Quietly but surely, Bogdan Bliznyuk and Delaney Hodgins are about to become the leading career scorers in Eastern Washington basketball history.
Both are soft-spoken senior forwards, known more for versatility than showmanship.
Bliznyuk is chasing former Eagles star Venky Jois, who rewrote the record books with thunderous dunks that rocked Reese Court.
Hodgins is pursuing older sister Hayley, who broke the EWU career record two years ago, thanks mostly to her stellar 3-point shooting.
That isn’t Delaney’s game, but she still got in a friendly shot during a recent phone conversation with Hayley.
“I’m coming for you,” Delaney told Hayley, now the girls basketball coach at Richland High School.
For Bliznyuk, it’s all about winning
When Bliznyuk began his career as a true freshman in 2014-15, the Eagles and Jois were at the top of their game.
With Jois and sharpshooting Tyler Harvey leading the way, Eastern reached the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in school history. Bliznyuk didn’t start a single game, but he played in all 35 while averaging almost nine points and four rebounds.
But he was a star in the making, and Jois aided his ascent.
“He helped me a lot,” Bliznyuk said of Jois, who now plays professionally in Croatia. “He helped me with my game and my footwork and how to attack everything you do.
“He definitely made me a better person and a basketball player.”
Now Bliznyuk, an immigrant from Ukraine, is poised to overtake Jois atop the EWU record books, perhaps as soon as next week. Last week he moved into second place with 1,742 points, one more than Ron Cox (1974-77) and 61 behind Jois.
You get the sense that Bliznyuk doesn’t care that much, that the Eagles’ 3-1 record in the Big Sky Conference is bigger than any individual numbers.
Last weekend against Sacramento State, he became the leading free-throw shooter in EWU history, surpassing the record of 10-year NBA veteran Rodney Stuckey.
Coach Shantay Legans gave him the happy news, which was met with a typical response from Blizynuk: “We won the game, that’s all that matters.”
False modesty is part of the fabric of sports, but Bliznyuk lives it every day.
In that same game, the Sacramento State Hornets decided that Bliznyuk – who averages 18 points – wasn’t going to beat them.
He did, anyway, with only two points but with 10 assists.
Legans was impressed.
“What’s that like, to have a guy so close to the record, take just five shots, and not force anything up?” Legans said this week as the Eagles prepare for Friday’s home game against Idaho.
“He’s not big about records,” Legans said. “But he does just about everything for our team.”
A winning sister act
Like Bliznyuk, Delaney Hodgins arrived in Cheney in the fall of 2014.
Expectations already were high. Her mother Karen played at Washington and professionally in Europe, and Delaney was an all-state performer at Chiawana High in Pasco.
Coach Wendy Schuller’s comments on signing day in November 2013 were prophetic: “She has a great upside,” Schuller said. “I think she has a chance to be very good for us.”
As it turned out, Hodgins was even better than that. Hayley was already making her mark at Eastern as a shooting guard, but Delaney’s versatility put her in the starting lineup in her first game.
Four years later, she’s played 114 games and started every one. Last weekend at Sacramento State, she scored 27 points – two short of her career high – to move into second place on Eastern’s career scoring list.
Her total stands at 1,745, surpassing the mark of 1,733 set by Brenda Souther from 1984-87 and 121 short of Hayley’s mark.
Scoring is only part of the story for Delaney, who like Bliznyuk is a capable ball-handler and also leads the Eagles with 7.8 rebounds per game.
“They’re really different players,” Schuller said. “Hayley was really fast and athletic, but Delaney has been so steady and consistent.”