Eyl expected to win

Eyl expected to win

Catching up with … Steve Eyl

By Lynn Houser, Herald-Times Sports Writer

January 23, 2007

Indiana’s Steve Eyl dribbles against Duke’s Alaa Abdelnaby during the Hoosiers’ regional semifinal win over the Blue Devils on March 20, 1987. H-T file photo
From the Jan. 23, 2007 Bloomington Herald-Times

You won’t find the name of Steve Eyl among any Indiana record-holders, but anyone who was around during IU’s 1987 national championship run will remember the lanky 6-foot-6 forward.

Eyl was one of the first subs off Bob Knight’s bench, a guy he could go to for defense, rebounding, ball-handling and a little bit of scoring.

He averaged only 3.4 points during his four-year career, but he had a knack for the timely basket.

Who could forget Eyl’s coast-to-coast dash for a game-clinching dunk against UNLV in the ’87 NCAA semifinal?

“Those are some fond memories,” Eyl said over his cell phone last week. He now lives in Encinitas, Calif., and is the president of a company that sells ultrasound machines to veterinarians.

“We had a confidence that we would win,” Eyl said of the ’87 Hoosiers. “I can’t remember a game where there wasn’t an expectation to win.”

Eyl came to IU from Hamilton, Ohio, where he played basketball and football at Badin High. He was such a good football player that the Minnesota Vikings invited him to their mini-camp after he graduated from IU in 1988. Eyl took one look at the many larger species in camp and decided football wasn’t for him.

“I was just a tall, thin kid with a long neck,” he said.

At age 40, Eyl can still run with the herd, though. He keeps in shape by competing in triathlons around California, including the Escape From Alcatraz event which requires swimming the shark-infested waters around the famous prison.

“I’m no Iron Man,” he said. “I’m just trying to stay in shape.”

Eyl is happily married to college sweetheart, Anne, an alumnus of the IU pom squad. They have two children, Gabrielle (10) and Alex (7).

Eyl was a junior in the 1986-87 season. One of his best games was at Michigan, where he collected nine points and eight rebounds in an 85-84 win. He can still see Coach Knight wildly sprinting off the court after Steve Alford’s game-winning runner.

“The one thing I remember from that game was Coach Knight running off the court jumping and waving his hands,” Eyl said with a chuckle. “He was saying something to the crowd, too, but I don’t dare tell you that.”

The UNLV game might have been Eyl’s best. Eyl had to play significant minutes when Daryl Thomas got into early foul trouble. Eyl immediately made his presence felt with a tip-in. Eyl’s mission was to help defend the likes of UNLV forwards Gerald Paddio and Jarvis Basnight. He also helped out with the ball-handling chores against the UNLV press.

There was one time in the first half when Eyl weaved his way through the entire UNLV defense and scored. He played so well that Knight started him the second half. Although he also got into foul trouble and had to be taken out, Knight had him back on the floor at the finish.

With the Hoosiers clinging to a 93-88 lead in the last 20 seconds, Eyl grabbed a long rebound on the fly and took off for the basket. Prudence would have called for him to slow up, run some clock and wait for the foul, as teammate Joe Hillman was pleading for him to do, but Eyl would have none of that.

With Basnight closing fast, Eyl took it all the way to the rim, dunked it and was fouled. He landed just a few feet from the IU pep band and proceeded to high-five the horn section. Eyl wasn’t the only one who was pumped. Knight leaped off the bench and pumped a fist.

“I was a little excited, knowing we were going to the final game,” Eyl said. “In those settings you either pull the ball back out or take it in and score. I knew emphatically I was going to score. I remember Hillman yelling at me, but that wasn’t the play at the moment.”

Eyl’s three-point play were the Hoosiers’ final points in a 97-93 victory. Eyl took only three shots from the field and hit all three of them. He finished with seven points, five rebounds and two assists in 20 minutes of action.

Eyl’s senior year found the Hoosiers suffering through growing pains with a freshman class headed by Marion recruits Jay Edwards and Lyndon Jones. In Edwards and Alford, Eyl had the privilege of playing with two of IU’s purest shooters.

“I still don’t know how Jay could make a shot so soft,” Eyl said. “It was like it was just floating in air. Steve had the more traditional shot. There is the attitude out there that Steve could only shoot if someone set it up for him. That’s ridiculous. Steve could flat-out score.”

Although Eyl found himself in Knight’s doghouse more than once, he worked his way out and won Knight’s admiration.

“Everybody understands that when you are playing for him you are not that good,” he said. “Then after you graduate, you suddenly become a ‘good’ player. That’s his style, the way he operates.

“A lot of my professional success goes back to Coach Knight. I try to run my business with the same principles, hard work and preparation. The ability to really prepare, to put yourself in a situation where you can succeed, it is something I look for when I hire people. It’s an intangible and it’s very extraordinary.”

Steve Eyl

Age: 40

Residence: Encinitas, Calif.

Occupation: president, Sound Technologies

(medical imaging equipment)

Family: Wife, Anne; children, Gabrielle (10), Alec (7).

IU career (1984-88)

• Role player, defensive stopper

• Career field goal percentage of .569

• Member of 1987 Big Ten and NCAA champions