UNCG alumnus Eric Cuthrell once put up one of the greatest stat lines in basketball history. It was in the Spanish LEB league — where NBA guard Jose Calderon used to play.
He scored 31 points, had 21 rebounds, 7 assists and 8 blocks in just 20 minutes of playing time — all against his former team, Casajur Cordoba.
“It was one of those moments where I was feeling it,” Cuthrell said. “My teammates wanted me to have a good game and they kept passing me the ball and I couldn’t miss.”
Still, Cordoba’s official website remembers him fondly, labeling him as “King of the LEB” and writing: Eric Cuthrell left an indelible mark for his humanity as it passes through Córdoba. He was a winner and a professional and did everything with a smile, always helping the younger ones. (Translated)
Later he would win the LEB MVP league, and then go on to eventually play for the HEBA A1 Greek league, one of the toughest basketball competitions the international scene has to offer.
But before all that, he was just a kid running up and down local neighborhood courts in Lexington, North Carolina — a small city in Davidson County that largely revolves around barbecue more than it does producing professional athletes.
Still, athletic genes ran in the family; his older brother was an exceptionally talented football player.
“I believe he could’ve made the NFL…if someone had kept him on the right track,” Cuthrell said.
Unfortunately, Eric watched his brother suffer from psychological issues that kicked him off that path.
“Not knowing about mental health issues or diagnosis at the time, my family assumed he was being a typical teenager…[eventually] he ran away to New York. I wouldn’t see him again for ten years.”
Even with those bumps in the road, Cuthrell was able to focus his energy on becoming a better player.
“There was one specific moment in my life when I realized that I wanted to commit my life to playing basketball,” Cuthrell remembers. “It was the moment when Coach Jones approached me my sophomore year.”
He skyrocketed from there. According to local sportswriter Al Thomy in 1993, Cuthrell — who, at the time, was six-foot-six — was averaging 13 points, 13 rebounds and 8 blocks per game.
He was a rare talent, and his goal was obtaining a scholarship. But in a painfully ironic twist, his love for the sport turned into his biggest setback.
Coming home from work, he saw a game going on at one of the local parks. He was still in his work clothes, but it must have been too tempting, and one breakaway dunk attempt later he ended up hyperextending his knee.
The diagnosis wasn’t good: he had fractured his kneecap.
“I was forced with a major decision in my life. Either have surgery now and risk missing my senior season and a possibility to get a scholarship, or play on it, see what happens, and go from there.”
Cuthrell decided on the latter, despite just how intense the injury was. “This is one injury that I pray no one would have to play with…. I remember lying down flat on my back with my knees bent and trying to extend my legs straight up in the air. Only one leg would extend.”
But with the help of some great selling from Coach Jones, that injury didn’t keep him from earning a chance with UNCG’s basketball squad.
After rehabbing his knee and bulking up his muscles, Cuthrell became a consistent double-double on the floor, a versatile weapon for UNCG.
During his senior year he would end up being a leader on the best UNCG team in history to this day; they beat Liberty in the conference finals and almost upset Cincinnati, a two seed, in the NCAA tournament.
This was an unbelievable feeling,” Cuthrell said. “As a team, we knew we had to redeem ourselves after losing the last year’s title game on a buzzer beater.”
From there, the UNCG Hall of Famer moved on to professional basketball, which he played until a torn Achilles forced him out of the game.
He’s at peace with the way it ended. He thanks God for his talent and his family for traveling with him throughout his long journey. He stays in touch with his older brother, the football standout, more than ever now.
These days he’s working as a qualified mental health professional, helping people restore their psychological health and reach their goals — greatness didn’t end with basketball.
Eric Cuthrell has a killer work ethic, the drive to help people and an appreciation of those who helped him get there.
Every Spartan should be proud to share the blue and gold spirit with an alumnus like him.