Senior forward Evan Boudreaux rises, throwing his right hand into the air, and releases the ball from his fingertips. A silhouette of black ink ripples across his right bicep. In the stands, the crowd can barely make it out. Up close, the shape comes into focus: the skull of a Tyrannosaurus rex.
Four different people in the Boudreaux family have the skull tattoo on their right bicep: Evan, his brother Chris, his uncle Scott and his father Terry. To the casual observer, it’s just a skull. To Evan Boudreaux, it represents family, perseverance and love.
Digging for dinosaurs
Evan Boudreaux grew up with what some may consider an unusual childhood.
His father is a paleontologist.
When Evan was 10, that love for paleontology was passed down to him and his brother. While other families were vacationing at Disney World and going to the beach every year, the Boudreaux family was taking week-long trips out west to dig for fossils.
“When I was little,” Evan Boudreaux said, “we’d go out to Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and we’d go looking for dinosaur bones. It’s a lot of hiking. You find it right on the surface. Then you start digging down.”
What began as a hobby for Terry in the mid-80s soon became much more. He and his wife, Gail Boudreaux, began collecting more regularly and donated much of what they dug up to the Field Museum in Chicago and scientists all over the nation.
Last year, Terry aided the Field Museum in the discovery of a new species of dinosaur, which was named Eofringillirostrum boudreauxi in the family’s honor.
In his time digging, Evan Boudreaux made discoveries of his own.
“I discovered my own little species of fish, which I thought was awesome,” Boudreaux said. “It went to the Field Museum.”
Those fossil-digging trips, while already serving as bonding opportunities for the family, became even more important to Evan in 2016 when he heard some of the worst news a family can hear.
Terry Boudreaux was diagnosed with stage I-II duodenal cancer, found in the first section of the small intestine, called the duodenum.
At the time, Evan Boudreaux was playing basketball as a freshman at Dartmouth College, balancing school, sports and family.
“It was stressful,” Boudreaux said. “I got the call after my freshman season was over. I finished my finals and drove home two or three days later.
“When you’re dealing with something like that, it’s not always a one-time fix, so it was definitely hard.”
Two years after his diagnosis, with Evan’s graduation from Dartmouth nearing, complications with Terry’s cancer arose. After being checked into the emergency room, the doctors told him he had weeks to live.
The family waited four days for the surgeon’s verdict. They could do nothing but hope for the best.
The surgeon then deemed the death diagnosis a mistake, and said Terry would be OK for the time being.
After that ordeal, Evan and his brother Chris came up with the idea for the T. rex skull as a way to honor and memorialize their father and all the memories they had together.
“It was my brother’s idea,” Boudreaux said. “It’s kind of a unique hobby, and we wanted to kinda pay tribute to him and everything he’s done for us.
“We figured that it was such a unique thing that we’ve done, and that would kind of be the perfect thing to do for him.”
Finding a new footing
Around the same time he got the tattoo, Boudreaux graduated from Dartmouth with a degree in sociology after just three years. With his options open and his passion for basketball still burning, Boudreaux decided to transfer to Purdue as a graduate student, getting two more years of basketball eligibility as a Boilermaker.
“It’s a weird process being recruited a second time, and then a third time,” Boudreaux said. “I committed to Xavier (University) first. As soon as I decommitted from Xavier, I knew Purdue was the right place.”
Coming from Dartmouth, Boudreaux would have to transition from being his team’s top scorer to having to fight for every minute on the court in a conference as competitive as the Big Ten.
“I wanted to win,” Boudreaux said. “I think we had only won 18 games in my two years (playing) at Dartmouth. I was pretty tired of losing. It’s fun to be playing a lot and putting up good stats, but it’s frustrating to lose that many games.”
Since his enrollment at Purdue in the technology leadership and innovation department, Boudreaux has settled into a role-player position for the Boilermakers.
“I just try to do what the coaches ask me,” Boudreaux said. “I can’t control how many minutes I play. (I) just try to be productive while I’m on the floor. I can impact the game and help the team win, in however many minutes I get, so that’s just my goal.”
While Boudreaux isn’t a high-volume scorer or rebounder, his intangibles can impact the game in other ways.
“I consider myself a pretty hard worker, and someone who leads by example and does the right thing,” he said.
Boudreaux had a breakout performance against Michigan State on Jan. 12, scoring 11 points and recording two steals on defense.
“For him, the size of Michigan State really helped,” head coach Matt Painter said. “I thought his defense in the Michigan State game, taking those charges, was huge.”
Boudreaux said confidence was an important factor in his recent success on the court.
“I didn’t start out the year shooting the ball well from 3. I think just being confident that the next shot I take is going in, I think now I have the confidence.”
Boudreaux also honors his father through his appointment as a student member of the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research board. The first student member of the board was Tyler Trent, a Purdue graduate who died from a rare form of bone cancer.
“I want to help spread the word among students that incredible research is being done with cancer at Purdue,” Boudreaux said in a press release. “What’s being done here has and will continue to touch thousands of lives.”
To this day, the Boudreaux family continues to do what they love.
“We now have a ranch out in Montana that’s 6,000 acres, that we go out and dig dinosaur bones on,” Boudreaux said. “It’s just the coolest thing.”
Now Boudreaux’s tattoo is on display every time he’s on the court, giving a nod to the man who gave him so many memories.
“It’s something that makes us happy,” Boudreaux said. “He says every day it makes him happy when he gets up and looks at it in the mirror.”