What ever happened to…Evan Eschmeyer

Matt Baker

After finishing his Northwestern basketball career in 1999, Evan Eschmeyer never thought he would come back to school.

But following a five-year NBA career, founding an online recruiting service and dabbling in politics, the Wildcats’ second all-time leading scorer is back at NU hitting the law and business books instead of hitting the hardwood.

“As an undergraduate, I never would have expected this, but now I’m loving every minute,” Eschmeyer said.

Eschmeyer, who ranks in the school’s all-time top 10 in 12 statistical categories, finished his first year of law school this year as part of NU’s JD-MBA program.

Though he started classes last fall, Eschmeyer said his interest in business began his rookie season in the NBA.

The New Jersey Nets drafted Eschmeyer with the 34th pick of the 1999 NBA Draft, and he made his debut on the court in January 2000 against the Indiana Pacers. Eschmeyer said he will never forget checking into the game, scoring a couple points and grabbing two rebounds in just two minutes of action.

“It was a rush,” Eschmeyer said. “I was floating on cloud nine, as they say. It was absolutely incredible.”

Besides averaging three rebounds and three points a game in 2000, Eschmeyer co-founded a website, bigtimerecruit.com, to help lesser-known high school athletes land spots on college rosters.

He also worked as a representative on the players’ union, where he later helped in negotiations for the collective bargaining agreement and first saw the value of having business and legal knowledge.

“My limited business experience made me appreciate how intertwined the two are,” Eschmeyer said. “My work with the collective bargaining agreement really showed me the power of a sharp lawyer’s mind and the way you can analyze a problem and break it down.”

Eschmeyer’s second season with the Nets was his most productive as a pro – he averaged 3.4 points and 4.9 assists in 18 minutes a game. Though his statistics were never as high after he signed with the Dallas Mavericks in the offseason, Eschmeyer said the highlight of his career came during the 2002-2003 season when Dallas reached the conference finals.

“Even though I didn’t get to play a lot, being with that team with that quality of players and people was an incredible experience,” Eschmeyer said. “I was part of a true team on and off the court, and that doesn’t happen very often.”

Injuries began to wear down Eschmeyer’s 6-foot-11, 250-pound frame in 2002. But he had been forced to recover before. Though doctors told him he would never play again when he broke his foot during his freshman year at NU, Eschmeyer came back to the team after spending seven months hobbling on crutches and two years healing.

But four knee surgeries between 2002 and 2004 forced his career to an early end.

“There was no decision to make,” Eschmeyer said. “My body just could no longer take the abuse required to play at that level.”

Though Eschmeyer said he is frustrated about his injury-plagued career, he remains proud of his stint in the NBA.

“It was absolutely incredible that I got to fulfill my childhood dream,” Eschmeyer said. “I got to that level and was able to compete with the best basketball players on the planet. Any time you can get to that level of your profession it’s a great thing.”

After retiring from the Mavericks in October 2004, Eschmeyer went back to his home in Ohio the next day to get involved with politics. His interest in the Democratic Party skyrocketed after watching the first presidential debate, so he called the party’s state headquarters to help campaign in the highly contested area of Northwest Ohio.

“That was good for me because it took my mind off of everything, and it was something I truly believed in,” Eschmeyer said.

Eschmeyer’s involvement in the 2004 election and his previous entrepreneurial ventures steered him towards law and business school. While he said he initially wanted to get variety by attending a different university, NU’s reputation and shorter program convinced him to head back to his alma mater. Eschmeyer graduated with a degree in Secondary Education for biology in 1998.

Ed Wilson, associate dean emeritus of the Kellogg School of Management, said Eschmeyer’s business experience and success at college has helped him in graduate school.

“Evan is the whole package,” said Wilson, an adviser for the JD-MBA Program. “He was not only an athlete of high distinction and All-American status but was also an achiever academically.”

Eschmeyer said balancing pre-med coursework with the responsibilities of a Division-I athlete and working as a team are some of the lessons from basketball he brought to graduate school.

“There’s a lot of things that carry over from sports,” he said. “I’m just getting started with law, but already I’m seeing crossover in time management skills and learning how to get the most out of a group.”

Nate Pomeday, Eschmeyer’s friend and former NU teammate from 1995 to 1999, said Eschmeyer is attacking his academics with the same work ethic he learned as a basketball player. Pomeday said society will benefit from Eschmeyer’s diligence no matter what venture he goes into after graduating in 2008.

“All of us are better off that Evan’s going to Kellogg instead of sitting on a beach somewhere,” Pomeday said. “Anything he’s going to do is going to be to help the people.”

Wilson agreed, adding that Eschmeyer’s “noble” heart will keep him involved in public service or working to save the environment rather than chasing profits.

Despite reaching his lifelong goal of playing in the NBA, Pomeday said riches have not fazed Eschmeyer. An avid outdoorsman and supporter of environmentalist causes, Eschmeyer has remained down to earth.

“He probably changed other people more than he changed himself,” Pomeday said. “The only difference with him is that instead of fly-fishing out of a backpack, he’s fly-fishing with expensive gear.”

Reach Matt Baker at [email protected]