Nebraska's version of Bo Jackson was chasing his dreams so hard that he was wearing himself out.
In his third year in the Florida Marlins' minor league baseball system, Erick Strickland knew he could compete at a high level in baseball. But as a standout on the Nebraska basketball team, he felt he had potential in that sport as well.
"My manager with the Marlins, Carlos Tosca, sat me down and said, 'Erick, you can make it in Major League Baseball. But I also believe you can make it in the NBA,'" Strickland recalled. "I thought about it and I knew where my heart was."
Strickland, a three-sport star at Bellevue West, is the only male athlete to earn All-Nebraska honors in three sports (football, basketball and baseball). In the end, he went with basketball.
After a nine-year NBA career, Strickland is glad he followed his heart. Still, his journey wasn't easy.
"You come out of college and you get labeled," he said. "Not tall enough to be a two. Not enough ball-handling skills to play the point. So my thing was that I had to break down those barriers."
Strickland played both positions admirably. He developed a 3-point shot. He became one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. And he built a reputation as a good character guy.
In a career spent with Dallas, Milwaukee, Boston, Indiana, Vancouver and New York, Strickland had 3,780 points, 1,317 rebounds, 1,203 assists and 422 steals in 501 games.
Since ending his NBA career in 2005, Strickland was interviewed in 2012 for a spot on Tim Miles' Nebraska staff, coached at his alma mater, Bellevue West, for a season and coached at New Mexico Highlands for a season.
"I'm open, and I'm ready to come home," Strickland said at the time of his Nebraska interview. "If the Nebraska situation doesn't work out, I'm willing to look at some other things."
He’s been inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Basketball Hall of Fame, the Omaha Sports Hall of Fame and the Nebraska Black Sports Hall of Fame.
Played for: Bellevue West High, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks, Vancouver Grizzlies, Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks
Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: Tony Veland of Benson High, whose best sport was football. "He was very versatile and had good speed,'' Strickland said.
Best moment as an athlete: "Probably just getting to the NBA when no one thought I could, and being here as long as I have.''
Early sign of greatness: Strickland was bumped up from the fourth- and fifth-grade basketball league and put in the sixth- and seventh-grade league. He was named MVP.
At Nebraska: 1,586 points, 503 rebounds, 414 assists and 257 steals in 127 games
NBA: 3,780 points, 1,317 rebounds, 1,203 assists and 402 steals in 501 games
Strickland was No. 14 in the inaugural Nebraska 100 list in 2005. See more about the 2005 list »