If Glen Dean turns out to be the kind of program changer many think he will be, it won’t be because of any master plan he had in mind when he signed on last summer to become a part of coach Kirk Earlywine’s massive rebuilding project at Eastern Washington University.
“If it happens, it happens, and that would be great,” the 5-foot-10, 170-pound freshman point guard said, when asked about the possibility of eventually becoming the face of Eastern basketball, “but it’s not necessarily a goal of mine.
“As long as I contribute in some way to turning this program around and making it a winning program again, I’ll feel good about what I’ve accomplished here.”
Dean’s accomplishments have been remarkable, even though the Eagles (6-18, 2-8 Big Sky Conference) have struggled to secure wins in their third season under Earlywine and find themselves lodged in last place in the BSC standings heading into Friday night’s 7:30 Reese Court game against Montana State (12-11, 7-5).
The former standout at Seattle’s Roosevelt High School, who spent last winter at Laurinburg Institute, a prep school in Laurinburg, N.C., has established himself as a leading Big Sky freshman-of-the-year candidate by averaging a team-high 12 points and 4.3 assists, while starting all 24 games.
He is averaging 32 minutes a game, and scored a career-high 29 points in a late-December win over Sacramento State.
“I knew Glen was a very good player when we signed him,” Earlywine said, “but he has exceeded my wildest expectations. And not just because of his numbers, but because of his work ethic, his discipline, his toughness and his character, as well.
“Every day since he first set foot on campus last fall, he’s done the right things, whether it’s on the court, in the classroom or in the weight room.”
Dean, who originally signed with Portland State as a senior at Roosevelt in 2008, opted to attend prep school after coaches there suggested he delay enrolling and use a grayshirt season to keep from having to spend a year as a backup to Jeremiah Dominguez, the Vikings’ veteran point guard.
Dean said it was his AAU coach who first got him involved with Laurinburg, a perennial basketball power that had produced several McDonald’s High School All-Americans but was recently discredited by the NCAA following a lengthy investigation into the institute’s curriculum, class schedules and quality control practices.
As a result, the NCAA no longer uses core courses, grades or graduation certificates from Laurinburg to determine a student-athlete’s initial eligibility to compete in intercollegiate athletics.
Those sanctions meant nothing to Dean, who had already qualified academically at Roosevelt and took primarily honors classes during his short stay at Laurinburg.
“I saw it more as a way to keep playing basketball and stay in shape, rather than just sit out a (grayshirt) year,” Dean said.
Earlywine and his staff followed Dean’s prep school career from afar and then used his past relationships with several players on the Eagles’ roster to help lure him to Cheney, where he has taken over as the team’s leader, despite his status as a first-year player.
“He didn’t come in here talking about what he’s done, or what he’s going to do,” Earlywine said. “Our seniors all recognized that immediately and gave him a lot of respect, because he didn’t come in here running his mouth.”
While Earlywine stops short of officially anointing his personable and talented young point guard as the next messiah of Eastern basketball, he said he won’t be surprised if Dean has the same kind of impact another program changer, Alvin Snow, had while leading the Eagles’ to their first NCAA tournament appearance in 2004.
“I don’t know if people will look back years from now and say Glen was the face of the program,” Earlywine said, “but if that does happen, we could sure do a lot worse.
“We’re talking about a kid who doesn’t get in trouble off the floor, goes to class and tries as hard as he can at everything he does.
“And I do know that if we can find 12 other guys who work as hard as him – even if they’re not as gifted, good things are going to come.”