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Averkamp an all-star in every way at Loyola

Earns honors on court and in classroom

April 5, 2013

It's a slam dunk that someday in the not-too-distant future that soon-to-be Loyola of Chicago graduate Ben Averkamp will be an orthopedic surgeon of some renown, that he will be inducted in a very moving ceremony into the Germantown High School Athletic Hall of Fame and that he will make his mark on the international basketball scene.

However, he won't make a big deal about any of those things.

That is how the thoughtful, talented and well-spoken Averkamp rolls. He's 6-8 and but still loves to fly under the radar.

He lost six games of what was becoming a spectacular senior basketball season to an ill-timed concussion suffered in a loss to UW-Green Bay on Feb. 2. Instead of being a likely first-team All-Horizon League selection he had to settle for a second season of second-team honors because of all the missed action.

Furthermore, after years of losing records, it looked like the Ramblers were going to send Averkamp out with a winning record, but after he got hurt, Loyola lost five-of-six games that he missed and eventually finished at 15-16. Seven losses by three points or less really hurt.

Also, Averkamp lost valuable class time because of the headaches that came with the concussion, and that bothered him even more than the lost game time. He is feeling much better, but being a second-team Academic All-American with impossibly high standards for himself, every moment is precious.

After all, he is the president of the Student/Athlete Advisory Committee for the Horizon League and will be taking the Medical College Admission Tests (MCATs) for medical school later this spring.

But instead of feeling self-pity, all Averkamp wanted to talk about when contacted for an overview of his excellent career at Loyola, was his teammate Jordan Hicks, whom he shared senior day ceremonies on March 2.

Averkamp just wanted to talk about how Hicks overcame myriad injuries to score 26 points in a big Loyola win over Cleveland State. That after the game was over, Hicks walked over to his mother, Carla, for a hug.

Normally, that's a common and simple thing done thousands of times at senior days at high schools and colleges around the nation. But this time was different, because Hicks' mother is on the downside of a miserable six-year battle with cancer and so had a difficult time even getting to one of his games.

Their private hug soon became a great big team hug, Averkamp included. It was a beautiful, elegant and spontaneous moment well-chronicled by Dana O'Neil of ESPN.com on the Men's College Basketball Nation blog, the link for which Averkamp graciously forwarded to me.

"He's been through a lot," said Averkamp of Hicks, "and everything that went on that day (on senior day) just added to its meaning. Simply enough, it was pretty emotional for everyone who was there."

Building block for Warhawks

And Averkamp admits he's pretty emotional these days himself.

Because 2009 was just the whistle of a made free throw, a flickering pass on a fast break and the triumphant roar behind a decisive block in terms of time ago, when he was lifting the previously moribund Germantown basketball program onto his broad shoulders and laying the sturdy foundation for these heady state championship days the Warhawks are now enjoying.

He was NOW Newspapers' Player of the Year twice and was Gatorade State Player of the Year in 2009.

Loyola beckoned with a hoops' scholarship and a future as a doctor was and remains firmly in sight. Though wins were still hard to come by for the Ramblers, the 6-8 Averkamp reinforced his reputation of being a bedrock player, reliable and consistent.

It was something Germantown people had known about Averkamp for years.

"When I got here, I didn't know what was going on," he said. "I wasn't sure if I'd even play at all and the next thing I know I started 28 games as a freshman. I gained a lot of valuable experience. My first game against Kansas State was a wild experience.

"In my sophomore year I made a jump and then I just kept going."

And going and going. The team improved as it made a profitable overseas trip to gain experience during Averkamp's junior year.

Meanwhile, he just kept racking up the numbers, staggering in many ways.

He is one of just 19 Loyola players in its history to score more than 1,000 points (1,360 to be precise) and to grab more than 500 rebounds (635 total) for a career. Furthermore, if not for the concussion, he would have entered very rare territory indeed as he finished just two blocked shots away from becoming the first Rambler ever to score more than 1,300 points, grab more than 600 rebounds and record more than 150 assists (183 total) and 150 blocked shots (148) in a career.

And he did not rack up those numbers just against the "Little Sisters of the Poor" on the Rambler's schedule. No, in a nationally televised game this winter, he had a spectacular 25-point and eight-rebound effort against NCAA "Elite 8" qualifier and Big 10 power Michigan State.

"I don't know what was happening that day," said Averkamp with a laugh. "Shots just kept falling in. Playing at the Breslin Center (on the Michigan State campus) was amazing. I walked in there about 75 minutes beforehand and the place was packed. It was a pretty special day. We lost, but for us it was still a pretty good effort (a 73-61 defeat)."

For efforts like that, Averkamp has earned an NBA Draft Prospect Profile.

Athletic and smart

But the numbers tell just part of his story. Averkamp, whose degree this spring will be in biology and sports management, had been part of the academic elite at Germantown and he continued that way in spectacular fashion at Loyola.

He was a two-time Capitol One District V All-Academic selection, and a multiple-time Horizon League All-Academic first-team selection. He was a four-time male scholar/athlete of the month in the Horizon League and also earned academic honors from the National Jesuit Men's Basketball Association and the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

Last fall, he was also named a finalist for the nationwide Senior CLASS Award which is presented annually to the NCAA Division I senior with the most notable achievements in terms of community, classroom, character and competition.

All those honors were good, however, but earning the Capital One Second-Team All-American Academic honor, well, that was something different and led to a great family moment.

"Ben's pretty self-sufficient and low-key," his father Rob said, "and all those honors he earned in basketball, he never called me about them, but when he got that Academic All-American honor, that was one of the first times he ever called me to blow his own horn about anything.

"It was pretty special."

And you get the feeling the special times are just beginning for Averkamp.

After graduation and taking the MCATs he does want to take a little time off and play overseas before the real world intrudes. He's spoken to his old high school coach Steve Showalter about that idea (Showalter himself was once the leading scorer in Ireland for a season) and is encouraged by his prospects.

It's just one more way he rolls, this 6-8 gentle giant. Flying under the radar but still making his mark.

"I feel pretty lucky," Averkamp said. "I was hopeful going in (to college) but for a lot of guys like me it just doesn't pan out. Putting it in perspective, it all worked out quite well."

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