#11 JERSEY RETIRED: Dr. Derrick Gragg, Director of Athletics at Eastern Michigan University presents the retired #11 EMU jersey to Earl Boykins, being flanked by family and EMU President Susan W. Martin.
Special to Cleary’s Notebook
By Raymond Rolak
The Super Fast Playmaker Still Making Plays for Milwaukee
YPSILANTI-- Earl Boykins had a day off from his Milwaukee Bucks schedule and celebrated at his alma mater with his family, friends and former teammates. The veteran NBA guard has a lot of basketball in him still. Boykins was honored recently with the retirement of his EMU jersey number.
Courtesy of EMU Sports Information
He had a great career at Eastern Michigan University from 1994-98. 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.
He was a four- year letterman and the former EMU point guard had his best season in 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. 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 final and the festive atmosphere at the Convocation Center was highlighted by a standing ovation for honored guest.
Boykins at 5’5” 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 shy and humble Boykins. “The smells would energize me before the games. It was a great old place to play,” he added. The emcee reminded everyone that he scored a buzzer-beating three point shot against the University of Toledo in the last game ever 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 eight points a 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.”
After the 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 Series-A 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.
Ben Braun, now at Rice in Houston said, “Earl Boykins was the most competitive player I ever coached. He plays smart at both ends of the court.” Braun coached Boykins at Eastern Michigan for the first two years and Milton Barnes coached his last two seasons. Barnes was on hand along with many former EMU basketball players to honor the former Eagle playmaker.
The well traveled veteran still has a lot of quality games left in him. The EMU basketball supporters remembered and honored Boykins. They will be watching as he makes more basketball memories as he continues to play in the NBA.
(Raymond Rolak is a veteran sports broadcaster who covers NCAA sports.)