Who is Micheal Eric?
It’s OK to still ask that question about an undrafted rookie two weeks before Training Camp tips off. But if Micheal Eric does what he and the coaches expect, fans will know exactly who he is one month later.
Signed in early August after an impressive run with the Wine and Gold in this year’s Summer League stint in Vegas, the bruising big man from Temple comes to Camp with a solid chance to crack Byron Scott’s big man rotation.
Eric was hoping to be selected somewhere in the second round this past June, but when his name wasn’t called, he choose the Cavaliers – with whom he’d worked out for before the Draft.
“I did the pre-Draft workouts with all the other teams as well, but I came out to Cleveland and I was matched up against a couple first round guys and I played really well and a struck a lot of interest,” said the 24-year-old center. “I also did (well) in some of my other workouts, but I felt Cleveland had more of a family-oriented and the team thing and the defensive scheme.
“The Cavaliers matched what I was used to at Temple and it worked out well for both parties. It worked for me and it worked for them. They liked everything I did. And I liked the way they approached things.”
Eric played in 101 games for the Owls – starting 68. In four years, he averaged 6.0 points on .503 shooting, 4.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 16.9 minutes per game. But he made his mark as a senior in 2011-12, averaging 9.0 points and leading the squad in rebounds (8.8) and blocked shots (2.1).
Eric missed 13 games in his senior season due to a fractured right patella. Had he not, his 8.8 boards per game would have placed him second in the Atlantic-10 conference.
In July, the 6-11, 240-pounder played in five Summer League games with the Cavaliers in Vegas and averaged 4.0 points on .667 shooting and 3.8 rebounds per contest.
“(My) performance during Summer League was more filling in the role they needed me to fill in,” said Eric. “They told me what to do, I did it. Being there on defense to help my guys out when they get beat on the screens, knocking people over on screens for them to get open – those little things are things Coach Byron Scott and Coach Moseley wanted me to do over the summer, and it just did what I had to do.”
Towards the end of last year, the Cavaliers came up seriously short-handed in the middle – unsuccessfully trying to fill the hole created by the injury to Anderson Varejao. Finally, Tristan Thompson left his natural position to start the final 25 games of the season in the pivot.
Cleveland has no intention of returning to that situation this year – and the Cavaliers have imported a stable of young big men to compete for minutes in the post. The Cavs head into Camp on October 1 with Varejao, Michael Eric, Tyler Zeller, Samardo Samuels, Tristan Thompson, Jon Leuer and Kevin Jones competing for spots in the rotation.
Eric, who Coach Byron Scott compared to OKC’s Serge Ibaka, improved every year at Temple – where he earned his bachelor’s degree in advertising and is pursuing his master's degree in adult and organizational development.
Not bad for a kid who didn’t start playing basketball until he arrived in Dover, Delaware from Lagos, Nigeria at the age of 16.
“In 2004, when my brother was just married and just had a baby, I came to visit and he was like, ‘You’re too tall; you can’t go back home! What are you going to do after high school back home?’” recalled Eric. “He asked, ‘Do you play basketball?’ And I said, ‘I’ve tried a couple times.’ He was like: ‘We’re going to get you to play basketball, go to school here. You’re going to have a good education here, and you’re going to go to college here as well.’”
Eventually, the siblings convinced Eric’s mother – who didn’t like the idea at first – back in Nigeria.
“My brother told her, ‘I have a family now and I’m going to take care of him.’ And he did.”
Eric’s ascendency in the sport was quick, and before long, he’d transferred to a private school in Pennsylvania. At that point, his hoop dreams continued to escalate.
“I was in the gym every day because it was right across the street from the dormitory,” explained Eric. “So we woke up 6 a.m. before class, (went back) after class, and if I wanted to, I’d come back in the evening. I picked up stuff I hadn’t in past years, and I picked it up pretty fast. I excited some people who come to games and I got a couple college offers. I chose Temple because it was close to Dover, Delaware.”
From there, Eric continued to impress in college. His scoring, rebounding and blocked shot totals improved exponentially from his freshman to his senior seasons. The rebounding and blocked shots will be vital skills with the Wine and Gold. The chiseled big man will likely not be looked upon to score the ball.
“What I’m excited about is that we’re going to have some competitive practices every day,” beamed Eric. “(We have some) young legs and everybody’s eager to perform at the highest level.”
Eric says he’s in the best shape of his life, which will help when the dreaded “Camp Scott” tips off in less than a fortnight.
“I’ve heard about (Camp Scott) and I think I’ll be ready,” smiled the rookie center. “I’ve worked all summer to be ready for it. I’ll be anxious and have a lot of anxiety coming into it. But at the same time, it’s a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of. When Camp Scott comes, I’ll be ready for it.”