A Quebecois, Alex Bougaieff (pronounced Boo-guy-off) is a French Canadian who played college basketball at Rice University in the late 1990s, and is currently playing for Lauretana Biella in Italy's Serie A. He explained in an interview with Scott Granowitz of JewishSports.com that he began playing basketball in the eighth grade because, "I was very tall for my age...so the natural thing was to try basketball..." Unlike in the United States, where young players develop their skills through AAU teams, basketball camps, and school teams, Canada has no such system, as Bougaieff told Granowitz. "I never went to any kind of [basketball]summer camps. I only played with the Quebec camp in the summer."
Bougaieff played basketball in school at College Montmorency, a post-graduate high school, and was named All-Canadian twice. During his senior year, he led his team to a 24-5 record and the Quebec Provincial championship while averaging 22 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks per game. In 1996, he accepted a basketball scholarship from Rice University and said, "I thought it [Rice] was the best combination of athletics and academics I could find in the States at the time...playing college basketball in the NCAA was always a goal."
Bougaieff began his college career for Rice's Owls weighing only 210 pounds, although he beefed himself up to 240 pounds by his senior season. He played as a true freshman and averaged 2.2 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. The following year, he increased his output to 2.7 points and 5.9 rebounds, and improve again to 8.3 points and 7.6 rebounds as a junior in 1999 (he led the team in rebounding). That year, he also had 36 blocks and appeared in 27 of Rice's 28 games. The Owls finished the season with a record of 18-10 (8-6 in the Western Athletic Conference).
In 1997, Bougaieff played in the Maccabiah Games as a member of the Canadian team that captured the gold medal. Named MVP of the tournament, the 6'11" center scored 28 points in the final, a 76-60 victory over Great Britain.
The summer before his senior season, Bougaieff played for Canada in the World University Games and led his team to the quarterfinals. Although Canada was eliminated by the U.S., Bougaieff scored 22 points and added eight rebounds and two blocks against the Americans. Alex had previously played for the Canadian Under-22 National team and was a member of the National team in 2000.
Bougaieff returned to Rice in 1999-2000 as the team's only senior. The Owls' basketball coach Willis Wilson said of the unique situation, "...he's handled it very well, understanding the heavy responsibility to be a leader, especially with the freshmen [Rice had seven freshmen on its squad that year]. He does a fine job of being an example and being available for them...he's very selfless, doing whatever it takes for the team's success. He's also very versatile, doing so many things offensively and defensively."
Although Bougaieff played well during the season, inexperience and injuries caused Rice to struggle. At one point in the season, they lost 15 consecutive games. They broke the streak toward the end of the season with a 62-59 victory over UTEP when Bougaieff blocked a shot in the final seconds of the game. The block not only sealed the victory, it also broke the school record for career blocks.
Following his college career, Bougaieff played basketball professionally in Italy with Fila Biella. In 2000-01, he averaged 5.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in the Second Division. The following year, he signed with Lauretana Biella of Serie A (the top league in Italy) and appeared in 34 games, averaging 3.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game.
Sources: Jews in Sports