WINCHESTER — Eric Klekas became Umpqua Community College’s sixth leading scorer of all-time after putting up 16 points in Wednesday’s South Region win at Chemeketa.
The 6-foot-1 sophomore guard has scored 1,013 points for the Riverhawks since joining the team in 2017.
“That was never one of the goals,” Klekas said. “I was lucky enough to come here and play in a great system. It’s just a lot of hard work paying off.”
Klekas has scored 522 points in 26 games this season, averaging just more than 20 points per game.
“I couldn’t be happier on how Eric’s career at UCC has gone,” UCC coach Daniel Leeworthy said. “I had big expectations for him when he arrived, but he has exceeded them tenfold.”
The Riverhawks have three more regular season games, and are on course to make a run at the Northwest Athletic Conference tournament.
The 20-year-old can still move up in UCC’s list of all-time leading scorers.
“(Klekas) has a chance to finish as the second all-time scorer in school history,” Leeworthy said. “I have coached 14 years in college basketball at the NCAA DI and DII levels and he is the best shooter I’ve coached. But he’s also more than a shooter. He can score in many ways and his defense has come a long way since arriving.”
Anthony Steward holds the men’s record with 1,617 points during his time at UCC from 1987-89. Carlos Richard, who played at UCC from 1989-1991, is second with 1,103 points followed by Erin Cowan with 1,078. Cowan was also on the 1989-91 teams.
But for Klekas, a devout Catholic, moving up in the all-time leading scorer chart isn’t a goal.
“That’s not something I’m going to go out there and try to do,” Klekas said. “I’m just going to go out there and do what I’ve been doing all year and that’s help my team win games. We’re in a great position to win the South Region. I just want to do what’s best for the team, not what’s best for me.”
His No. 1 goal is for the Riverhawks to become South Region champions, and his career goal at UCC was to transfer to a four-year college after graduation.
He’s had several offers to play basketball at four-year schools, but will wait to make his decision until after the season ends.
Klekas has a 3.9 GPA and is on track to graduate with a transfer degree in the spring. His ultimate goal is law school, and getting some of his college paid for with basketball scholarships will weigh in his decision of what school to transfer to.
“I like school, I take it seriously,” Klekas said, adding he enjoys history and reading.
Klekas grew up in Elko, Nevada, a town of about 20,000 people. He was named the 3A North Division League MVP in his junior and senior season at Elko High School. He was also a first-team all-state selection both years.
“His leadership and competitiveness come naturally for him as a son of a coach, and constantly competing with his other siblings growing up,” Leeworthy said. “He’s a special human being with a big heart that is going to do great things in this life after basketball.”
Klekas is the son of Chris and Julie Klekas. He also has nine siblings, eight brothers and one sister. All his brothers play basketball and his three older brothers have all gone on to play college ball.
“We’re as proud of his academics as we are of his athletics,” Chris Klekas said. “He has a lot of brothers and they’re always playing, going out to the gym and playing in the front yard and working on their shot.”
Chris Klekas has coached at Elko High for 25 years, but started his coaching career in 1984 at Jackpot, Nevada.
“(Eric) shot the ball in high school, he spent a lot of time on it,” Chris Klekas said. “When he misses, I’m surprised that he misses. He’s a good kid and the bottom line with Eric is that he wants to win and he’ll do whatever it takes to win.
“He’s unselfish. He’ll force once in a while, but he wants to win the game. He’s a true competitor.”
Chris Klekas said sometimes the family will huddle around the computer or the iPad to watch the live stream of the Umpqua games on YouTube.
Klekas’ grandfather, Gus Klekas, was inducted into California’s high school Hall of Fame after coaching at Bishop High School for 30 years and had the gymnasium named in his honor.
When asked whether he’s considered coaching as a future, Klekas said, “I’m focused on school right now, but we’ll see.”
Klekas will likely add to his point total Saturday when the Riverhawks host Clark. He’s 26 points away from catching Chris Lynn, who scored 1,042 between 2001 and 2003.