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Jacob Wiley, Eagles soar into national spotlight

Eastern Washington forward Jacob Wiley (24) celebrates the Eagles overtime 88-86 win over Morehead State, Dec. 13, 2016, in Cheney, Wash. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Eastern Washington forward Jacob Wiley (24) celebrates the Eagles overtime 88-86 win over Morehead State, Dec. 13, 2016, in Cheney, Wash. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

That chip on Jacob Wiley’s shoulder has been well and truly removed.

Last weekend, the gangly kid from Newport erased the last doubts about his ability to play Division I basketball. He even won over sportscaster Dick Vitale.

“Jacob Wiley is a scoring machine,” Vitale announced Monday on ESPN.com before reciting Wiley’s staggering numbers last weekend for Eastern Washington: 83 points and 29 rebounds.

On the same day, Wiley was named the Division I Player of the Week by NCAA.com.

Almost as a footnote, the 6-foot-7 forward was the Mid-Major Player of the Week for the second time this season and Big Sky Conference Player of the Week for the third time.

“Coach gave me the call this morning,” said Wiley, referring to Eastern coach Jim Hayford, who a year ago gave Wiley the chance to prove himself after he spent the last two years at NAIA Lewis-Clark State.

“I’m just happy that coach Hayford saw something in me and believed in me,” Wiley said. “Without him and his ability to see the potential in me, this wouldn’t have been possible.”

Neither would the Eagles’ 16-8 overall record (8-3 in the Big Sky Conference). “Frankly that’s what I’m focused on right now,” Wiley said. “I just want us to have a successful season.”

That season hadn’t yet begun when Hayford told The Spokesman-Review on Nov. 3 that “People are going to be surprised at what he’s going to be able to accomplish at this level.”

The raw numbers so far: 19.8 points and 8.6 rebounds a game and a 65 percent shooting average. Wiley also shoots 83 percent from the line and has 58 assists along with 67 blocks.

The fruition of Eastern’s half-court offense was on display in a remarkable 130-124 triple-overtime win on Saturday over Portland State.

The Eagles posted up Wiley and dared the Vikings to stop him. Alternately, they isolated “point-forward” Bogdan Bliznyuk, who was just as tough to stop.

Remarkably, both players finished with 45 points, tying the school record set by current NBA player Rodney Stuckey in 2006. They also saw 53 minutes of action out of a possible 55.

After the game, Wiley and Bliznyuk posed in Reese Court in front of Stuckey’s retired jersey.

“Anyone who’s watched our progress this season can see how our half-court offense is improving,” said Wiley, who in 11 conference games leads the Big Sky with 27.2 points and 9.7 boards per game.

His connection with Bliznyuk is becoming second-nature.

“Bogdan is an excellent player who can create his own shot,” Wiley said. “We’re always encouraging each other.”


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