the ruling, he returned from Montana State, and went play a year at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.
While at Notre Dame Prep, Bourgault attracted interest from high-major Division I schools. Then, it happened.
Bourgault suffered a serious injury to his ACL, which left him out of basketball for over a full year. He had little choice but to enroll at Monroe College in New Rochelle, where he'd redshirt during his freshman season and hope to become healthy enough to get his name back on the map.
"It didn't go so well for me during the first two years," Bourgault told the Rumble. "I tore my ACL, which was really hard. But I worked hard over the summer, and came back to play well in my last year at Monroe."
Marco, whose given name is Marc-Antoine but prefers the abbreviated version for the sake of simplicity, understands that the injury delayed where he really wanted these years of his life to take shape. But he also understands that it all may have worked out in his favor.
"At first, during the first part of last season, [the injury] was debilitating my mobility a bit," said Bourgault. "It was different because I was finding that I was a little bit slower. But I think I've worked hard enough where it's not something I need to worry about anymore."
Many think of Bourgault as a spot-up shooter, a one-trick pony of sorts. Perhaps the scouting reports just don't do him justice. In reality, he's a rounded player who has both the tangible and intangible qualities that can make him successful at St. John's.
"Coach Lavin recruited me because of my ability to see the floor," Bourgault continued. "I have a high basketball IQ, am a solid passer, and can rebound well."
There are a number of reasons why Steve Lavin worked so hard to convince Bourgault and Monroe teammate Orlando Sanchez to come to St. John's. For starters, the short-handed Johnnies needed to fill a roster sheet after playing with just six inexperienced newcomers last season (and only five returning).
But Lavin also knows that in Bourgault and Sanchez, he's getting quality players and a level of experience that's a touch higher than the usual first-year Big East soldier.
"The older players certainly benefit from the experiences they've had in junior college or in prep school," Lavin said. "The true freshmen have farther to go with the work level."
It didn't take long to find out that Marco Bourgault is quickly becoming the new fan favorite in Queens, at least to one gender. The St. John's student section, RedZone, has quickly changed its favorite chant from "God's on our side!" to a high-pitch screech of infatuation.
As Jack Parkman drove the women in Cleveland crazy back in the 90's, Bourgault is already doing the same at St. John's.
Bourgault has come a long way in his journey across the world from France to Montana to New England to New York, literally and figuratively. He has had to jump hurdles to get to the position that he stands in today, one that could make him a star under those bright, hot Broadway lights.
As they always do, St. John's fans (especially the ladies) will embrace Bourgault once his name is first announced at Carnesecca Arena on November 13th. But do so with how hard he's worked to get here in mind.
Grab hold of this chance and don't let go, Marco. It's a great one.