Eckerle Sparks Saint Louis In Win

ST. LOUIS — Saint Louis University basketball coach Rick Majerus has been around the game of basketball a long time. Few players, however, receive such high praise from Majerus as redshirt junior guard Paul Eckerle.

As one of the first players recruited by Majerus to SLU in 2007, it didn't take long for Eckerle to establish himself as one of the coach's favorite players.

Fast-forward a few years, and Eckerle is a captain and one of the instrumental leaders on one of the youngest teams in Division I Basketball.

On Tuesday night, Majerus inserted Eckerle into the game against a pesky Tennessee State team with the hopes that he would provide some intensity.

"Eckerle gave us a big lift," Majerus said. "He's bumblebee-ish. You know how the bumblebee isn't supposed to fly, Eckerle shouldn't be able to cover those guys but he's just a tough kid."

After a knee injury sidelined Eckerle for the entire 2009-2010 campaign, he is back and ready to help the team in whatever way he can.

"Sitting out a year puts things in perspective and it's helped me realize life without basketball is much less fun than life with basketball," Eckerle said. "I don't want to say I took it for granted, but I appreciate now the opportunity and really want to make the most out of this year."

Despite his tenacity, however, Eckerle did not play in a 61-59 loss against Georgia, which Majerus stated was his fault.

"Why I didn't play him against Georgia, I don't know," Majerus said. "I must be an idiot."

Eckerle, a biology major who is currently applying to various medical schools, plays with passion and intensity unrivaled by many.

He lived up to that billing against Tennessee State on Tuesday.

"I put him in for loose balls, leadership, set a pick, maybe make a shot," Majerus said. "He's a fun guy to coach."

He made shots, indeed. Eckerle was a perfect three-for-three from long distance in tallying nine points on the night.

Coming into the night, Eckerle had averaged just 2.7 points per game in his career.

"He just plays his guts out," Majerus said. "He plays on heart. He's not an athlete to begin with. He's inspirational. I told the team we want to give a Paul Eckerle effort."

The Billikens certainly did just that in the second half, outscoring the visiting Tigers by 24 in the second half.

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