Jim Hayford didn’t know what to expect when he took over the Eastern Washington basketball program last year.
One year later, he could say the same thing. With 10 new players and just two returning starters, Hayford says he’s “cautiously optimistic that despite youth and inexperience, that we will continue to be a postseason team.”
Last year, the Eagles finished fourth in the Big Sky, then won their first playoff game in six years en route to the conference semifinals.
Once there, Eastern took host Montana to the limit, falling 74-66. All but eight of those points came from departed senior starters Cliff Colimon, Cliff Ederaine and Laron Griffin, who along with senior Tremayne Johnson accounted for almost 65 percent of the Eagles’ rebounds. The biggest shoes to fill belonged to Colimon, who averaged a team-leading 16.5 points while moving from shooting guard to the point.
Returning, however, is senior forward Collin Chiverton, a 6-foot-6, 200-pound package of highlight reels who captivated fans and foes alike last season. Despite leg and back injuries, Chiverton averaged 13.9 points a game and was named the conference Newcomer of the Year.
Senior Jeffrey Forbes returns at shooting guard. Last year he was hampered by a hand injury, but still averaged 6.9 points and was the Eagles defensive spark.
Hayford expects Ivan Dorsey, a transfer from City College of San Francisco, to provide instant shooting help for a team that shot only 35.7 percent from 3-point range.
Sophomore Parker Kelly, a 6-foot-4 sophomore from Gonzaga Prep, was the Eagles’ most reliable outside shooter (44.9 percent). At the point, Hayford is counting on Justin Crosgile, a junior transfer who started as a freshman at St. Joseph’s. The 5-foot-11 Crosgile “has great quickness, he’s a great ball-handler, and he can shoot the ball,” said Hayford.
The biggest change will come inside, where several players will contend.
Freshman Venky Jois of Australia, 6-7 and 220, is expected to see playing time. Thomas Reuter (6-6, 225) a freshman from Germany, is described by Hayford as bringing strength and shooting to small and power forward. Danny Powell, a 6-6, 225-pound freshman from Phoenix, may also contribute.
“Danny, Venky and Thomas are interchangeable players with different skills,” Hayford said. “But between the three of them, they have everything you would want at those two positions.”
Germans Martin Seiferth, a 6-10 transfer from Oregon, and Frederik Jörg, a 7-1 freshman, are both “big centers for the Big Sky,” Hayford said.
Hayford hopes EWU can use outside shooting and its transition game to manufacture points, but at the same time, to take care of the ball.
“Our system is predicated on three things. We want to push the ball and be a transition team. Two, we want to really take care of the ball and be a low-turnover team. And three, we want to shoot the ball well from deep.”