Feb. 22, 2007
By Matt Brendich
Assistant Director of Media Relations
It took some time for Northern Illinois junior forward Egan Grafel to adapt to life in DeKalb following his transfer from Cloud County Community College in Concordia, Kansas.
After all, Grafel was making a jump from a school that had an enrollment of 3,321 to Northern Illinois which holds 25,208 students.
"It took awhile to get used to everything at NIU," Grafel said. "The environment was just different.
"Cloud County held only a couple thousand people, so it was quite a transition."
Once Grafel settled in, he established a routine that certainly keeps him occupied.
"My daily schedule is class, basketball and homework," Grafel said. "There's not a whole lot to get used to besides that."
Grafel meshes well with others and especially with his teammates. Helping Grafel acclimate himself is a strong family base, with his parents and his four siblings, three of which are adopted.
Grafel's older brother Rusty is white, while his brother Teryn and sister Sydney are black. His parents, Keith and Roma, who are both white, gave birth to Grafel's youngest brother Saeger after being told they would not be able to conceive.
"I was pretty young at the time and I thought it was good to have a brother," Grafel said. "As I grew older, with my mother's situation not being able to have kids, it was a surprise then, but being able to realize what happened a few years down the road is a really cool thing."
Grafel, who was adopted as well, cites his upbringing as a reason as to why he's so even keeled.
"The experience itself is just growing up for the most part," Grafel said. "Being adopted with five kids is one thing, two white, three black, it mixes things up a bit.
"We were all adopted at birth and that's all we've grown up with and all we've known," Grafel continued. "I've been fortunate."
Grafel still has a relationship with his biological mother to this day.
"She was young when she had me," Grafel said. "I never met my biological dad and I'm not sure what the exact circumstances were, but she thought it was the best thing to give me up for adoption.
"Through the adoption, she chose my parents and from there on, because it was an open adoption, I've seen her once a year at least, if not more," Grafel continued. "We have a good relationship and a good friendship."
Though his family is mixed, Grafel is thankful that people take the time to ask questions about his relatives, rather than make assumptions.
"You see something like that, you don't even think twice about it really," Grafel said. "You assume.
"When you explain what the situation is most of the time, people are usually good with it," Grafel continued. "It's a little different, but you're going to get some different looks.
"For the most part, everywhere that I've gone and the people I've met have taken the time to actually see behind everything."
Grafel has experienced a lot during his life, and he wouldn't trade anything in the world for it.
"Everybody is different," Grafel said. "With my adoption, I was adopted at birth and I grew up not knowing anything different.
"Somebody who is adopted at seven is going to be different at birth," Grafel continued. "I think they should do whatever they want to find out why they were adopted.
"I look at it as a blessing."
Basketball may not have been in his blood, but thanks to his father, Keith, a high school basketball coach, Egan has learned to love the game.
"Growing up I rode the grade school bus and I would get dropped off at the high school and go watch basketball practice [while my dad was coaching]," Grafel said.
Grafel could not help but soak in all the basketball information and knowledge that was surrounding him.
"With my dad being the coach, the access and being around basketball at that level when you're that young and just being around it all the time helps," Grafel said.
Grafel has learned many lessons from his father, but there are three that Egan heeds to this day.
"The one thing that he instilled in me is always be competitive and always keep going and never give up," Grafel said.