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2012-13 Creighton Men’s Basketball Profiles: Gregory Echenique

We are profiling each member of the 2012-13 Creighton Bluejays men’s basketball team. Check in weekdays leading up to Creighton’s regular season opener against North Texas (November 9) for an introduction to this season’s Bluejays, from freshmen to seniors.

Gregory Echenique (#00 / C / 6-9 / 260 lbs. / RSr.)

Check out our photo gallery of Gregory Echenique (courtesy Adam Streur and Mike Spomer for WBR)

This season marks the end of Gregory Echenique’s college basketball odyssey.

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Echenique was indoctrinated by legend Dan Hurley at St. Benedict’s High School, one of the nation’s most successful high school basketball programs. Echenique was a blue chip recruit out of New Jersey and decided to stay near home to begin his collegiate career. As a freshman at Rutgers, Echenique led all Big East freshmen in rebounding, blocks, offensive rebounds, and defensive rebounds while averaging 8.4 points and 8.4 rebounds in one of the most rugged hoops conferences in the country.

He represented his native Venezuela at the FIBA Americas Championship in 2009, a trend of international competition that would continue. But he made it through only 7 games at Rutgers as a sophomore, suffering an injury and ultimately deciding to leave the Scarlet Knights program. Rutgers’ loss was Creighton’s gain, as Echenique transferred to play for Dana Altman and the Bluejays.

He sat out the winter of 2010 and the first semester’s worth of games that fall. Echenique made his Bluejays debut with three games stuffed between the final exams in December 2010 and the start of Missouri Valley Conference play less than two weeks later. Echenique adjusted to life in the Valley, posting solid averages of 10.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as a sophomore.

Last year, as a junior, Echenique’s scoring decreased slightly but his rebounding improved to 7.3 boards per contest. He led the Valley with 57 blocked shots, patrolled the lane with authority, and ultimately became the first Bluejay in history to earn the distinction of MVC Defensive Player of the Year.

Before and after his junior season at CU, Echenique represented his country in Olympic qualifying tournaments. He averaged 6.1 points and 5.1 rebounds during the summer qualifying in 2011, and then posted 7.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in two contests during the 2012 Olympic Qualifier. He played against professionals at every turn, practiced exhaustively, and reshaped his body to fit the fast pace of the international game.

As a result, no one looks better in Creighton’s new uniforms than Echenique. As he prepares for his last year of college hoops, and with a realistic shot at a future in the professional ranks, Echenique is ready physically and mentally to carry the load yet again in the low post for the Jays. There are few frontcourt players in the Valley who can match his strength, and rumors of improved offensive capabilities have Creighton fans salivating at the potential improvements of the Echenique-Doug McDermott tandem in the paint.

We caught up with Echenique at Creighton’s Media Day:

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