Eric Devendorf Interview: Devendorf Discusses Playing At Oak Hill, Writing for SLAM, His Syracuse Career, Being Coached by Jim Boeheim & Trash Talking Opponents
Got a chance to meet former Syracuse legend Eric Devendorf at The Basketball Tournament's Epic 8 Round in Brooklyn. Devendorf, who first rose to stardom as a senior at Oak Hill Academy, spent last season as an assistant strength coach at his alma mater after a seven year professional career which included a couple of D-League stints and stops in Australia, Ukraine, Israel and New Zealand. Its been nearly a decade since Devendorf made national headlines for his clutch shooting and trash talking abilities. All these years later, he's still got that fire. Check it out!
Jeffrey Kee: How’d you first start playing basketball?
Eric Devendorf: I first started playing when I was about seven or eight years old. My dad was the person who introduced me to the game and I fell in love with it right away. As I kid, I always had the ball with me. I’d dribble it on my walks to and from school. It was very rare to find me without a basketball in my hands. I loved it from the start and have the same love for the game now.
Kee: You played your high school ball at the legendary Oak Hill Academy; the same school that produced guys like Carmelo Anthony, Jerry Stackhouse and Rajon Rondo. How did they first start recruiting you?
Devendorf: I’m originally from Michigan, so I spent my first three years of high school playing at Bay City Central and transferred to Oak Hill for my senior season. They took notice of me during different AAU tournaments. Coach [Steve] Smith and my AAU coach went back and forth on getting me to transfer and the rest is history.
Kee: What was it like going to Oak Hill and playing every game against the best competition in the nation?
Devendorf: Just on my team alone we had myself, Kevin Durant, Ty Lawson and Jamont Gordon [Mississippi State]. In total, we had like eight or nine dudes play at the Division I level. As far as the competition goes, we played guys like Lou Williams, Amir Johnson and Monta Ellis; all of whom have had great careers in the NBA. Every night was a battle and competing against the best players in the nation helped prepare me for the next level.
Kee: You also had your own “Diary” section in SLAM magazine where you wrote about your senior year at Oak Hill. How were you chosen to be featured in that?
Devendorf: When I was playing at the ABCD Camp, SLAM reached out to my AAU coach and told him that they wanted me to be the “Diary” writer. I started that the summer before my senior year and continued it throughout the season. It was really cool for me to be selected to do that.
Kee: After that you went on to star at Syracuse University. What went into your decision to play there?
Devendorf: Well, I had originally committed to play at Michigan State, but the year Carmelo Anthony was at Syracuse, I saw them play and automatically fell in love with the school and felt that their style of play would fit my game a lot better. I ended up de-committing from Michigan State. After that, the Syracuse coaching staff flew to Michigan to come see me and I ended up committing to Syracuse right then and there. I’ve been a ‘Cuse guy ever since.
Kee: What was it like being coached by Jim Boeheim?
Devendorf: It was unbelievable, man. He’s a Hall of Fame coach. He’s a winner. He was very tough on me, but that’s what a great coach is supposed to do. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to learn from him. He taught me so much as a player and I’m still learning from him to this day now that I’m on the Syracuse coaching staff.
Kee: What was your professional career like after leaving Syracuse?
Devendorf: I played overseas for seven years and I also had a stint in the D-League for one season. Basketball has taken me all around the world. I’m not playing professionally anymore, but I’m happy what I’m doing now as the assistant strength coach at Syracuse, even though I can still hoop a little bit.
Kee: What has the transition from player to coach been like for you?
Devendorf: It’s been really good. My main goal is to help these young guys become the best players they can be. I want them to be well rounded on the court and in the community. I’m always offering my advice and I try to share my knowledge with them as much as I can, so that they don’t make some of the same mistakes that I made when I was a young player.
Kee: Watching you play at The Basketball Tournament (TBT), you look like you still have a lot of game left in you. Would you ever consider making a comeback as a player?
Devendorf: I’m comfortable where I’m at right now, but if a team gives me an offer and puts the right price tag on it then it’s possible.
Kee: Everyone knows you for trash talking and for playing with a lot of intensity, but what are you like off the court?
Devendorf: I’m very laid back. I’m sort of quiet and mainly keep to myself. Like you said, on the court I’m super competitive and enjoy trash talking a little bit, but that’s just because I’m so passionate about basketball. Once I’m off the court, I’m the complete opposite.
Kee: Do you usually instigate it or do you wait for your opponent to say something first?
Devendorf: I’ve definitely started it a few times, but as of late, it’s been the other teams who have started talking first and I just jaw back. But it’s nothing personal. All the talking that players do on the court stems from our competitive spirit. I have nothing against any of my opponents. I just want to win.