Born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1988, Texas Legends' big man Micheal Eric's childhood surprisingly wasn't filled with much basketball, even as the country showed an increase in basketball popularity. Growing up, his father was a soccer coach. Soon enough, Eric made it clear he was the ultimate pupil by fully committing to the sport. Soaking in his father's teaching, he later would grow five inches in the span of two years.
"I didn’t think of basketball as a career. I was more involved in being like my dad with soccer. He was a head coach and I was at every camp he went to, I was like the ball boy. Basketball wasn’t even on my mind until I came to the US."
A third year D-League athlete, Eric certainly had an interesting childhood. He also attended boarding school. His impression on his time at school is refreshing and mature, whereas that of others may be sprinkled with bitterness or resentment. He also explained to RidiculousUpside.com how that experience helped him later in life, especially in his basketball career.
"A lot of differences, I had to adapt to the American society. I went to a boarding school, so we were always learning to live together. Those things carried over, like dealing with my injuries."
In 2004, Eric visited his brother in Delaware, a trip that would ultimately inspire his basketball career. After seeing Eric's size and stature, his brother and their friends knew he could make a difference on the basketball court. They had to open his eyes and find an opportunity for him to play on a team that could get him noticed.
"I went over to stay with him for a few months, and he said, 'you are not going home.' I was a 6’7," 15 year-old and it just picked up from there. I met a few of his friends and they encouraged him to enroll me in a public school and find a AAU team."
The big man played two seasons for Church Farm (boarding school) his junior and senior year. In those two years, he would earn all-league and all-area honors, while also leading his team to the KASC regular season championship during his senior campaign. His senior season. He averaged 16 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocks. The transition to becoming a basketball player still wasn't the easier to make.
"It was difficult, because I had a specific set of skills that I thought was ok, which was to block every shot and dunk everything, but it changed once I got to college. I had to play more in a team concept, and I give credit to Frank Dunphy, my head coach at Temple University. I learned how to be a professional from my dad with the little things, such as being in shape."
In 2006, Eric signed a national letter of intent to play for Temple University. He was ruled ineligible to play the 2008-2009 season, consequently making him redshirt the season. He showed promise during his career with the Temple Owls until his junior year, when he suffered an injury to his right patella. The injury bug would not let go of him the next season he suffered another patella injury on the same knee.
After going undrafted in the 2012 NBA Draft, Eric was invited to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers' Summer League squad. He would end up having short stints with the Cavaliers and the Milwaukee Bucks. He played overseas basketball in Italy last season. His career has been a difficult one to say the least, but Eric has not quit.
"Everything goes back to faith. I am blessed with a lot of opportunities, such as height and athletic ability. At the same time, discipline does come into place, and I don’t want to waste my athletic ability. I have seen a lot of talented guys I have played with and against, and the best way to be noticed among them is to outwork them. That comes with discipline."
When explaining which player he looks up to as a way to model his game, Eric alluded to Amare Stoudemire. A once dominant force in the NBA, the man otherwise known as STAT is Eric's biggest basketball inspiration.
"I just finished watching a bunch of videos of him again. I was a really big fan of Amare Stoudemire. When he was still in Phoenix, I watched everything he did and tried to replicate everything he did; finishing in traffic and all the little things I couldn’t do when I first got into college. I got to play against him in The Garden while I was on the Bucks and I actually told him I was his biggest fan."
The Legends aren't necessarily off to a poor start, but in Eric's opinion, they could be having a better campaign. He thinks this team can do more than just play .500 basketball, and is looking forward to giving it all he has to ensure playoff success.
"It feels good so far, even though I wish we were winning more games. Honestly speaking it varies, I want this team to be the best thing coming out of this division and win as many games as possible, but at the same time, not to be selfish, I want NBA GMs to see I can play at the next level. Giving them everything I got, numbers and efficiency wise. I am just trying to separate myself from the pack.
"Hopefully to get a a call-up. If that doesn’t happen, I will put my mind to giving this team a victory season, because they work so hard to give us a great organization, one of the best in the D-League."