SEASON OUTLOOK: Second-Year Coach Hopes to Continue Progress
Note: The 2012-13 EWU men’s basketball season opens Sunday (Nov. 4) at approximately 3:30 p.m. when the Eagles face Concordia (Ore.) in an exhibition game at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. Concordia is a member of NAIA and the Cascade Collegiate Conference, and was 14-16 a year ago. The game is preceded by a women’s exhibition game between Eastern and Carroll College at 1:05 p.m. There is no charge to attend either game.
After hosting and winning a Big Sky Tournament game, continued Eagle success hinges on blending experienced backcourt with an inexperienced frontcourt
The goal is the same, and the task at hand is just as formidable.
Head coach Jim Hayford hopes the progress made
a year ago carries over to his second season at the helm of the
Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team. With the
ultimate goal of becoming a perennial participant in the
postseason, he’ll have to replace an All-Big Sky Conference
point guard and most of the team’s rebounding punch from a
year ago in his first season at the helm.
Eastern finished 15-17 overall and was 8-8 in Big Sky Conference play to finish fourth, and the Eagles hosted and won their first Big Sky Conference Tournament game since 2006. Eastern improved by five victories from the year before, as the Eagles equaled their most wins since Eastern made its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 2004.
“We want to stand by the same goal we put out there last year – we want to be a perennial postseason team,” Hayford said. “When you look at the Big Sky Conference and you talk of teams in the postseason mix, we want Eastern Washington to be in it.”
After losing four seniors to graduation from his first Eastern team, Hayford’s 2012-13 squad will return two starters and four other returning letterwinners. His team also includes three players who redshirted last season – featuring a pair of NCAA Division I transfers – with six newcomers rounding out his squad.
“Whether it’s a rebuilding year, a strong year or a team with a young roster, we want to be a part of the postseason and that hasn’t changed,” said Hayford. “Last year the team and fans were excited to host and win a postseason game for the first time in a long time. That goal remains the same.”
One guard and three players 6-7 or taller were lost from last year’s team. To help blend the new big men with an experienced group of perimeter players, Hayford had his team go on a six-game tour of Canada in September. The Eagles came away unbeaten and better for the experience.
“I have learned that the hard part about experience is getting it,” said Hayford. “We do need to get some experience in the frontcourt, so that’s the most important blend. We have to blend together an experienced backcourt with an inexperienced frontcourt to make Eastern Washington basketball a winning team.”
Most of Experience is in the Backcourt . . .
Eastern’s experience is mostly situated in the backcourt where two starters return -- senior guard Jeffrey Forbes and senior forward Collin Chiverton. Forbes averaged 6.9 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game as a junior, and enters his final year with 92 games of experience on his resume (82 as a starter). He is 27 games behind the school record for career games played.
Chiverton, who was selected as the Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year despite an injury-plagued season, averaged 13.9 points and 2.1 rebounds per game. He made 88-of-217 3-point attempts for 40.6 percent, and had 12 performances of at least 20 points.
The other returning letterwinners include sharp-shooting guards Parker Kelly and Kevin Winford, as well as forwards Jordan Hickert and Jaylen Henry. Kelly made 35-of-78 (44.9 percent) 3-point attempts as a freshman, and finished with a 4.8 scoring average (6.5 in league play). Winford played sparingly as a junior, but enters his senior season with 88 games of experience (including 35 as a starter) and 110 3-pointers made in his career.
The 6-foot-9 Hickert averaged 3.2 points and 2.1 rebounds in the 2011-12 season, and the 6-7 Henry averaged 0.7 rebounds and scored two points in 17 games played. Henry is expected to redshirt this season.
“The neat challenge about this season is that we have experience in the backcourt, but we have a very inexperienced frontcourt,” said Hayford. “We will be able to get leadership from people like Jeffrey, Collin, Kevin and Parker – guys who have been through it before. At the same time, we’re excited about our new players.”
Three players redshirted last season, including freshman guard Tyler Harvey. The others are Justin Crosgile, a point guard who previously played two seasons at St. Joseph’s in Pennsylvania, and 6-10 Oregon transfer Martin Seiferth.
“The next level of experience we have are three players who were a part of our practices every day last season,” said Hayford. “Justin and Martin transferred from high-major schools, and we do expect to see them on the court providing leadership and solid play. Tyler is going to be a very good basketball player before his career is over – he gives us versatility at three guard positions. But he’s one of six freshmen too.”
Crosgile averaged 5.9 points, 1.3 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game in his 45-game career at St. Joseph’s from 2009-11. Eastern’s last two point guards have earned All-Big Sky Conference honors -- Cliff Colimon a year ago (first team) and Glen Dean before him (second team 2011, honorable mention 2010).
