BOURBON — Eric Price Jr. does not see the 21st century as a school or a basketball team.
“I feel a lot of love here,” Price said. “I have excellent coaches. Great teammates. Big fans. All.”
If the 21st century is truly his home, then Price completes his homecoming.
He attended 21st Century in kindergarten, but then bounced between different elementary schools and colleges before eventually attending Lake Station and then River Forest. He transferred to the latter’s Cougar program for his junior season, but an eligibility issue limited him to 10 games in a 7-14 season.
This set the stage for Price to have a good run into the 21st century in hopes of following in the footsteps of former Cougar basketball players turned DI basketball players he grew up trying to emulate like Johnell Davis, Eugene German and DeAndre Gholston.
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Price currently holds a scholarship offer from Trinity Christian College which is close to his heart, but said he is keeping recruitment open and has not ruled out playing a year at a prep school.
“It’s the place to be,” Price said. “It’s a place where you can come and compete and improve. I like the players and the coaches. What we do here is special.
Standing at 6-foot-9 and weighing 265 pounds, Price quickly grabs attention in the post, but describes himself as a “great guard” in his Twitter bio. He models his game after non-traditional NBA big men like Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Denver’s Nikola Jokić.
Price plays a lot of his game away from the paint and isn’t afraid to shoot. He stepped in and made the first of two 3-point tries in the 79-64 21st Century Class A Regional Semi-Final victory over North White to go along with some marks near the basket. He scored seven points and grabbed five rebounds before a nosebleed kept him off the ground for most of the second half.
“He’s a great boy, man,” 21st Century coach Larry Upshaw said. “It’s just a pleasure to be with him. He knows the game. He does everything you need to win games. Even though it doesn’t show up in the box score, he does what it takes to help us win.
Some of those things include being vocal on defense and cheering on teammates, Upshaw said. The Cougars rely on Price, the only senior to play significant minutes, to be a veteran despite this being his first full season with the program.
Combine Price’s size with his ability to develop as a shooter, and Upshaw said he expects more universities to start showing interest soon. If they do, there’s still some roughness that Price admits he needs to refine, but relies on mentors like German for guidance during the process.
“My guy Eugene German told me it’s those little things that really help you get deals and win basketball games,” Price said. “That’s why I do what I do.”
Price’s house – 21st century – is better because of it.
“He’s everything you ask of a player,” Upshaw said. “He’s a committed guy and the colleges should be picking him up soon.”
Summary of the game
How the 21st century won: Cougars junior guards Quintin Floyd and Ashton Williamson combined to score 26 of their 47 points in the second half while repelling a series of late runs from North White late before the Cougars took control and held on for a victory from 79-64.
The Cougars led the Vikings by a whopping 20 points late in the third quarter, but North White’s senior line of Bentley Buschman, Nathan Miller and Hunter Pogue refused to go quietly. They led a comeback effort to find themselves in single digits multiple times in the fourth quarter, but wouldn’t come all the way back with Floyd and Williamson having answer after answer.
The Cougars were especially disruptive in the passing lanes, turning 18 North White turnovers into 31 points.
Impacting player: Williamson scored 24 points on effective 10-of-13 shooting while providing nine assists. His six turnovers were the only significant flaws on an otherwise strong stat line.
Quoteable: “(North White) made a few plays in the stretch. We just need to protect the ball better. We were cowards with that. So we have to be better at it, but hats off to them, though. They had a very good game. – 21st Century Coach, Larry Uphshaw.
Following: 21st Century (22-4) advances to face host Triton Trojans (19-7) who eliminated Fremont 58-55 in their semifinal.
PHOTOS: 21st Century and Marquette play for the Kouts men’s basketball section