YPSILANTI— He was a four-year letterman for Eastern Michigan from 1994-98, and an honorable mention All-American as a senior. Earl Boykins 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 have their jerseys retired.
The former EMU point guard saved his best play for his senior year, finishing second in the nation in scoring at 25.7 points a game, earning 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, win and deflated the festive atmosphere.
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 and one year in Europe with Virtus Bologna. This year he is with the Milwaukee Bucks and 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.”
Western (17-11) roared out to a 44-20 halftime lead, shooting 58.1 percent from the field. Western would finish the game shooting 52.5 percent, making 31-of-59 field goal attempts and a hot 83.3 from the line, hitting 20-of-24 attempts.
Eastern (8-20) was cold all-around and shot just 34.5 percent from the field, connecting on 19-of-55 shots. Western also had a 44-31 edge on the boards. Western Michigan had five players in double figures, led by Flenard Whitfield with 16, Matt Stainbrook 15, Mike Douglas 12, Juwan Howard Jr. and Demetrius Ward with 11 apiece.
EMU was led by sophomore guard Derek Thompson 20 points, while senior forward Brandon Bowdry turned in the 38th double-double of his career with 16 points and 10 rebounds.