“The question 12 months ago was how Cliff was going to replace Glen Dean, so now the question is whether Justin can replace Cliff,” explained Hayford. “The answer is to be determined, but we think Justin is a fine player and played well at St. Joseph’s as an underclassmen. That is going to be fun to watch unfold.”
Newcomers round out Eastern’s roster, including City College of San Francisco transfers Ivan Dorsey and Garrett Moon. Freshmen include a pair of players from Australia (guard Daniel Hill and 6-7 forward Venky Jois) and two from Germany (6-6 forward Thomas Reuter and 7-1 center Frederik Jörg). Rounding out the newcomers is high-scoring 6-6 forward Danny Powell from Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Ariz.
Hill won’t be eligible until December at the conclusion of fall quarter classes at EWU. Hayford is considering redshirting Jörg in order to put a year of eligibility between he and Seiferth.
Eagles Look For Rebounding Help from Seiferth and Newcomers . . .
Seiferth, a sophomore who played in 12 games for the Ducks in the 2010-11 season, will have to be a force inside for an EWU team that lost its top four rebounders from a year ago. Cliff Ederaine averaged 7.3 boards and Laron Griffin added 7.0, with those two players combining for 178 of EWU’s 383 offensive rebounds.
“The one thing we do lose is rebounding,” admitted Hayford. “Laron Griffin and Cliff Ederaine did the lion’s share of the rebounding for our team last year. We need to get more rebounding out of the small forward position between Collin and Parker. But one of the great things about our freshmen is that we can go bigger at the three spot (small forward) with Thomas or Danny, and that should help some there. I hope to see more balanced rebounding – we need to do a better job rebounding defensively and offensively by committee.”
Hayford is excited to see what his new freshmen can do on the court, especially his trio of small forwards/power forwards.
“Danny, Venky and Thomas are interchangeable players with different skills,” explained Hayford. “But between the three of them, they have everything you would want at those two positions. It will be really fun to see those three players develop together and fill out the middle of our lineup. Martin and Frederik are both big centers for the Big Sky.”
Hayford expects Dorsey to provide instant shooting help for the Eagles, who set school records for 3-pointers made (283) and attempted (793) last season. However, the team’s 35.7 percent accuracy is a concern, outside of percentages by Kelly (44.9 percent) and Chiverton (40.6 percent). Guard Jeffrey Forbes was at 36.0 percent despite being hampered by a hand injury suffered in January. He was at 42 percent before his injury and 26 percent after that.
Dorsey was a first team All-State player as a sophomore at City College of San Francisco, averaging 12.9 points per game while making 64-of-137 3-point shots (46.7 percent). He and EWU teammates Collin Chiverton and Garrett Moon helped CCSF to the 2010-11 California Community Colleges Athletic Association title, as Dorsey was on the winning end of 54 of 59 games in junior college.
“Ivan can score – he’s a great shooter,” Hayford said. “I’ve had several junior college coaches say he was the best shooter in California junior college basketball last season. That was something we couldn’t count on night-in, night-out from that position last year, and that’s why we recruited him. I also expect a healthy Jeffrey Forbes to shoot the ball well at that position, and, of course, Parker and Collin are proven 3-point shooters.”
Offensively, Hayford hopes his team can use outside shooting and its transition game to manufacture points, but at the same time, continue to take care of the ball.
“Our system is predicated on three things,” he explained. “First, we want to push the ball and be a transition team. Two, we want to really take care of the ball and be a low turnover team. And three, we want to shoot the ball well from deep – we are going to recruit players who can shoot it and stretch the defense. When you shoot well from the outside it opens up good things on the inside. When we are playing well offensively, we are doing those things.”
On defense, Hayford sees his 2012-13 team adjusting somewhat from last year when the players he inherited were well-suited for pressure defense. However, the result was a school-record 723 fouls, leading to a huge free throw discrepancy for opponents. While Eastern made 467 free throws on 659 attempts, opponents went to the line 266 more times (8.3 per game) and scored 172 more points (5.4 per game).
“Defensively we’re going to mix our defenses up a lot more,” he added. “Last year we were a really good pressure defense team and we forced turnovers well. But we put a little too much pressure on because we fouled too much. I think we can play a little smarter, but we had a very, very athletic team and it made sense to really get into people and get after them. I wish we would have done it a little smarter on some nights. This year we’ll be a little more balanced with how we play defensively.”
Eastern Goes Perfect 6-0 on Canada Tour . . .
Going into his team’s six-game preseason tour of Canada in September, Hayford knew it was an opportunity for his team to gain experience and blend together.
