Eastern's youth will be called upon in big way
Senior-less Eagles are experienced
If Eastern Washington University men’s basketball coach Jim Hayford was going to realize his goal in year-three of getting his team to the Big Sky Conference tournament he’ll do it under some less than normal circumstances.
Hayford’s Eagles would, for one, reach the postseason without a single senior, and his team would enter conference play tonight at Weber State having played the Big Sky’s most rugged schedule.
“I have never coached a team without seniors,” Hayford said. “I have always said your team is as good as your seniors are, but we don’t have any seniors.”
As for the schedule, based on the Ratings Percentage Index, or RPI, Eastern, 5-6 overall after its 82-65 loss at No. 15 Connecticut ranked 137th annually, but tops in the Big Sky.
In 2013-14 Hayford coaches his first season with own recruits hoping to turn around the Eagles 2012-13 season 10-21 record overall and 7-13 finish in the BSC.
He appears confident with his youth movement and how it stacks up with his Big Sky counterparts.
“We have sophomores and juniors that have played more than other sophomores and juniors,” Hayford explained.
And a lineup that has more international flare to it than a world’s fair.
Among the sophomores is the Big Sky’s 2012-13 Freshman of the Year, Australian Venky Jois who averaged 12.3 points and nine rebounds per game. The native from Boronia, Australia, was also the lone Eagle on the All-BSC team, earning an honorable mention selection.
Germany’s Martin Seiferth, a 6-foot-10 forward from Berlin, transferred from Oregon and finished his first season averaging 8.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
“When you look at our frontcourt, especially our starters Martin and Venky, they are as strong as anybody else’s front court in the conference except for maybe Weber State,” Hayford said.
Also returning is 6-6 sophomore forward Thomas Reuter from Breckerfeld, Germany who started 16 games and averaged 5.4 points a game.
Two other players who will see minutes, both redshirts, are Garrett Moon and Danny Powell. Frederik Jörg, a 7-foot, 1-inch, 285-pounder from Korschenbroich, Ger., is expected to redshirt.
Newcomers on the front line include 6-5 Felix Von Hofe, who played this past summer for Australia in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) U19 World Championships.
Another new addition is 6-7 Ognjen “O.G” Miljkovic from Belgrade, Serbia, via Bishop Montgomery High School in Calif.
The development of the Eagles’ backcourt last season, primarily Parker Kelly and Tyler Harvey, was a pleasant surprise for Hayford.
“Parker and Tyler can spread the floor laterally,” Hayford explained.
Kelly, a junior out of Gonzaga Prep, averaged 13.6 points in his last eight games and 9.5 points overall.
Harvey, from Torrance, Calif., caught fire down the stretch and averaged 16.5 points a game in Eastern’s last eight games. In his first 13 games he scored just 17 points, total.
“Tyler can play the point, but ideally he is a two guard in our system,” Hayford said.
The Eagles will rely on incoming junior college transfer Drew Brandon from Corona, Calif., who played last season at Sierra College, averaging 15.5 points.
Daniel Hill looks to get more minutes and Sir Washington, an incoming freshman from Las Vegas, is expected to redshirt this season.
Hayford entered the season 279-122 in 14 seasons as a head coach, including a 25-38 mark at Eastern.
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.