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Eastern Washington men’s basketball hopes Benas Griciunas continues trend

EWU transfer Benas Griciunas also has played internationally for Lithuania. (Associated Press)
EWU transfer Benas Griciunas also has played internationally for Lithuania. (Associated Press)

After finding runaway success with graduate transfers the past two seasons, Eastern Washington basketball is hoping for a trifecta with Benas Griciunas.

The 7-foot Lithuanian, a transfer from UNC Charlotte, “is no stiff,” said new Eagles coach Shantay Legans, who expects Griciunas to play a big part in his up-tempo offense.

“He’s got size to help us defensively, but he can also space the floor,” Legans said. “He runs the floor and can shoot the three – he’s a very skilled big guy.”

Eastern has done well the past two seasons with one-year transfers Austin McBroom and Jacob Wiley, both of whom were first-team All-Big Sky Conference selections under former coach Jim Hayford.

Griciunas, from Silute, Lithuania, played the 2013-14 season at Auburn before spending the last two at Charlotte. He comes to Eastern with 59 games of NCAA Division I experience, including 12 as a starter. Griciunas has made nearly 50 percent of his field-goal attempts in his career, including 8 of 22 on 3-pointers (36.4 percent).

Last season, Griciunas started seven of 20 games he played and averaged 9.5 minutes, 3.0 points and 1.8 rebounds while making 46.2 percent of his shots from the field and 68.8 percent (11 of 16) from the free-throw line.

He scored in double figures twice, including 10 against UTEP and 12 against Maryland when he made 6 of 8 shots and had a season-high five rebounds. The 49ers finished 13-17 overall and 7-11 in Conference USA.

He also played on the Lithuania U-18, U-19 and U-20 national teams, and was a high school player at national prep power Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nevada.

Griciunas is only Eastern’s third 7-footer, with Frederik Jorg (2012-13 and 2014-15 seasons) the tallest at 7-1.

The only other former Eagle at 7 feet was Uli Sledtz from Gelsenkirchen, West Germany. Sledtz transferred from the University of Washington and played for Eastern in the 1978-79 and 1979-80 seasons.

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