There’s no better time than now for the Eastern Washington men’s basketball team to travel abroad.
“If you look at our team, the ingredient we need the most is experience,” second-year head coach Jim Hayford said. “This trip will help address that need.”
The Eagles leave Thursday on a seven-day, six-game trip to British Columbia that Hayford said “will give us six more practices and 10 more games to bring some maturity.”
NCAA Division I schools are allowed to make one preseason foreign trip every four years. This one will help Hayford blend six returning letterwinners with three 2011-12 redshirts and six newcomers who have not played in an Eastern uniform.
As for the cultural experience of traveling abroad, Hayford has a ready answer.
“Every day here is a cross-cultural experience,” said Hayford, whose 15-man squad includes six foreigners, including three from Germany.
The trip will be “more of a team retreat in that by going on a seven-day road trip, we get familiar with each other and with life on the road,” Hayford said. “The level of competition isn’t the equivalent of Division I, but it’s solid.”
Last year, Eastern was 15-17 overall and 8-8 in Big Sky Conference play to finish fourth, and the Eagles won their first Big Sky Conference tournament game since 2006.
The Eagles’ 15 wins were the most in seven years.
In addition to the trip, Hayford and his staff have been able to take advantage of a new NCAA rule that allows coaches to work two hours a week on the floor during the summer term.
“A lot of teaching didn’t happen last year until the fall,” Hayford said.
Key returnees include starting forward Collin Chiverton, whom Hayford said is “all the way healthy” after suffering a foot injury last summer that nagged him all season; senior guards Jeffrey Forbes, a starter last year, and Kevin Winford; senior forward Jordan Hickert and sophomore guard Parker Kelly from Spokane.
“Parker had a great summer and he was one of the two best freshmen in the Big Sky, so I’m excited,” Hayford said.
Hayford believes he built for the future last fall by redshirting two transfers: forward Martin Seiferth from Oregon and Justin Crossgill from St. Joseph’s.
Hayford said that all redshirt decisions will wait until the fall.
The Eagles open the season Nov. 10 at Washington State, but won’t play at home until Nov. 30, against Cal State Fullerton. They will host an exhibition game against Concordia (Ore.) on Nov. 4.