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Boateng finishing strong after long, unique journey

Senior center Eric Boateng was a soccer player in England when he was spotted by a basketball coach that noticed he was 6-foot-3 at the age of 14. (Photo by Kyle Thompson)
Senior center Eric Boateng was a soccer player in England when he was spotted by a basketball coach that noticed he was 6-foot-3 at the age of 14. (Photo by Kyle Thompson)

Attitude, team-centeredness and effort are the three words ASU coach Herb Sendek used to describe senior center Eric Boateng.

If you ask anyone associated with the program, he isn’t going to get any argument.

“He is the hardest working player I have ever met in my entire life,” ASU senior guard Derek Glasser said of Boateng. “He works so hard. It was only a matter of time before it paid off.”

It certainly took time.

Boateng was a soccer player in England when he was spotted by a basketball coach that noticed he was 6-foot-3 at the age of 14.

After about a year of playing basketball, a documentary about Boateng playing basketball led him to play high school basketball in the United States.

Next came being named a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, and he signed to play at Duke. After averaging just 2.5 minutes per game in 20 games during Duke’s Sweet 16 run during his freshman season, Boateng decided to transfer to ASU.

Once he got to Tempe, he had to wait to play yet again, this time behind Jeff Pendergraph.

Finally, during his senior season, he got his chance to play and has shown his vast improvement, starting every game for the Sun Devils.

“It has been a journey,” Boateng said of his basketball career. “There is so much you learn from different experiences that makes you even hungrier for something. It makes you realize what you really want out of something. It has made me dig deeper in terms of being a player and a person.”

There were times where Boateng could have given up.

Four years without playing consistent basketball takes its toll on a player’s mental strength, but he kept working and working, buying his time.

“Eric has been a real testament to the value of perseverance and chipping away at the rock,” Sendek said. “He gives great effort every day and has an excellent attitude. When somebody has those things as habits, they are then in position to get better, which Eric has.”

The game that ASU fans may remember Boateng for happened just last week.

Against Stanford, he put his team on his back and finished with a career-high 24 points, leading the Sun Devils to a 68-60 victory.

“I just wanted to win,” Boateng said. “It felt good at the end. I was really immersed in the moment and it felt good.”

He is the only player in the nation this season to finish 11-of-11 from the field or better, but numbers don’t matter to Boateng.

“The way I play is important to me,” Boateng said. “I think how I play will take care of the rest, and the numbers will show. Productivity is one thing, but also wins and losses.”

Boateng is loved by his teammates, and his story is an inspiration to many. The journey comes to an end at home on Saturday, but there is still a lot of season left for Boateng, and if he keeps playing his best basketball, ASU will be tough to beat.

“Right now he is playing his career-best basketball,” Sendek said. “I couldn’t be happier, because I don’t know if there is anyone more deserving.”

Reach the reporter at andrew.gruman@asu.edu


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