November 3, 2006

Eagles Open the Season Saturday

Nov. 3, 2006

The Eastern Washington University men's basketball team opens its 2006-07 season Saturday (Nov. 4) afternoon with an exhibition game versus Northwest Nazarene of Nampa, Idaho. Tipoff at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash., is 2:05 p.m. Pacific time.

The scrimmage is free and open to the public as Eastern officially opens the season on Nov. 10 at Gonzaga. The team's official home opener is Nov. 18 versus Lewis-Clark State.

"We're excited to get going," said Eagle head coach Mike Burns. "It will be nice to play somebody in a different color uniform. Practices, for the most part, have gone very well. But we have to get better."

The Northwest Nazarene Crusaders are a member of NCAA Division II and the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. They were 12-15 overall and 7-11 in league play a year ago.

Marcus Clift, a graduate of Spokane's Ferris High School, played one season at Montana State before transferring to Northwest Nazarene. He averaged 10.2 points and 6.3 assists a year ago. Former Eastern assistant coach Brandon Rinta is now an assistant for the Crusaders. The team's head coach is Tim Hills, who is 453-409 in 27 seasons as a collegiate head coach.

Eastern is coming off a season that saw it win seven more games than the 2004-05 EWU squad. Eastern finished 15-15 overall and 9-5 in the Big Sky Conference. The Eagles advanced to the Big Sky Conference Tournament semifinals, but lost to eventual champion Montana in overtime. The Grizzlies went on to win a game in the NCAA Tournament.

Playing for a team with just one senior, Rodney Stuckey burst onto the scene with one of the best seasons by a freshman in NCAA Division I history. Among his many awards was being honored as Collegeinsider.com Freshman of the Year after a record-breaking season unmatched in the history of Eastern Washington and by any freshman in the 43-year history of the Big Sky Conference.

The 6-foot-4 guard from Kent, Wash., set seven school records, including a 24.2 scoring average per game that is a Big Sky record for a freshman and the seventh-best overall in the history of the league. His average ranked eighth in NCAA Division I. His 726 total points is fifth-best in league history, the most in the conference in nearly 30 years (since 1978-79) and the most-ever by a freshman in the BSC.

Stuckey became just the 36th player in NCAA Division I to lead his conference in scoring as a freshman. He won league MVP and Freshman of the Year honors, and in the process, became the first player in Big Sky history and the 12th in Division I history to earn league MVP honors as a freshman.

Acclaim Already Begins for Stuckey in 2006-07: Without even stepping a foot on the basketball floor for the 2006-07 season, Rodney Stuckey has attracted national acclaim and attention.

Recently, Stuckey was one of 50 players selected as a preseason candidate for the men's 2006-07 Wooden Award All-American Team as selected by the National Preseason Selection Committee for the John R. Wooden Award. The list is composed of 50 student athletes who, based on last year's individual performance and team records, are the early frontrunners for college basketball's most coveted trophy.

He was also selected by Collegeinsider.com as one of 16 players nationally on its preseason All-America team. He was also selected to that web site's Mid-Major preseason All-America squad.

Another impressive accolade came from Lindy's Magazine, which ranked him as the third-best shooting guard in all of NCAA Division I. Gary Parrish from CBS Sportsline selected Stuckey as the sixth-best shooting guard in the nation.

Stuckey was named a first team selection on the collegehoops.net All-Underrated Team in September and CHN also ranked him as the 34th-best player in the nation (eighth among sophomores).

He was also recognized by Frank Burlison on Fox Sports.com as a sophomore to watch. Burlison quoted Southern California head coach Tim Floyd - a former head coach at Idaho and the Chicago Bulls - as saying Stuckey was "the best NBA prospect we played against last season." Stuckey scored 15 points and had five rebounds in EWU's 69-51 loss to the Trojans at the Great Alaska Shootout.

In addition, Stuckey has or will be featured in various collegiate publications and web sites, including Slam Magazine and Basketball Times.

Eagles Picked to Finish Third: Just one point separated first and second place in the 2006-07 Big Sky Conference Men's Basketball preseason media and coaches' poll. In the coaches' poll, Northern Arizona is first and in the media poll, Montana is first. Eastern was third in both as it finished just five points out of first in voting by the coaches and just 11 points from first in the media poll.

Eastern received one first-place vote in the coaches' poll and 54 total points. Seven media members voted the Eagles first, and EWU earned 222 points in that poll.

Coaches' Poll
School (First-place votes) Points

1. Northern Arizona (4) 59
2. Montana (4) 58
3. Eastern Washington (1) 54
4. Portland State 41
5. Sacramento State 37
6. Weber State 27
7. Idaho State 22
8. Montana State 17
9. Northern Colorado 8

Media Poll
School (First-place votes) Points

1. Montana (9) 233
2. Northern Arizona (13) 232
3. Eastern Washington (7) 222
4. Portland State 149
5. Sacramento State 143
6. Montana State 109
7. Weber State 95
8. Idaho State 93
9. Northern Colorado 30

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