Powerful Competitor

Brendon Merritt, an Eagle basketball great with an indomitable will to win, died on May 16, 2024.


The force behind Eastern’s first-ever appearance in the NCAA Basketball Tournament, Brendon Merritt was the kind of guy every coach and every player wants on his team. Tenacious, tough, passionate, loyal, driven-to-win: all are descriptors both teammates and competitors used to define him. The attributes of a champion.

Merritt arrived at EWU as a junior transfer from Tacoma Community College, where he led the TCC Spartans’ 2001 team to a 28-5 record including a 25-game winning streak (He was inducted into the TCC Hall of Fame in 2013.)

After a redshirt year due to a back surgery — Merritt’s uncanny ability to overcome injury was a hallmark of his legendary toughness — the 6-foot, 4-inch-tall guard immediately made an impact. As his close friend and Eagle teammate, Keith Brown, told The Spokesman-Review: “Every single game would be a highlight. He was the ultimate competitor.”

The highlights were especially bright during Merritt’s second Eagle season. Alongside fellow All-Big Sky Conference guard Alvin Snow in the backcourt, during the regular season Merritt played a key role in positioning Eastern for a post-season run. During conference tournament play, Merritt dominated the stat sheet, leading Eagle scorers with 22 points as they cruised to victory over Northern Arizona University in the 2004 championship game. After cutting down the net with his coaches and teammates, Merritt was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

The Eagles’ head basketball coach at the time, Ray Giacoletti, has said that, if not for the injuries that continued to pile up, Merritt had a legitimate shot at a successful NBA career. Instead, he played for two professional seasons in Europe before returning to his hometown of Tacoma, where he loved being a husband to his wife, Erin, and dad to his son, Brendon Jr., and stepson, Brantley.

Brendon James Merritt was 43 years old.