His left foot is injured and his hands are encased by ice bags, but Collin Chiverton is in his comfort zone. Really.
“This has been my toughest year for injuries,” Eastern Washington’s leading scorer said after practice on Tuesday. He sprained the pinkie of his right hand the day before, and his left index finger 10 days before that.
After a few minutes the ice bags came off, and Chiverton warmed to the subject of his first year in Cheney. That’s his comfort zone: a team of brothers that shares more than a basketball.
“I never really had such a close bond with all my teammates,” Chiverton said. “It’s a program that’s more like a family.”
The family he left behind in the Bay Area included a mother who had suffered a stroke, then a heart attack. His new family includes senior guard Cliff Colimon, whose own mother had a stroke back in New York.
“We talk about it all the time,” said Chiverton, tearing up at his own words. Family is always nearby, even if they’re a thousand miles away.
It’s an athletic family. His cousin is Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch. His parents, Earl and Vanessa, “put a basketball in my hands when I was 2,” and soon he was playing in the driveway.
But he had to give it up for a while when illness hit. He lived in San Jose, Calif., but the family spent lots of time with his grandmother, who was ill in San Francisco. That took time away from basketball, and Chiverton didn’t start playing seriously until eighth grade.
Olivia died in 2001. Her name is tattooed on his left arm.
In high school, at perennial power Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, Chiverton led the team to two straight runner-up finishes in the California state tournament, averaging 21.8 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. He also played AAU ball, which he credits for his ability to “create” on the floor – a big part of his game.
Chiverton needed a few years to find the right college fit. He redshirted at Saint Mary’s, then played one year at Salt Lake Community College in Utah.
He returned, partly from homesickness, but mostly because his mother had suffered the stroke. He played last season at San Francisco City College and averaged 19 points. “She got to see me play for the first time since high school,” Chiverton said.
Now came the hard part: going away again. Luckily, new EWU coach Jim Hayford is a friend of San Francisco CC coach Justin Labagh. “We really hit it off and Collin had a great visit here,” Hayford said.
Hayford certainly needed a 6-foot-6 forward who can shoot the 3 and drive the lane. He got more than that.
“He’s a great teammate and always has a smile,” Hayford said. “He’s the best encourager on the team. He’s easy to love because he’s just a very unselfish kid.”
Hayford’s first recruit, Chiverton is a strong candidate for Big Sky Newcomer of the Year. He leads EWU with 17.3 points a game (third in the Big Sky), and is shooting 42.5 percent from long range.
That’s despite a stress fracture in his left foot suffered last summer and aggravated last month. An orthotic has “taken a lot of pressure off,” Chiverton said, “but it’s a nagging injury, and unfortunately it’s going to be that way the rest of the season.”
Against Northern Arizona earlier this month, he was even held out of the first half and the Eagles trailed at halftime. “I don’t want the injury to be the focus,” Chiverton said. “Sometimes I have to play through pain.”
He did just that, scoring 10 points in the first 4 minutes of the second half and turning the game around.
He has the ability to do that every night, a comforting thought for Eagles fans.