But he and the Eagles got more than they bargained for.
The six-game, seven-day trek across British Columbia not only helped blend nine newcomers on the floor with his veteran players, but off-the-floor the experience was even more valuable. Hayford’s biggest chore during the trek was developing camaraderie and a team-first attitude among a melting pot of a roster consisting of Germans, Australians and Americans from five different states. On the floor, he had to blend together returning letterwinners, redshirts, four-year transfers, a junior college transfer and lots of incoming high school players.
“It really was a great trip,” said Hayford. “Our team enjoyed and got to know one another better, and we improved in many areas.”
“We took a portion of each day going through a mental fitness curriculum and I’m very pleased with the buy-in each player had,” he continued. “We know the competition in the regular season will be more difficult, but we were pleased with our play and the outcome of the games.”
The team’s trip was captured on a blog that included game recaps, videos and facts about the players. It was another tool Hayford utilized to bring his team together. The blog may be found at: http://ewuhoops.blogspot.com
NCAA Division I schools are allowed to make one preseason foreign trip every four years, including up to 10 practices and six games. Of the 15 players on his roster, 14 of them played during the tour.
The team departed on Sept. 6 and played six games in six nights. After opening with an 87-70 win over Thompson Rivers University, Eastern headed west and edged the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C., 77-73. Eastern then defeated the University of Victoria 77-58 on Sept. 9 before another narrow triumph over the University of The Fraser Valley, 84-79. Eastern concluded its tour with overwhelming victories over Quest University in Squamish (93-46) and Trinity Western (86-57) in Langley. The Eagles returned to Cheney on Sept. 13, with classes at EWU beginning on Sept. 26.
In winning six games in six nights, Hayford’s squad had a different leading scorer each night.
“I think that shows we are going to have a deeper team with more balanced scoring,” he predicted. “We have a team with a lot of newcomers and we know there are adjustments that need to be made. This trip goes a long way to expedite the process of becoming familiar with one another on the court.”
Eagles Open 2012 Season With Six Games on the Road
Before Homestand . . .
The EWU men’s basketball team will play its first six games away from home, but then will play five of six in an improved Reese Court setting.
Eastern opens the season Nov. 10 at Washington State, but won’t play at home until Nov. 30 when Cal State Fullerton visits. After non-conference home games versus Idaho (Dec. 6) and Seattle (Dec. 10), as well as a non-league game at UC Davis (Dec. 17), Eastern opens its Big Sky Conference schedule at home before Christmas versus Weber State (Dec. 20) and Idaho State (Dec. 22).
Eastern will play its home games for the 38th season at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. But last spring new premium seating was added on the scorer’s table/team benches side, and the existing wooden bleachers were moved to the ends of the court. In addition, a new video board will be added to the existing scoreboard at Reese Court this fall.
Although the Eagles officially don’t open at home until Nov. 30, they will host an exhibition game versus Concordia (Oregon) on Sunday, Nov. 4 at approximately 3:30 p.m. at Reese Court, following an exhibition game for the Eastern women’s squad.
In all, Eastern’s 2012-13 schedule includes 10 games versus eight schools who participated in national postseason tournaments a year ago. Eastern will play six games against those opponents on the road, and four games at home.
Two appeared in the NCAA Tournament – Saint Mary’s (Nov. 18 on the road) and Montana (Jan. 3 on the road and Feb. 2 at home). Washington State (Nov. 10 on the road) played in the College Basketball Invitational Tournament, and lost to Pittsburgh 89-69 in the championship game.
The other five postseason opponents on EWU’s schedule were all in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT). Weber State (Dec. 20 at home and March 9 on the road), Idaho (Dec. 6 at home) and South Carolina Upstate (Nov. 21 on the road) advanced to the second round. Utah Valley (Nov. 20 on the road) and Cal State Fullerton (Nov. 30 at home) played in the first round.
Eastern’s games versus Washington State, Utah Valley, South Carolina Upstate and Santa Clara are all part of the 2012 College Basketball Experience (CBE) Hall of Fame Classic. The WSU game will take place in Pullman, Wash., and the other three will be played in Santa Clara, Calif., as part of the CBE Classic, which is hosted by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
The Eagles will also play at home in an ESPN BracketBusters game on Feb. 22 or 23. With the addition of North Dakota and Southern Utah into the Big Sky Conference, Eastern’s league slate will include 20 games for the first time.
The Big Sky Conference Tournament will take place March 14-16 at the site of the regular season champion. After being a six-team affair for most of its history, it will now include seven teams, with the regular season champion receiving a first-round bye. The tournament will include a quarterfinal round with six of the teams playing, followed by semifinals and the championship game.