They arrived on campus less than two years ago, unheralded and, for the most part, simply grateful for the opportunity to play basketball at the NCAA Division I level.
Tonight, as members of perhaps the shortest-tenured senior class in the history of Eastern Washington University’s men’s basketball program, they play their final home game as the Eagles attempt to keep their postseason tournament hopes alive when they entertain Portland State in a Big Sky Conference game that tips off at Reese Court at 7:05.
Despite the fact that those four seniors – Milan Stanojevic, Adris DeLeon, Andy Genao and Jeff Christensen – have spent only two seasons as Eagles, they expect to feel a great deal of emotion during tonight’s pregame Senior Night ceremonies.
“It will definitely be emotional for me,” said Genao, a 6-foot-3 wing from Bronx, N.Y., who redshirted last year after transferring from Prairie View A&M and is averaging 7.5 points and 5.8 rebounds. “My parents won’t be out here from New York … but it’ll still be emotional realizing my college career might be over and that I can never get another year – or even a few more games – back.”
Christensen, a 6-5 forward and recruited walk-on from Portland, also redshirted last year after spending three seasons playing for Lewis & Clark College at the Division III level. He also feels his stay at Eastern has flown past.
“Actually, the whole five years I’ve played have gone by extra fast, but especially this last season,” said Christensen, who is averaging 1.8 points and 1.3 rebounds in a reserve role. “It just seems like yesterday we were playing Illinois.
“I’ve been thinking about Senior Night, and I go back to my high school Senior Night. It was tough, too, but at least we knew we were going to the playoffs, whereas this year that’s still up in the air. Hopefully, we can extend the season and it won’t be our last game.”
Stanojevic, a 6-2 shooting guard and native of Subotica, Serbia, transferred to Eastern last year after spending two seasons at Northwest College in Powell, Wyo. He has been the most consistently productive member of the Eagles’ senior class, and his scoring average of 8.6 points per game ranks third on the team behind junior guard Benny Valentine (15.4) and junior forward Brandon Moore (10.8).
He also expects tonight’s pregame ceremonies to be emotional – especially with his parents, Radomir and Dusanka Stanojevic, having made the trip from Serbia to watch him play his final home game for Eastern.
“I’ve never had the experience of Senior Night, because I finished high school in Serbia and we didn’t have one there,” Stanojevic said. “It’s nice having my parents here, but it’s hard thinking that (today) is going to be the last home game I’ll ever play. It seems like I came here yesterday, and now it’s over.”
If it does all end for EWU’s four seniors tonight, there will be few regrets – other than not having strung together a few more wins during their short stay in Cheney.
“It’s worked out perfectly for me,” Christensen said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better situation, better teammates or better coaches. Everything has worked out, actually, better than I had planned. I was able to get in here, join the team and get an opportunity to play this year, and that doesn’t happen for a lot of people.”
Genao and DeLeon, a 5-11 guard who is averaging 6.2 points per game, both grew up in the Dominican Republic before moving to the Bronx, where they became close friends while playing pickup games on the playgrounds of New York City.
Genao, who spent two seasons at SUNY Delhi Junior College in New York before transferring to Prairie View A&M, said having DeLeon around has heightened his experience at Eastern.
“Being from New York and then coming out here to a completely different atmosphere in the Northwest, it definitely helped to have Adris around,” Genao said. “He made me feel a lot more comfortable, and I didn’t get homesick like I did when I was at Prairie View.
“This whole thing has worked out better than I thought it would, and I’m definitely better off here than I was at my other school in Texas. I’m happy with the move I made coming out here. I fit into the role perfectly.
“I just wish it wasn’t over so soon.”