Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Emmenecker leads Drake into NCAA Tournament

TAMPA — To be honest, the recruiter said, Adam Emmenecker's jump shot was not even a consideration. Nor, according to the recruiter's early notes, were his ballhandling skills thoroughly discussed.

Frankly, his PPG was nothing compared to the GPA.

And penetrate? No, but the kid could articulate.

Which may explain why, five months ago, Emmenecker was considered a better prospect at the Principal Financial Group than the Drake University basketball program.

"He was highly recommended," said Nu Huynh, the campus relations manager at Principal who recruited Emmenecker and later hired him for a coveted position in the company's leadership development rotation program. "I remember looking at the resume and being wowed."

As opposed to Emmenecker's stat sheet, which, at the time, was more "Ow!" than "Wow!" Three years at Drake, and he had two starts to his name. He had seen 82 games, and scored 57 points. Three years as a walk-on, and he didn't get a scholarship until a transfer left the Bulldogs with a leftover grant in August.

So you'll understand why Emmenecker was already thinking of trading the locker room for the boardroom around the start of his senior season. Even when coach Keno Davis called him in the office to tell him a scholarship had come open, he pointed out that it was no guarantee of playing time.

Now here we are, months later, and Emmenecker is the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, and Drake is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 37 years.

"I'm not sure how it happened," Davis said.

Neither is anyone else. Ask the players in the Drake locker room if they knew Emmenecker was a breakout star waiting to happen, and you've never seen so many heads shake.

This is a guy who was on no one's All-American list as a high school senior in Saginaw, Mich. His only scholarship offer was to play baseball at Boston College. On the plus side, he did lead Saginaw to a 22-2 record as a senior, and his high school coach told the folks at Drake that he averaged 11 points a game.

It wasn't until Emmenecker was filling out his bio for the Drake media guide that they discovered he actually averaged 4.7 points a game as a prep senior.

"You didn't average 11 points?" assistant coach Chris Davis asked.

"No," Emmenecker said, "but I once scored 12 in a game."

The problem, Emmenecker said, is that nobody understood his role in high school. Playing on a team of talented scorers, Emmenecker felt he was more useful putting the ball in the hands of others.

"He's not exceptionally athletic," said his father Michael Emmenecker. "He can't dunk. He doesn't do fabulous spin moves. He's not flashy. He plays within himself, he's under control. And all of those things are boring."

Ah, but those things are also the way you win. Emmenecker is not the best defensive player on the roster, but he makes the defense better. He's not the leading scorer, but he makes the offense better. Emmenecker averaged 8.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists, yet was an easy pick as the top player in the conference.

So who do you suppose feels more regret today?

The hundreds of head coaches who didn't bother pursing Emmenecker out of high school, or the Drake coaches who didn't realize what they had languishing at the end of their bench?

"It's been like a storybook," Chris Davis said. "Everybody talks about it like Rudy. Rudy got to play one game, and they made a movie out of him. This is a true story, but it sounds more like fiction. You don't go from a walk-on to the player of the year in your league. You don't score more in college than you did in high school.

"Those things just don't happen."

Okay, in defense of coaches everywhere, not even Emmenecker was sure this could happen. He even came to have doubts about his decision to give up the baseball scholarship to be a basketball walk-on.

What eventually helped was getting the scholarship in August. It didn't mean he was a different player, but it helped him feel different about himself. And the confidence spread to those around him.

"Around here, we don't treat walk-ons any differently from scholarship players," Emmenecker said. "But, individually, you know there's a difference. Even though coaches and players treat you the same, there's still a difference. Whether it's everyone else noticing it, or you feeling it yourself, there is a level of validation."

This revelation has put Emmenecker in an interesting position. Carrying four majors (finance, business, management and entrepreneurial management) and a minor (economics) with a 3.97 GPA, Emmenecker figured he would be in a suit and tie soon enough.

He already had talked to the folks at Principal about taking off a little time after school to travel, and then reporting to the management program sometime in June.

Now, there are those who wonder if he has a future playing professional basketball in Europe. Or whether he should even give the NBA a shot.

Emmenecker isn't ready to speculate. He already has his hands full with Drake's biggest game in decades against Western Kentucky this afternoon.

Everything else can wait.

This time, Emmenecker is the one with all the options.

>>fast facts

Men's region games in Tampa

When/where: Today and Sunday; St. Pete Times Forum

Tickets: About 3,000 are available at $208, including a service charge, for the six games or $76 for each session. For information, call (813) 301-6600 or go to

Emmenecker leads Drake into NCAA Tournament 03/20/08 [Last modified: Friday, March 21, 2008 12:15am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs journal: Kicker Nick Folk has up and downs against Jaguars


    JACKSONVILLE — If the Bucs had hoped for a drama-free night in their kicking game, they'll have to wait another week.

    Bucs kicker Nick Folk celebrates one of his two made field goals against the Jaguars, but he also misses a field goal and has an extra point blocked.
  2. Bucs top Jaguars behind strong first half



    There is a reason why the air in Tampa Bay is filled with playoff talk. If Thursday night's 12-8 Bucs preseason win over the Jaguars is any indication, it's also going to be filled with footballs thrown by quarterback Jameis Winston.

    Doug Martin gets the Bucs’ only touchdown  on a 2-yard run, squeaking past linebacker Telvin Smith in the first quarter. He has five carries for 30 yards.
  3. Rays journal: Archer has strong outing, with two mistakes

    The Heater

    TORONTO — Two pitches RHP Chris Archer didn't execute are the ones that stood out Thursday as Josh Donaldson hit them out of the park. But the two solo home runs aside, Archer turned in a sterling outing that went atop the pile of good pitching the Rays keep wasting.

    Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) works during the first inning. [Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP]
  4. Tim Tebow continues wowing fans as he wraps up bay area games


    CLEARWATER — Tracey Fritzinger has seen Tim Tebow play baseball a few times this year. The 40-year-old St. Petersburg resident went to two of his games against the Tampa Yankees, along with Joy, her little sister from Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

    St. Lucie Mets outfielder Tim Tebow, middle, hangs out in the dugout during Thursday night’s game against the Clearwater Threshers at Spectrum Field, the last of St. Lucie’s eight-day trip to the Tampa Bay area.
  5. Rays vs. Mariners, 7:10 Friday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Mariners

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun, 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Austin Pruitt (50) in the dugout during the ninth inning of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays on Opening Day at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, April 2, 2017. The Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees 7-3.