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King Takes Seat As Eastern Rebuilds Senior Guard Willing To Sacrifice As Aggers Constructs A Winner

As part of second-year coach Steve Aggers’ major off-season overhaul of his Eastern Washington men’s basketball program, Travis King has moved from starting point guard to a seat next to Aggers on the Eagles’ bench.

Instead of playing 30 or 35 minutes a game as he did last year, King figures he’ll be lucky to average 20 this year.

And instead of directing EWU’s offense on an almost exclusive basis, he expects to spend his senior season alternating between the point and his natural shooting-guard position.

Surprisingly, it’s a role change King welcomes - as long as the new and improved product Aggers puts on the floor each night lives up to its promise.

“I’d rather play 5 minutes a game on a team that has a chance to contend than play 40 a game on a team like last year’s,” King said.

King, who came to Eastern in the fall of 1995 as a walk-on transfer from Walla Walla Community College, didn’t expect much out of his first season of Division I basketball. He knew he was hooking on with a troubled program that had been rocked to its foundation by the unseemly events that led to the forced resignation of Aggers’ predecessor, John Wade.

But he expected more than the dissension-plagued 3-23 season that unfolded.

Not even the scholarship King was awarded after the fall quarter of his junior year could ease the sting of 23 losses and an 0-14 death march through the Big Sky Conference schedule.

King, a 5-foot-11, 175-pounder, who had averaged 23 points a game as a sophomore shooting guard at WWCC, did what he could from the point-guard position he had inherited by default. He started 20 of 26 games and averaged just more than seven points and three assists per game.

Still, everywhere he looked there were signs of impending disaster - teammates huddled together off the court in their little cliques, tiny home crowds comprised primarily of doubters and a string of losses that mounted embarrassingly each week. It was a nightmare that King somehow survived. And now he seems rejuvenated by the departure of seven disgruntled members of last year’s team and the dawn of Aggers’ second season that was ushered in by the arrival of eight new recruits boasting talent and character.

Throw in the availability of 6-10 center Kevin Lewis, who redshirted last season after following Aggers from Kansas State, and the reasons behind King’s optimism becomes obvious.

“The coaches’ objective was to get a whole new look,” explained King, who joins senior Luke Egan and sophomore Mike Sims as the only holdovers from last year’s roster. “They recruited Division I athletes and good people, as well, because a lot of times you get really good athletes and they don’t produce because of things off the court that are hindering them.”

A case in point from last season was 6-8 center Melvin Lewis, who missed half the year while the NCAA investigated the authenticity of some junior college credits he had received before signing with EWU.

“The new people they brought in are a great bunch of guys,” King added. “They all work hard and we all get along.

“The major difference between this year and last was that last year we didn’t have much team camaraderie. We didn’t hang out much other than basketball. You’d see a couple of guys here, a couple of guys there and a couple of guys over there, but now we all get along and hang out off the court.”

Those new bonds were not forged by accident.

“It’s like Travis said, this is a good group of guys,” Aggers explained, “and they’ve developed a good chemistry in a short period of time. That’s kind of unusual with a lot of new guys, but we tried in our recruiting to recruit personalities as much as abilities.”

Aggers and his staff brought in five junior college transfers and three freshman. And all, with the exception of freshman Deon Williams, a partial academic qualifier, who is ineligible this season, have contributed to Eastern’s two exhibition wins and 1-1 start to the regular season.

“They’re all positive-attitude guys, who are working hard and believing in what we’re trying to do,” Aggers said. “Everybody’s on the same page, whereas a year ago, that wasn’t the case.

“I was a new coach and there were a lot of holdover guys who had their own agendas - different things they felt were important. But these are our guys now, and they get along.

“Now we just hope that equates into performance and results.”

King, by providing some much-needed senior leadership and instant offense off the bench - even in his reduced playing role - has bolstered Aggers’ hopes.

“He’s just a tremendous kid,” Aggers said of his team captain. “He’s one of the real success stories of college athletics right here in our area. He came to our program as a virtual unknown walk-on and earned a starting job.

“Sure, his role has changed at this point in time. He’s not a starter, but he’s a guy who can come off the bench and shoot the ball for us. The only reason he played the point last year was because we didn’t have anybody else, so he wasn’t able to be as effective offensively as I think he can be.”

King’s leadership qualities and selflessness remain unquestioned.

“He is extremely unselfish and one of the hardest workers in our program,” Aggers added. “He doesn’t care if he has to play center, as long as he’s on a team that has a chance.

“You try to bring in guys who will be good senior role models and Travis has been a great one. He works extremely hard and believes in our program and our system 100 percent. He’s a great example to our new guys and young guys, not only in work ethic but in buying in to what we’re trying to get accomplished.”

King realizes it is still early in the rebuilding process, but he seems convinced Aggers and his staff will soon have the Eagles soaring in the rarefied air atop of the Big Sky Conference.

“(The program) is definitely on the way up,” King said. “With the recruiting they’ve done this year, they’ve taken that first step. Now it’s just a matter of how fast it’s going to happen, because I know Coach Aggers will get to the top.

