The start of Saxony Lutheran boys basketball player Luke Eggemeyer’s junior campaign didn’t go exactly as planned after missing the first two games of the season due to injury.
Eggemeyer suffered not one but three fractures in his foot while playing for the boys soccer team in the Class 1 District 1 Championship Game back in November. This prevented Luke from participating in any type of athletic training or competition for a little over one month.
“The main thing was getting over the other injuries that go with it, like not being able to walk on it and having to use crutches,” he explained. “You’re only using one leg, and your hips and knees get all messed up. Overcoming that was probably the worst part of it.”
Saxony ended up winning the district title match and advanced to the Class 1 Final Four for the second time in school history while Eggemeyer was forced to watch from the sidelines.
“During the state run for soccer, my coaches and parents are the ones who helped me get over [missing out on playing],” Eggemeyer said. “They kept on telling me that I’d get back to where I was that summer and would maybe even be better than before. I give all my credit to my coaches and the players, too. They just kept helping me get through it.”
The Crusaders went 1-1 without Eggemeyer, who stands at 6-foot-6, and had a 2-6 start to the season through their first eight. However, Saxony is now on a 10-game winning streak and has gone 13-2 overall since Dec. 28.
“Right now everything feels pretty good,” he said. “I knew that my junior year was going to be a big year, but when I got hurt it was devastating. It felt terrible to get hurt — I was so angry. Now that I’m back, though, I’m hoping to win a district championship with my team and just continue to play basketball.”
Eggemeyer is Saxony’s second-leading scorer with an average of 14.8 points per game, but he’s far and away the Crusaders leader in rebounds at 9.2 per contest. Luke is also hitting 55.6% of his shots and is 70.9% at the free-throw line while averaging 1.1 blocks per game.
“My role is to rebound, block shots and score the open baskets right next to the goal,” Luke laughed. “I like to help my teammates push the ball even if I have to dribble down the court, and I can do that because a lot of times the big person is guarding me. They’re not going to come guard me 75-feet from the basket, so I’ll take the ball down the court.
“Our team chemistry is insane — we bond so well together. We have our outside shooter John [Hartmann], and we have our passer Max [Richey]. We also have Landon [Ochs] — if we need a basket and he’s taking it to he lane, I can count on him to take it. Then I can always count on Aaron [Zoellner] to be the biggest body in the post. He’ll clear a path and make a layup if he has to, but most importantly he’ll take the charge.”
Filling up the scorer’s sheet with Eggemeyer has been fellow junior John Hartmann, who has produced a team-high 15.5 points per game. Hartmann leads Saxony in 3-pointers made with 46 while also averaging three assists and two steals per game.
Most recently in a 69-37 win over Perryville last week at home, Luke and John combined for 40 points with 20 apiece as the two are making for quite the scoring tandem at Saxony. They both know it, too.
“I actually did tell John during the game, ‘Your outside game and my inside game [go well together],’” Luke said. “He replied, ‘What are they going to do? Guard me on the 3-point line? I’ll pass it to you for two points.’ He then said, ‘What are they going to do — guard you inside? You’ll pass it out to me for three points.’
“Having that duo is wonderful because like he said, you can’t guard both inside and outside without giving up something. Being able to score inside with Zoellner and I, then he and Richey being able to make 3-pointers is huge for us.”
One reason why it didn’t take Eggemeyer long at all to continue being one of the best players on the court for Saxony this winter is because of how much time he spent playing with SEMO Select during the AAU season. Luke has been playing on the AAU circuit ever since he was in the fourth grade.
“I’ve traveled all across the United States to play basketball — it’s so much fun,” he said. “I can definitely say my footwork, technique and confidence are the three main things AAU ball has helped me improve. You get the confidence on the court to be yourself and do whatever your role is on the team. Playing in AAU is the best decision I’ve ever made.”
One fellow SEMO Select player who helped Luke grow his game over the summer was Cape Central junior LaTroy McIntosh, who has helped lead the Tigers to a current record of 21-1 overall. Eggemeyer also worked with Jackson junior Gavin Holdman plenty and members of SEMO Select.
“McIntosh is 6-7 — he’s the dude who’s taller than me,” Eggemeyer laughed. “Holdman is as tall as I am, and they definitely helped me with playing on the inside. As far as playing outside the paint, I give credit to honestly the whole team. They all helped me work on my handling and shooting ability.”
The person who has really helped Luke with his confidence was SEMO Select 16U head coach Kyle Thoma. Eggemeyer said that Coach Thoma told him every day that, “I know you can do good things and be good on the basketball court.”
Eggemeyer and SEMO Select played in a national tournament where there were only 32 teams, and Luke’s team finished in the top eight.
“Whenever you play against that level of competition, you learn what to do when and what not to do in certain areas,” Eggemeyer said. “I definitely learned new moves from other people inside the post and outside on the perimeter. Playing against great competition helps you play in big-scenario games like a district championship.”
Saxony (15-8) is the No. 3 seed in this year’s Class 3 District 2 Tournament, which begins on Monday. The Crusaders will face Scott City (10-14) in the first round.