MEDFORD - Junior Eric Savage of the Tufts University men's basketball team scored a game-high 18 points in his collegiate debut back on November 18, 2016. From that moment on, head coach Bob Sheldon and the Jumbos recognized they had a top-notch player who would be in their program for the next four years. Now a junior captain, Savage has a career scoring average of 11.8 points per game including a 14.8 ppg mark this season.
The Jumbos have a high-octane offense as they have averaged 84.3 points per game helped in large part by Savage's return to the line-up after missing some early games with an injury. His slashes to the hoop, solid three-point shooting and ability to get to the line where he's making 84.1 percent of his freebies (37/44) make him one of the most versatile scorers in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC). Savage also averages 5.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Coach Sheldon's Jumbo roster is young with only three upperclassmen, so Savage has helped provide leadership to the team on and off the court.
From South Brunswick, New Jersey, Savage is an Economics major who has appeared in 67 career games while at Tufts. As a sophomore, he started all 25 games Tufts played, averaged 13.6 points per game, and scored a career-high 27 points against Webster. He appeared in all 29 games as a first-year and was a big piece of the Jumbos offense. In his first NCAA Tournament as a freshman, Savage scored 14 or more points in all three games the Jumbos played in. In the first round against Salem State and in the Sweet 16 at Babson, he netted a team-high 14 and 20 points respectively. Savage and the Jumbos have posted a 47-23 record includuing two NCAA Tournament wins since his arrival on campus.
GoTuftsJumbos.com recently asked the junior guard some questions to get to know him a little better ...
Why did you choose to major in Economics?
ES: I have wanted to be an astronaut since I was in third grade when my teacher Mrs. Zeeman gave everyone a Scholastic magazine on the solar system. It's weird how some memories just stick with you. When I got to Tufts, I had already planned out my first four semesters in order to pursue a degree in astrophysics. After my first semester, I met with my advisor and talked with my parents and decided to make a transition to a major with a wider range of job opportunities after graduation. In high school I loved economics, mainly thanks to my awesome teacher, Mr. Lolli. I had already taken EC 5 at Tufts to fulfill a social sciences requirement and had enjoyed it so I figured that was a good path to head down and I haven't looked back.
What has been your favorite game to be a part of so far in your Tufts career?
ES: My favorite game thus far in my Tufts career was probably our home, regular-season conference matchup against Williams in the 2016-2017 season, my first year here. We won by 25, against an eventual final four team and with the win we captured the first ever regular-season NESCAC title in program history, meaning we secured the No. 1 seed for the NESCAC Tournament. It was an awesome game to play in with a great atmosphere and I'm just glad I could contribute to a major milestone in the program's history.
What are the team's goals for NESCAC play this winter?
ES: Our team goals for NESCAC play are the same every year. We want to be competitive in the regular season and put ourselves in a position to make noise in the post-season. I firmly believe the NESCAC is far and above the best Division III basketball conference in the country, making this goal challenging, but attainable year in and year out. This season in particular, due to our youth, I think it is important that we are learning from every game and continuing to take steps in the right direction so that we can start to gel at the right time, when it matters most.
How has the team improved since early November when you started practicing?
ES: The team has made great strides since early November. Specifically, of late, our ball movement has been tremendous and our defensive help rotations have come a long way from where they were. With a young, inexperienced team there is a lot to learn and the collegiate game moves much faster, making these lessons often difficult to grasp. Our guys have done a great job rolling with the punches and using every opportunity that they can to learn and develop.
Being on a team with few upperclassmen, in what ways have you stepped up as a leader?
ES: I have been in leadership roles on sports teams before, but this year has been much different due to such a young core group of guys and only two returning upperclassmen. In previous years I could silently rely on guys to understand things like a difficult defensive rotation, but this year as the sole captain, situations require me to use my experience to be vocal and help my teammates know where to be and when to rotate so that we can all be on the same page. That being said, it has been a learning experience for all of us, and I think we are all getting better each day at executing our role in order to best serve the team. For me, that means being a playmaking leader both offensively and defensively as well as a vocal leader on and off the court.
What aspect of your game do you think has improved the most since arriving at Tufts?
ES: I would have to say my three-point shooting. In high school I took one to two three-pointers per game and probably shot it at around 30 percent maximum. Despite a slow start the first few games of my junior year, my shooting from beyond the arc has improved significantly.
What NBA player do you try to style your play like and why?
ES: One thousand percent LeBron James. In my opinion, LeBron is the greatest basketball player of all time. His ability to pass, rebound, shoot, drive, score, and defend at a high level is incredible. I strive to be the best version of myself every time I step on the court and I am a believer in setting high goals. Therefore, I try to style my play after the best player I know.
If you shot 100 foul shots right now, how many would you make?
ES: Statistics would say 85, but I have to stay true to my belief in high goals so ... 100.
Who is your favorite professional sports team?
ES: I am a huge New York Football Giants fan. Been a tough couple of years recently, but the future with Odell and Saquon looks bright. As a good friend of mine always says, it's the new-age of the Greatest Show on Turf!
What are some of your favorite movies?
ES: I am a huge movie buff, so I would say Shawshank Redemption, Interstellar, Wedding Crashers, The Departed, Fight Club, Talladega Nights, and The Wolf of Wall Street.
Compiled By Athletic Communications Intern Bryan Costello