Eayrs' stand out season

Eayrs' stand out season

By Jimmy Majewski

 

 

There’s just something that has stood out on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Men’s basketball team for the past two seasons. That something would be Senior Forward James Eayrs.

 

Standing 6-feet 7 inches tall, weighing in at 310 pounds, and with a nickname like “Big Lumber,” he immediately grabs your attention as the player to watch at a UWM basketball game.

 

But not only has he grabbed the attention of local followers, he has gotten the attention on a national level as well. Sports Illustrated ranked him as the tenth most entertaining player to watch in the country this past season.

 

But even when the attention has blown up to a national level, Eayrs hasn’t let it affect him.  “I’m not really thinking about that stuff. I’m just thinking about how to get to the next level. And playing division one basketball, as a kid, that’s what I was dreaming of. Not really dreaming about getting on television or anything like that.”

 

Eayrs grew up in Roseville, Minnesota, idolizing Kevin Garnett, who at the time was a player for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Growing up he would play basketball at Sylvan, a park in St. Paul. His coaches at the time followed him from year to year.

 

Jim Eayrs, James’ father, says that those coaches would say, “If he kept going he would be someone some day. He was a special kind of player.”

 

While he may be the perfect size for an NFL offensive lineman, Eayrs never really pushed himself in football because he found more enjoyment in basketball. Eayrs says, “It just really wasn’t for me, and when I got to high school a bunch of people told me just concentrate on one sport, and basketball is one sport I just enjoyed more than football.”

 

That enjoyment led to All-Conference, and an All-State Honorable Mention as honors in high school for his game.  His size at the time was right around 360 pounds.

 

Jim Eayrs has always been concerned about his son’s size when watching him play basketball. He says, “I would always worry about him running up and down the court, being his size, and that he would have a heart attack like you see on the news.”

 

One of Eayrs’ coaches at Roseville High School talked to Jim Eayrs about getting his son to go to Weight Watchers. The coach noted that if his parents would convince him to go, the coach would have helped.

 

The interesting thing to note is that Eayrs was also recruited by UWM at the time.

 

UWM Assistant Coach Duffy Conroy says, “We first recruited him out of high school. Coach Jeter loved his skill set. There were some question marks physically because of his size though. Could he be good enough at our level? We were kind of just intrigued by him, but we just didn’t know if we wanted him.”

 

 

He parlayed his feats accomplished in high school by attending a junior college after graduation, and going to North Dakota State College of Science.

 

There, with a playing weight of around 350, he was the third leading scorer in NJCAA Division 1, averaging 24 points per contest.

 

James knew he wanted to get to the next level though. His sophomore year at NDSCS, he had been talked to by representatives from Idaho, as well as Colorado State.

 

The first time he met a representative from UWM was when Assistant Coach Brian Bidlingmyer showed up at one of his practices his Sophomore year. Immediately after practice the two spoke, and Eayrs was told that they were going to continue to talk with him.

 

The very next practice at NDSCS, UWM Head Coach Rob Jeter came out and offered him a scholarship right there on the spot. Eayrs didn’t wind up signing an official letter of intent until a week later when he came and visited the UWM campus.

 

Eayrs feels the reason he got recruited was because the offensive philosophy revolves around having a big man who can shoot, and pass the ball. He says he feels that he’s shown he can do both of those things in his two seasons here at UWM.

 

Assistant Coach Duffy Conroy says that things changed by the end of his sophomore year that made UWM more interested in Eayrs. “He had huge numbers in junior college, we saw how skilled he was, and we needed interior help. He was just way too skilled with the ball to not take. Although he does have some limitations defensively, his intelligence made up for it. We’ve just been happy with what he’s provided us.”

 

During his first season at UWM, Eayrs averaged just over 11 points per game, while playing 23 minutes a contest. He was named to the All-Horizon League Newcomer Team for the 2008-2009 Season. In the 2009-2010 Season, Eayrs averaged close to 13 points per game, while clocking in around 27 minutes per contest.

 

When he came to UWM, Eayrs weighed in at around 350 pounds. But, at the conclusion of his second season at UWM playing basketball, he weighs in at around 310.

 

He says he feels like he didn’t do anything special to go out and lose those 40 pounds, just whatever the team was doing at the time.  Although he also modestly notes that he did come in early in the mornings to do extra cardio.

 

With his weight the way it is, and the constant stress put on his body through basketball, as you can imagine there have been some health concerns. One area in particular that has been a problem is Eayrs’ knees.

 

This past summer he had knee surgery to repair a tear in the meniscus, but notes that it is just basically pain and soreness in his knees now that are the problem. He says that, “It’s getting better, but it’s always probably going to be a problem because of my weight.”

 

Eayrs says he feels that one of the things that have put more strain on his knees since he came to UWM is the amount of practice time. He says, “In junior college we had 45 minute practices, and then we’d be done. So then when I came here, there’s like three hour practices. That’s how my knees couldn’t really hold up with that I guess. I wasn’t used to it.”

 

But Eayrs admits he’s gotten used to it because of where he is at physically at this point in the season as compared to last year. ”I think my stamina’s better than it was at the end of the season last year. My knees were kind of giving out on me, but I feel really strong in my knees right now.”

 

James’ dad Jim, believes a change in the conditioning program has contributed to his son’s better condition at the end of this season. He says, “Sounds like this year they were doing some endurance training with low to no stress on his knees. I was glad to hear from UWM that they are looking out for their players.”

 

Assistant Coach Duffy Conroy also thinks James’ conditioning has gotten better. He says, “Last year, he kept playing more and more as the year went on. This past fall he couldn’t do the full rigorous conditioning, so he did more pool workouts, more bike stuff. With his knee problems we had to make sure he took it easy, and we wanted to make sure he held up throughout the season.”

 

Conroy believes although James’ minutes are still similar, the affect on him is different.  “James regularly plays about 28 minutes a game, but in past years it may have been more taxing on him. It may have been affecting him for the next game and games in the future. It seems as though he is recovering better because he’s just in better shape now.”

 

If there’s one moment he’ll always be able to remember from his time at UWM, Eayrs says it would be the game where Deion James hit a game-winning buzzer beater against UIC during the 2008-2009 Season.

 

Health permitting, basketball won’t come to an end for James once he graduates from UWM. He plans on continuing his career overseas. He has talked to UWM Alumni such as Joah Tucker, Avery Smith, and Adrian Tigert, all of whom have given him a couple of pointers as to what to do when the season’s over.

 

Always trying to get to the next level has always been his motivation. “As a kid when I was growing up, I was just trying to find a gym. And if I couldn’t find a gym in the winter, I’d go outside and shovel out snow and just shoot, shoot around in that snow path.” One thing’s for certain, if Eayrs finds that gym after graduation, his love for basketball may never end.

 

 

 

 

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