“Hopefully, it’s this year. I’m a senior and I don’t have much time.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: EASTERN WASHINGTON MEN’S BASKETBALL ROSTER Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. Hometown Stephen Moss-Kelley F 6-6 218 Fr. Oakland, Calif. Trevor Garcille C/F 6-10 240 Jr. Lake Charles, La. Rodrick McClure G 5-10 170 Jr. Las Vegas Travis King G 5-11 175 Sr. Ephrata Zac Claus G 6-2 190 Jr. Lincoln, Neb. Luke Egan F 6-7 235 Sr. Melbourne, Australia Mike Sims F 6-8 220 So. Federal Way Jon Berger F 6-8 220 Jr. Stockton, Calif. Michael Lewis G 6-6 200 Jr. Berkeley, Calif. Kevin Lewis C/F 6-10 230 Jr. Midwest City, Okla. Karim Scott F 6-6 185 Jr. Fresno, Calif. Eddie Turner III F/C 6-8 260 Fr. Claremont, Calif.

SCHEDULE (All times Pacific) Date Opponent Time Nov. 9 Blue Angels (Exhibition) Win,99-84 Nov. 17 Global Sports (Exhibition) Win, 103-72 Nov. 22 at New Mexico Lobo Classic (vs. Grambling) Win, 81-55 Nov. 23 at New Mexico Lobo Classic (vs. New Mexico) Lose, 69-53 Nov. 26 vs. Western Montana 8:00 Nov. 30 at San Diego State 7:05 Dec. 4 vs. California-Irvine 7:05 Dec. 7 vs. Washington State 7:05 Dec. 14 at Sam Houston State 5:30 Dec. 17 vs. Santa Clara 7:05 Dec. 21 vs. Gonzaga 7:05 Dec. 28 at Washington 1:00 Jan. 2 at Northern Arizona 6:05 Jan. 4 at Cal State Northridge 7:05 Jan. 9 vs. Cal State Sacramento 7:05 Jan. 11 vs. Weber State 7:05 Jan. 16 vs. Montana State 7:05 Jan. 18 vs. Montana 7:05 jan. 22 at Weber State 6:05 Jan. 25 at Portland State 1:05 Jan. 31 vs. Portland State 7:05 Feb. 6 at Idaho State 6:35 Feb. 8 at Cal State Sacramento 7:35 Feb. 13 vs. Cal State Northridge 7:05 Feb. 15 vs. Northern Arizona 7:05 Feb. 20 at Montana State 6:35 Feb. 22 at Montana 6:35 Feb. 27 vs. Idaho State 7:05 March 6-8 Big Sky Conference Tournament TBA

This sidebar appeared with the story: EASTERN WASHINGTON MEN’S BASKETBALL ROSTER Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. Hometown Stephen Moss-Kelley F 6-6 218 Fr. Oakland, Calif. Trevor Garcille C/F 6-10 240 Jr. Lake Charles, La. Rodrick McClure G 5-10 170 Jr. Las Vegas Travis King G 5-11 175 Sr. Ephrata Zac Claus G 6-2 190 Jr. Lincoln, Neb. Luke Egan F 6-7 235 Sr. Melbourne, Australia Mike Sims F 6-8 220 So. Federal Way Jon Berger F 6-8 220 Jr. Stockton, Calif. Michael Lewis G 6-6 200 Jr. Berkeley, Calif. Kevin Lewis C/F 6-10 230 Jr. Midwest City, Okla. Karim Scott F 6-6 185 Jr. Fresno, Calif. Eddie Turner III F/C 6-8 260 Fr. Claremont, Calif.

SCHEDULE (All times Pacific) Date Opponent Time Nov. 9 Blue Angels (Exhibition) Win,99-84 Nov. 17 Global Sports (Exhibition) Win, 103-72 Nov. 22 at New Mexico Lobo Classic (vs. Grambling) Win, 81-55 Nov. 23 at New Mexico Lobo Classic (vs. New Mexico) Lose, 69-53 Nov. 26 vs. Western Montana 8:00 Nov. 30 at San Diego State 7:05 Dec. 4 vs. California-Irvine 7:05 Dec. 7 vs. Washington State 7:05 Dec. 14 at Sam Houston State 5:30 Dec. 17 vs. Santa Clara 7:05 Dec. 21 vs. Gonzaga 7:05 Dec. 28 at Washington 1:00 Jan. 2 at Northern Arizona 6:05 Jan. 4 at Cal State Northridge 7:05 Jan. 9 vs. Cal State Sacramento 7:05 Jan. 11 vs. Weber State 7:05 Jan. 16 vs. Montana State 7:05 Jan. 18 vs. Montana 7:05 jan. 22 at Weber State 6:05 Jan. 25 at Portland State 1:05 Jan. 31 vs. Portland State 7:05 Feb. 6 at Idaho State 6:35 Feb. 8 at Cal State Sacramento 7:35 Feb. 13 vs. Cal State Northridge 7:05 Feb. 15 vs. Northern Arizona 7:05 Feb. 20 at Montana State 6:35 Feb. 22 at Montana 6:35 Feb. 27 vs. Idaho State 7:05 March 6-8 Big Sky Conference Tournament TBA


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