Like Father, Like Son

Brett Burkholder was a part of some of the glory years of DePaul Basketball. A 1983 graduate of DePaul, Burkholder played for legendary coach Ray Meyer. These days the former Blue Demon center is mentoring his oldest son Jacob, who is a junior at Crown Point, Indiana High School. Recently, had an opportunity to catch up with the Burkholders.

A 6-11 center, Burkholder was a backup center for Ray Meyer's DePaul teams that were ranked #1 in the nation. The Calumet City native, and Thornton Fractional North graduate, was a transfer from Rice University who sat out the 1979-80 season at DePaul. He eventually worked his way into the starting lineup and averaged 3.9 ppg and 2.9 rpg during his senior season. Despite those meager numbers, Burkholder did have a future playing professional basketball.

"When I left DePaul I was drafted in the eighth round by the Milwaukee Bucks," said Brett. "They had drafted (7-3 Minnesota center) Randy Breuer. They knew my work ethic. They wanted me to lift weights and beat up on Randy Breuer every day. Before I made the camp, I went to Spain and made the team there. I came back and dislocated my ankle. Done. I never even made the tryouts."

With his playing career in doubt, Burkholder turned to what he knew best. "So here I am, I graduated with a Finance degree from DePaul. I had worked the summer before I graduated at the Chicago Board of Options Exchange. They hired me as a runner at the Board of Options. Six weeks later I was in the Bond Options pit trading. Eventually I went over to the Mercantile Exchange and was a broker for 15 years."

After many years in business, Burkholder decided to give back to the community. "In 2004, I retired from the Mercantile Exchange and took a year off trying to decide what to do," Brett said. "Now I work at the Lake County (Indiana) Juvenile Center. The reason I chose that, when I graduated from DePaul, four of the players I played with went on to the NBA, four graduated, two became lawyers, myself and Jeff Allen, who is my brother-in-law now, went on to the Mercantile Exchange and four went to jail. Those four were great guys. When they didn't graduate, didn't make it at basketball, they ended up in the streets, doing drugs. I thought if I went to a place like the Lake County Juvenile Center I could catch these guys while they are young and make a difference. I've been there since August and I really like it. It's quite a challenge."

Burkholder is busy with his own children these days and occasionally hears from his old teammates. "I went to a Bulls game this year and (former Demon) Sam Manella was sitting in front of me," Brett shared. "We sat and talked for a long time. He's a lawyer now."

Brett has many fond memories looking back on his playing days at DePaul with Coach Meyer. "We were at Syracuse playing at the Carrier Dome on national television," recalled Burkholder. "It's a real tight game in the first half and Terry Cummings picks up his third foul. (DePaul assistant coach) Joey Meyer calls ‘Brett come down here'. They called a time out. Coach (Ray Meyer) is standing there. Joey says ‘Coach, we've got to put Brett in, we've got to take Terry out for the rest of the half.' Then Coach yells out ‘I can't put Brett in, he stinks!' 30 seconds later, Terry goes back in and picks up his fourth foul. Terry comes running by the bench and goes ‘Coach, you've got to put Brett in!' Ray stands up and says ‘Brett, get in there!' That's when I started playing, I did real well after that."

These days Brett spends much of his time working with his oldest son Jacob Burkholder, who is a 6-8 junior center for Crown Point High and the SYF Players on the AAU circuit. At first the Burkholders didn't think that Jacob had a future in basketball. "When he graduated eighth grade, Jacob was 5-10," Brett remembered. "His pediatrician told us he was going to be six foot. We didn't push him in basketball. Well freshman year he's 6-3 and then sophomore year he's 6-7. He hasn't played a lot due to injuries. Schools are interested, but he hasn't had the exposure or the playing time for anybody to see him."

Jacob was sidelined for his junior season while rehabilitating from a back injury and is just starting to get back in basketball rhythm. "He's got really good hands and great touch," said SYF coach Wayne Brumm. "He's done well. His Dad grew an inch to two inches after high school. His Grandfather grew an inch to two inches after high school. His orthopedic doctor said that his growth plate is not closed. He's a solid 6-8 now with a reasonable chance to get to 6-9 or 6-10."

Jake has continued to work on his game and will only get better as the AAU season progresses. He truly is a chip off the old Burkholder block. "He's fallen in love with the weights," Brumm said. "He's really starting to put a body on himself. He's really strong. He's got really good vertical lift off his feet. He's just needs to play. He's got to work on some post moves. He shoots the ball well and gets the face-up shots. He just needs to compliment his game with a back-to-the-basket game."

After just one weekend of AAU ball in April, Jacob started to attract interest from some Division I coaches. "He's caught the attention of Furman and is at least on their radar now," Brumm related. "He's had real limited opportunity for people to find out who he is. In July when the college coaches can be out there every day, they're going to get a good opportunity to do an evaluation."

When asked by a bystander where he wanted to play his college ball, Jake Burkholder replied "With anybody who wants me."

Jake definitely follows his father's lineage. Like his Dad before him, all he is looking for is a chance to play.

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