Basketball has brought the world to former Lake Forest High School standout Eddie Cage.
“Europe has been really great,” said Cage, who lives in Andorra, a small, southwestern European country bordered by Spain and France.
“I have also played in Dubai and Luxembourg for short stints. It has really been a blessing to get the chance to play in Europe for so many years. I have been to a lot of places that, growing up, I never thought I would see. When we do get some free time, which is very little, I’ve been able to go to Athens, Milan, London, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Berlin, Hamburg, Glasgow and other places that are not as familiar.”
His final hoops season at Lake Forest High School came 16 years ago. Despite his European travels, his memory of playing for the Scouts is clear.
“It was my sophomore year, I was playing on varsity, and we had back-to-back home games against Zion-Benton and Libertyville,” Cage said. “In the first game against the Zee-Bees, I hit a turnaround jumper with about six seconds left to give us the lead by a point; we went on to win that game.”
Next up was the Libertyville Wildcats and that’s a game in 1994 that Cage met his fans.
“The game was tied up and for some reason they decided to press us aggressively,” he said. “I flashed to the middle of the court and received the pass and drove down the court for a breakaway dunk with about two seconds left. After the dunk, I walked over to our student section with my hands lifted up and everybody rushed the floor. My friends that were the same year as me were the first ones on the court. It was pretty awesome.”
At Lake Forest, this 6-foot-7 powerhouse was nicknamed “The Flyswatter” for his shot-blocking skills.
Former Lake Forest hoops star Tyler Smith was two years behind Cage in school.
“Ed was the man at the time,” Smith said. “He was 6-7 and athletic with a soft touch. He was a senior when I was a sophomore and I really looked up to him. If I could only dunk like Eddie! He made it look so easy.”
Smith recalled that Cage was more than just a teammate.
“He was always really nice to me, and I can remember him giving me rides home after practice, which was really cool,” Smith said. “It was frustrating sometimes not being as good as he was, so I just tried to work harder to make up for my lack of experience to keep up with his superior athleticism.”
Ben Moss was two years older than Cage, but recalled what an impressive player he was even as a sophomore.
“Without a doubt, Eddie was the most valuable player on our varsity team,” Moss said. “As a sophomore among seniors, he was a force inside the paint and played above the rim while the rest of us aspired to touch the rim.”
Basketball Became His Game
Cage moved to Lake Bluff when he was 8 years old.
“Really, I played basketball because I was tall and I was good at it,” he said. “I actually wanted to play football, but back then, Lake Forest was a wishbone option running school, and so as a receiver, I was not getting the ball very much and I did not develop as quickly as I did in basketball. I was a great blocker though.”
When he was 12 years old, he participated in a camp taught by former DePaul coach Ray Meyer. And he was hooked for life.
“On the first day of the camp, the coaches decided to put me with the oldest group at the camp,” he said. “And for a week I played with those guys and I held my own. That was when I decided to get serious about basketball.”
By the time he reached the varsity at Lake Forest, he was on the verge of stardom.
“I was moved up to varsity, and in my first game of the season against Deerfield I almost had a triple-double (19 points, 11 rebounds, 9 blocks).”
By his junior year, he was scoring in double figures on a nightly basis. There was the 29-point outing against Libertyville and 32 points against Niles West. But he saved his best game for state-ranked Zion-Benton.
“At the time they were 17th in the state and playing very well,” he said. “They had a very strong backcourt with Kiki Curry and Theandre Kimbrough. I went 12-for-12 from the field, 7 of 8 from the free throw line for 31 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and we got the win.”
A New Role
Next up for Cage and his teammates was new Scouts coach Bill Donlon.
“And I remember one of the first things he said was that no one on his team would average more than 14 points a game,” Cage said. “And in my head I could not believe it because I averaged more than that as a sophomore.”
Cage’s scoring slowed, but the Scouts were making progress during his senior year. Lake Forest cracked the top 20 in the state. He was sharing the ball with the likes of Ryan Douglass, Drew Lerner and Jeff Harper.
“I also got to play with the other great Lake Bluff legend Tyler Smith,” Cage said. “At the time being young and stupid, I was actually angry with coach Donlon for my senior season. But without him coaching me, I would have never been ready for Division 1 basketball. I have to thank him for that.”
Of course, Cage was ready to play Division I basketball. Would it be at Marquette or Bradley?
“I received a lot of letters from schools all across the country and phone calls as well,” he said. “The two most important things to me were that I wanted to be close to home, and I wanted to play right away.”
He chose Bradley.
“A few things stood out to me about Bradley,” Cage recalled. “One was playing with projected lottery pick Anthony Parker (now with the Cleveland Cavaliers), another was playing in front of 10,000 people every night.”
Yet another was that the coach, Jim Molinari, at the time had a 98 percent graduation rate. “He really put an emphasis on the books and getting my degree was very important for me,” Cage said.
Overcoming an Injury
At Bradley, Cage suffered a horrific eye injury that almost cost him his future career.
“The injury occurred when a teammate was attempting to block a shot, missed the ball and his middle and pointer fingers hit me in the face,” Cage said. “I suffered a scratched cornea, lacerated eyelid, fractured cheekbone and an orbital blowout.”
There was some good news here.
“I was very blessed that one of the boosters for Bradley had a brother-in-law in Chicago who was an ear, nose and throat doctor,” he said. “After two operations, he was able to repair my orbital socket and I only had to sit out for 10 weeks.”
His basketball travels throughout Europe keep him overseas for a good nine months of the year. That has some drawbacks.
“I missed my two nephews going through Lake Forest and being standout football players,” Cage said. “First was Earl Jackson, who graduated in 2008 and played linebacker for the Scouts. And more recently T.J. Jackson, who graduated in 2011. I think between the two of them I only saw four total varsity games. But I still get paid to do what I love, so I have no room to complain.”