Giant of a Career, in Small Package

By Raymond Rolak

YPSILANTI-- He is not finished yet. Though he had a great career at Eastern Michigan University from 1994-98, Earl Boykins has a lot of basketball still to play. He will be the fourth EMU basketball player to have his jersey retired.

Boykins' No. 11 jersey will join former men's greats George Gervin, Grant Long and Kennedy McIntosh along with women's standout Laurie Byrd as the only basketball players to be accorded such honors.

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He had a day off from the Bucks, and Boykins celebrated at his alma mater with his family, friends and former teammates.

"It was a bit overwhelming for me," said Boykins. "As a player, you don't think about playing to get your jersey retired. It's definitely a humbling experience to be considered one of the best to ever play at the school. It's an honor."

He was a four-year letterman and the former EMU point guard saved his best play for his senior year. He finished second in the nation in scoring at 25.7 points a game. He also earned the Mid-American Conference Most Valuable Player Award at the league tournament. The Eagles were 20-10 that year, winning the MAC Tournament title and earning another NCAA Tournament bid.

Boykins was honored at halftime of the EMU-Western Michigan University Mid-American Conference game on February 27. The in-state rivalry game had all the excitement of a playoff contest. The crowd came to see Boykins and was energized. WMU cruised to an 87-60 win and deflated the festive atmosphere.

"The school and the community of Ypsilanti have always been supportive of me, as well as the basketball program," said Boykins. "It was a great showing of support."

Boykins at 5'5" (1.65m) won the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award in 97-98. The annual college basketball award is given to the best shorter-than-average player in the United States.
In the summer of 1997 he played on the gold medal winning USA Team in the World University Games in Italy.

"I remember all the smells at Bowen Fieldhouse," said the honored guest. "The smells would energize me before the game."

"It was a great old place to play," added Boykins. He scored a buzzer-beating three point shot against the University of Toledo in the last game played at Bowen Fielhouse.

Playing at the highest level of basketball, Boykins has showed over and over that height is not the most important attribute. The fast and diminutive ball-handler will often go under players to score when he drives the lane. Throughout his career he has demonstrated that heart and speed can be paramount. He has played 10 seasons in the NBA for nine different teams. This year with the Milwaukee Bucks, he is averaging 8.2 points and 2.5 assists per game.

Longtime EMU Sports Information Director, Jim Streeter added, "My best memory of Earl is how he dismantled Duke in the first round of the 1996 NCAA Tournament."

"The tournaments were unbelievable," added Boykins. "I remember when we played Duke at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis with 50,000 people there. For a small school from the MAC, it was great just to be in that environment and to have a chance to play and let everyone see what you were capable of doing."

After 2007-08 NBA season, Boykins was an unrestricted free agent. Instead of signing with an NBA team, he decided to play basketball in Europe, as he signed a one-year, $3.5 million net income contract with Virtus Bologna of the Italian Premiere League. The one-year deal made Boykins the highest-paid basketball player in the Italian League. In November of 2009, Boykins made his return to the National Basketball Association when he signed with the Washington Wizards.

Boykins played high school basketball at Cleveland Central Catholic High School in Cleveland's Slavic Village.

***Additional quotes contributed to story by the Bucks Public Relations department.