A Tiger with Demon bloodlines
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
When Greg Eccher would get the basketball and ready himself to fire off his shot from the corner of the court, one had to marvel at the exactness of his form.
The legs were at the proper width, with knees bent, the feet set just so. The elbow was tucked in at the correct angle as the hand waved at the released ball on the follow-through.
It was perfect form. Just how you would draw it up, and just how you would teach it to a young person.
Greg Eccher played basketball for the Glenwood Springs High School Demons from 1975 until his graduation in 1977. Eccher was a guard on the ’75 team that delivered coach Bob Chavez his first state championship trophy.
Eccher was a shooter who loved to play basketball. He especially enjoyed teaching the craft of wearing out nets to his younger brother, Rick, who would lead Glenwood to a second state title in 1979, and who also happened to be Greg’s biggest fan.
“He had an amazing shot,” Rick said. “It was textbook.”
Greg’s dedication to helping his brother endured even during the most trying of times. In the midst of chemotherapy treatments for testicular cancer during the winter of 1978, Greg would still manage to find his way to the Demon gym at practice time to help with any problems Rick might be having with his shot.
“He wasn’t feeling well at all, but if I was having trouble with my shot, he would come to practice and help me,” Rick recalled. “After watching me shoot for a minute, he knew what needed to be fixed.”
Rick remembers his brother’s courage, unfailing spirit, and willingness to help others during the time of his sickness.
“It was tough watching my brother go through everything that he did,” Rick said. “We would be in the hospital with him from sun up to sun down, and I never heard him complain one bit, or say ‘Why me?’ He inspired others in the hospital at that time by just talking with them and being positive.”
Greg Eccher lost his battle with cancer on Aug. 25, 1978. He was just 20 years old.
Rick Eccher, who now resides in Grand Junction, would go on to be an all-state guard for Glenwood, and the point guard at Mesa State College from 1980 to 1984. He vowed at the time of his brother’s death that if he ever had a son, his name would be Greg.
“I knew that’s what I would name him. I wanted to honor my brother,” Rick said.
Gregory Eccher was born to Rick and Jeanie Eccher on Sept. 1, 1995. His dad put a basketball in his hands as soon as the toddler was able to hold onto it without falling over.
Rick also signed on to be young Gregory’s basketball coach when he started the pee-wee program in the third grade, and, in the ensuing years, the two have formed a father-and-son bond that would be the envy of most.
“I coached him through his eighth-grade year, and I was pretty hard on him,” Rick recalls. “The message I always tried to get across was: Be a good teammate and work your tail off. Do the things on the court that you can control.”
On Dec. 13, Rick got an early Christmas present by getting to watch his son play at Glenwood Springs High School. Gregory is the starting point guard for the Grand Junction High School junior varsity squad, and was making his debut at his father’s old stomping ground wearing the orange and black of the Tigers.
Papa Rick was even fortunate enough to bump into Gregory before the team took to the court for warm-ups and point out the ’79 gold basketball in the Demon trophy case.
“I was lucky to be able to see him when I got there and show him the old gym and the trophy with his dad’s name on it. He acted really proud. It made me feel good,” Rick said with a hint of emotion in his voice.
Watching his son play at his alma mater flooded Rick with a wide range of emotions. Being surrounded by his high school friends Scott Bolitho, Doug Meyers and Jim Richmond, as well as a halftime visit from Glenwood junior varsity coach Norm Bolitho, made the evening even more special.
“I only wish we could have been in the old gym, where we all played, but to see the Demon uniforms brought back a lot of memories,” Rick said. “I’m glad Greg got to play in Glenwood.”
Though basketball is his son’s first love, Eccher admits it may not be his best sport. Last fall, young Gregory ran a personal record of 16 minutes, 30 seconds for the five-kilometer distance, and went on to qualify for the state 5A cross country meet for the Junction Tigers.
“He ended up finishing 45th at state as a sophomore, so he’s got some talent in cross country and track,” stated Rick.
The elder Eccher says he and his son talk often about his namesake. Dad says Gregory listens intently to the stories about basketball and the hardships life can sometimes bring us all.
“When we finish talking, he always says the same thing to me,” Rick said. “He only wishes he could have met his uncle Greg.”
For those who knew him, Greg Eccher was indeed a special person. He would be happy knowing there is a youngster in Grand Junction, with a similar name, following in his footsteps quite nicely.
Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer for the Post Independent.
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