DePaul legend Mark Aguirre experienced a lot throughout his basketball career.
During his three seasons at DePaul, the Blue Demons were the best they have ever been. Aguirre led the team to its only Final Four appearance in 1979 and won the James Naismith Award in 1980 as the nation’s best player. Aguirre was a star, averaging 24.5 points per game.
His college success eventually followed him to the NBA. In 1981, the Dallas Mavericks selected Aguirre as the first pick in the draft and he played for them for eight seasons. When he was traded to the Pistons in 1988, Aguirre played a key role with the Detroit team. His spark off the bench helped the Pistons to two championships.
Now, Aguirre has earned yet another accomplishment in his illustrious basketball journey.
Aguirre was inducted to the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame Wednesday with 16 other honorees at the Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero, Ill.
“I’m really honored to be here,” Aguirre said, addressing the crowd. “I live a storybook life and there were so many people involved in that story that it was almost impossible to believe.”
Aguirre first thanked his mother who he said came to Chicago on a train from Arkansas and went into labor when she arrived in the Windy City. His story eventually reached a man that had a tremendous influence in his life – former DePaul head coach Ray Meyer.
Their first encounter, however, led Aguirre to believe that Meyer had it out for him.
In high school, Aguirre attended a basketball camp in the little-known town of Three Lakes, Wisconsin. The area was unfamiliar to Aguirre and he soon found himself under the wrath of Meyer, punishing Aguirre because Meyer thought he had broken a camper’s bed.
Meyer forced Aguirre to take out the trash for the rest of camp.
“At this point, I’m considered the best player in high school. You’re not supposed to treat me like that,” Aguirre said. “I go back home and every school in the United States was at my door. So who would think the same guy who dragged me out my door, made me do garbage, would ever be apart of that equation?”
However, there was another side of Meyer that gave Aguirre the best advice he claimed he’s ever gotten.
“At the end of that season [Meyer] said ‘Well I know everybody’s after you but what I want to say to you is what they are telling you is right: You are a great basketball player,” Aguirre said. “‘But what I want to tell you is you could be better.'”
In his speech, Aguirre also thanked the city of Chicago for influencing his decision to choose DePaul. Aguirre, who was being heavily recruited by powerhouses like UCLA and Notre Dame, said that citizens asked him constantly on the “L” if he was going to DePaul.
Interestingly enough, Aguirre’s speech didn’t mention his journey in the NBA.
“The NBA was great, but when I came to the NBA, I was complete already,” Aguirre said. “I enjoyed the NBA and it was great winning titles, but my growth came at DePaul.”
And what was Aguirre’s largest growth under Meyer?
“Make me a man,” Aguirre said. “He turned me from a kid to a man.”