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Gary's Eugene German

Gary's Eugene German had NBA pre-draft workouts with the Bulls and Bucks Thursday and Friday but doesn't know if he'll return to Northern Illinois for his final two seasons.

Eugene German doesn't want pep talks, a slap on the back or positive words of encouragement.

Don't worry. He's got this.

Northern Illinois University's determined point guard from Gary needs no motivation in his quest to one day play in the NBA.

Any snubs along the way only feed the fire that burns inside since he first bounced a basketball without falling over.

German led the Mid-American Conference in scoring last season (21.6 points per game) but was only a second-team selection. Second team. Are you kidding?

NIU's 13-19 overall record, going 6-12 in the MAC and 1-13 on the road didn't help his cause.

"It did (tick) me off," he admitted. "I'm all about team but I wanted that individual accolade."

German wasn't among the top 60 college players invited to last weekend's NBA pre-draft combine in Chicago, but it wasn't as big a blow to his ego as that MAC snub.

"It aggravated me a little. I've seen a lot of those guys on the circuit when I played AAU and definitely feel I can compete with any of them," he said.

"I just took it all in, went back to the gym, and worked harder. I didn't let it get me down. It just made me stronger."

We all have a story to tell and that's been Eugene German's challenge — proving himself every time he laces up those sneakers and takes the court.

"I was always under-rated in the city where I'm from," German said of his prep career at 21st Century. "They always picked the big-name guys from Indianapolis. I was never highly recruited and that just made me hungrier."

He led the state in scoring his junior and senior years and that was enough to wake up officials for the Indiana All-Star Game in 2016.

German was named to the team and thanked them with a 34-point effort against the Kentucky All-Stars at Louisville, followed by a 20-point MVP performance in Indianapolis.

His hoops journey continued Thursday and Friday with pre-draft workouts for the Bulls and Bucks.

"Yeah, man. It was very exciting," German said of his first visit to the Advocate Center, where the Bulls train. "I saw all the (championship) banners with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

"I've never been a Bulls' fan but I always liked 'D' (Derrick) Rose and his game."

German worked out in a group with Loyola's Ben Richardson and Donte Ingram, Michigan State's Nick Ward, Chicago State's Fred Sims Jr. and Louisville 7-footer Anas Mahmoud.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg let his staff run the drills.

"They told me I had a great workout, I played hard, but didn't give me any feedback on my game," German said.

Then it was off to Milwaukee for a Friday look-see.

"I was the youngest in both workouts. They told me the skill level is there, I just need to get stronger," said the 6-foot, 180-pounder. "I was surrounded by all these older guys, picking their brains, talkin' basketball and getting knowledge from everybody."

German told me he was the only one to have an individual workout at the Milwaukee stop which also featured Virginia Tech's Justin Robinson, Nevada's Caleb Martin and Loyola's Ingram.

By not hiring an agent, German can return to NIU with two years of eligibility remaining. These were his only workouts, so he'll sit down with his parents to decide the next move.

The NBA draft is June 21 and teams have free-agent camps for those who aren't selected.

"I'm the underdog in with all the big cats," German said, smiling.

So what else is new?

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

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