His spirit lives on
Zena Ray "Zeke" Upshaw was born on May 27, 1991, in Chicago, Illinois. Zeke had an infectious smile and a generous heart. People young and old gravitated towards him because he exuded humility, respect, and joyfulness.
Even as a child, Zeke always gravitated towards basketball and began playing organized basketball at the age of six. Throughout his life, he belonged to several basketball organizations ranging from Biddy Ball to a player in the Nike International Professional Tournament.
Zeke received a high school scholarship to the University of Chicago Laboratory School where he was named the most valuable player (MVP) of the Independent School League, an athletic league comprising nine private secondary schools in the Chicago metropolitan area. Zeke also became the first Maroon player to receive a professional basketball contract.
In 2009, he went on to play college basketball at Illinois State University where he graduated with a degree in apparel, merchandising and design which only continued igniting his impeccable fashion sense. He continued his education and passion for basketball by transferring to Hofstra University for his final season with NCAA eligibility and obtained a master's degree (MSEd) in higher education leadership and policy studies.
Zeke began his professional basketball career overseas in Slovenia with the Helios Suns and then moving on to Basketball Esch in Luxembourg. In 2016, Zeke decided to return to the United States and joined the Grand Rapids Drive, an American professional basketball team of the NBA G League, an affiliate of the Detroit Pistons in the National Basketball Association (NBA).
In the midst of obtaining his education, grueling practices, and exhaustive games, Zeke always found time to give back to his community through volunteer work and youth mentor-ship. Zeke was a Man of action and had a compassionate spirit who enjoyed life, loved his family, friends and always lent a helping hand to anyone who needed guidance or comfort.
On March 24, 2018, after scoring 11 points in the regular-season finale and propelling the Drive into a playoff spot with a 101–99 home win, Zeke suddenly collapsed on the court. Two days later on March 26th, at the age of 26, Zeke Upshaw died of sudden cardiac death.
High School: Averaged 24 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists as a junior in 2008.
Illinois State University (2009-13): Averaged 1.6 points per game, averaging more than 7.4 minutes played per game.
Hofstra (2013-14) –Averaged 17.3 points per game, which increased over his 2.5 average from 2012–13 was the largest increase in Division I basketball. He led the CAA in scoring at 19.8 points per game and earned second-team All-CAA honors
Helios Suns (2014–15) - Averaged 9.8 points and 3.2 rebounds per game.
Basket Esch of Luxembourg (2015-16) - Averaged 20.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.
Grand Rapids Drive (2016–18) - Averaged 6.5 points and 3.0 rebounds per game. Zeke took the team to their very first playoff appearance in franchise history.