CROWN POINT — Nearly every high school basketball player has a nickname. A made-up moniker that means something to him and his friends.
Then, there's Crown Point junior Elias Gerodemos. His nickname isn't a word, it's just a letter. "E." Simple and to the point.
His Greek name is pronounced "E-Lee-ah". The S is silent. But when none of his basketball teammates through the years could pronounce it, only one thing could happen.
"Everyone just started calling me 'E,'" Gerodemos said with a laugh after Monday's practice.
The 6-foot-2 swing player is very proud of his heritage. He often wears the T-Shirt of Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, known as the "Greek Freak" in NBA circles.
His family is close, just like his friends. But his faith is the most important thing in his life, he said.
"(Being Greek means) how it also means putting God as my number 1," he said. "All the time and never forgetting where I come from and the reason why I have everything is because of God."
A few years back, Gerodemos didn't appear to have a prayer of being a productive high school basketball player. He didn't start playing until the fourth grade and he was behind many others in his age group.
Or maybe even worse.
"I was terrible," Gerodemos said. "I shot a knuckle ball."
At St. Mary's in middle school he was put on the B Team. His freshman year at Crown Point he hardly got on the court, admittedly because he wasn't good enough. He didn't get mad at the coach or complain on the end of the bench.
He started working as hard as he could every day to improve his talent.
Heading into Thursday's game at Valparaiso, Gerodemos led a young Bulldogs team with a 12.6 scoring average while grabbing 5.4 rebounds a game.
Crown Point coach Clint Swan said he noticed something in Gerodemos in fourth grade, even when "E" didn't. He was brought up to varsity last season as a sophomore but couldn't get on the floor much with the loaded group of seniors on the roster.
"We beg 'E' to not be so unselfish every day in practice," Swan said. "We want him to be more aggressive and he's starting to see it."
Gerodemos scored 23 against Portage last week and also scored 23 against E.C. Central. Swan would love to see those numbers stay consistent.
"Being Greek is about respecting everyone around me, loving family, friends and my coaches," Gerodemos said.
He only played one year of AAU, when he was a freshman. He didn't like it much so he stopped.
But he's played on some Greek teams that have had a lot of success. The "God Squad" won a tournament in Chicago and finished second at one in Detroit, a group of talented Hellenic hoopsters who worked out at Munster after the high school season is done.
Another cultural aspect is that Gerodemos is a very good student with a 4.0 GPA. His rise on the court has him now thinking about playing college basketball, a thought that never would've come to him several years ago.
Scouts and coaches don't recruit B games.
"Not making the A team or sitting on the bench really helped me," he said. "It made me work harder and that's what I needed. Coach (Swan) gave me a boost of confidence this year. I now want to play college ball and I would love to one day play in Greece."