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German attributes NIU scoring record to Gary upbringing
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German attributes NIU scoring record to Gary upbringing

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Eugene German

Eugene German broke the Northern Illinois scoring record, previously held by Merrillville graduate T.J. Lux. German is 30th nationally in scoring this season and the 21st Century product attributes his success to his Gary roots.

Eugene German grew up on the Gary blacktops where he was taught toughness, a physical brand of basketball and grew up alongside his family of talented athletes.

It’s fitting that he fought through contact for the basket that set the Northern Illinois men’s basketball scoring record in Saturday’s win over Miami Ohio. He needed 18 points to break the record, and hit a 3-pointer a few possessions later to become the first Huskie to reach the 2,000-point plateau.

“Man, it was an amazing moment and it kind of felt for real, just coming from where I came from, and it was definitely just a huge moment for me, man, just making things happen like that. Once the bucket went in I was just like, ‘Wow, I really did it.’ It was amazing to see the smiles on my family’s faces,” German said. “It was a blessing.”

The senior joins Region hoops legends T.J. Lux and the late Jim Bradley, who held different scoring records. Bradley is the program’s top per-game scorer, having averaged 23.1 per game from 1971-73. It was Lux’s scoring record that German passed. The Merrillville graduate scored 1,996 points from 1995-2000.

German said Lux texted him the day before his record was broken.

“He texted me and said, ‘I hope you go out there and break the record and make sure that you win.’ Because when he broke the record they lost so he said, ‘Don't ruin the moment. Make sure you break the record and you guys win.’”

REGION COLLEGIANS: German keeps scoring at will for NIU

Two days shy of the 20-year reunion of Lux taking first place, German accomplished the feat for a great moment in the rich tradition of Region basketball. Lux broke the record on Feb. 3, 2000 in a 76-61 home loss to Ohio.

Lux told The Times that he and his Merrillville assistant coaches joked during German's freshman season (2016-17) that if anyone would break his record, it would be German.

“I'm proud of him being from Northwest Indiana,” said Lux, who could not make the game due to family engagements. “You know, it's the Region toughness; that's a thing. That's a real thing. And, obviously, if anybody's gonna break the record, being a Northwest Indiana kid, that is just fine by me. So, my hats off and congratulations to him. It's a great accomplishment.”

German always mentions Gary or, “where I come from.” He never wants to forget where he learned life lessons and grew a close bond with his family.

“I always mention Gary because everybody (loves) bad things and negative comments about Gary. There's some talent down there and, people need to know that. It is hard to make it out of there, of course, being like a tough city and the crime rate is always high,” German said. “I could never forget where I came from, because that's what made me how I am today — just being tough and always being a fighter — so that's why I always mention it.”

His family has been a large part of his life, learning something each step of the way. His mother, Eugenia German, inspired his work ethic by her willingness to work seven days a week and never complaining. His sister, former Bowman star Princess German, showcased her mentality, which he’s adopted.

“She just had a killer mindset and she would go out on the court to just go play hard. Just seeing that grow up in my household, I'm like, ‘Man, I gotta have that mindset,’” Eugene German said.

He had big shoes to fill with brother David German Jr. coming before him. There are good family bloodlines with their dad, David German Sr., playing point guard for Horace Mann in the 1980s. He was on a Mann squad that upset Chicago Phillips, which was the No. 1 team nationally in 1982.

Basketball started out as exercising but with each dribble it became the heartbeat of the German family.

Eugene has embraced an underdog mentality, coming from a small school in 21st Century, and has been a leading scorer at every level. He led the state in scoring his junior and senior seasons and is 21st Century’s all-time leading scorer with 2,020 points. He is leading the Mid-American Conference in scoring this season (19.8 ppg). He has 2,052 career points after scoring 25 in Tuesday’s win at Toledo and Friday's win against Kent State.

“I never thought that he was going to come in and be the all-time leading scorer, but when we recruited him out of high school, we knew he could score the basketball. We knew definitely he was going to bring scoring here,” NIU coach Mark Montgomery said.

German began his college career coming off the bench, which he said was a learning process, but he eventually exceeded the scheduled plan and took over as a starter some time in the second half of the season, Montgomery said.

Eugene German

Eugene German broke the Northern Illinois scoring record, previously held by Merrillville graduate T.J. Lux. German is 30th nationally and leads the Mid-American Conference in scoring this season and the 21st Century product attributes his success to his Gary roots.

German has had to work harder for his accolades. Some would consider him undersized, standing 6-feet tall and weighing 180 pounds — even adding 30 pounds in college — and he’s more than held his own.

He scored 21 against Northern Iowa’s A.J. Green, who is second in scoring in the Missouri Valley Conference. He upped his game with 24 points against Iowa State and likely NBA draft pick Tyrese Haliburton. He scored 16 points against Saint Mary’s College (California), outpacing Jordan Ford. Those were all game-highs and kept the Huskies (15-9, 8-3) in games on the road against some of the toughest competition the program has seen in recent years.

“Any time we play a high-major team, or someone that everyone else is talking about, Geno brings his best. He's at his best when his best is needed. He's an ultra competitor. He's not going to not try to be the best guard on the floor,” Montgomery said. “In each one of those games, like you said, he kept us in it. We had opportunities to win in Pittsburgh too — he (was) the best guard on the floor. So it just shows you that his competitiveness — it doesn't matter what game it is, he's gonna bring his best. And I love that about him."

German is tied for 30th nationally in scoring. He’s likely to earn a third-straight All-MAC honor, earning second-team recognition as a sophomore and junior.

His play this season could even be enough for MAC Player of the Year honors, but German is focused on finishing his Huskies career strong with his teammates, and they’re off to a great start.

The Huskies have won five straight games, and are in a virtual tie for the MAC West lead with Central Michigan.

Said German: “I'm not done trying to accomplish things. I just gotta keep working hard, just keep believing in my team and my coaches say I'm not done yet — accomplish individual accolades and team accolades.”

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