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Saturday, January 18, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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EWU’s Ederaine knows virtues of hard work, waiting

Cliff Ederaine, left, defends Christian Moon of Montana State. (Jesse Tinsley)
Cliff Ederaine, left, defends Christian Moon of Montana State. (Jesse Tinsley)

Childhood taught Cliff Ederaine the virtues of Patience.

That would be his mother, who along with husband Albert brought three children into the world in Nigeria.

Then came the chance, in 1994, to bring the family of five to America. They counted the visas – one…two…three.

Cliff, then 4, would go with his parents to America. His infant twin sisters, Sophie and Sophia, would stay behind with their grandmother.

“I didn’t see them for 10 years,” says Cliff Ederaine, now a senior forward on the Eastern Washington men’s basketball team who has exemplified the virtues of working hard … and waiting.

Patience, a nurse, and Albert, a technician at a penal facility, built a middle-class life in Southern California for themselves and Cliff. When able, they traveled to Africa to see their daughters while Cliff stayed in Los Angeles. Cousins helped bring Cliff a larger sense of family, while coaches were “always preaching school, and then basketball.”

Ederaine’s basketball talents were soon noticed. As a senior at Canyon Springs High School in Moreno Valley, he earned all-league honors and was his team’s MVP.

He also watched teammate Andre McGee, now at Louisville.

“He was always in the gym, doing the right thing, and I wanted to be the same way,” Ederaine said.

“I started getting calls,” said Ederaine, who stayed close to home at the College of the Sequoias in central California. He was named first-team all conference and won the league’s valuable defensive player award as a sophomore. Coincidentally, he was coached at COS by Rusty Smith, who played at Montana State and was an Eastern assistant coach in the early 1990s under head coach John Wade.

When the time came to pick a four-year school, Ederaine initially leaned toward Northern Arizona, but was swayed north by Eastern assistant Shantay Legans.

“He was consistent from the beginning, an all-around great recruiter,” Ederaine said of Legans. “I felt welcomed on my visit.”

Fortunately for Legans, that visit came on a warm, sunny day in the spring of 2010. The next winter, Ederaine saw snow for the first time.

Inside the gym, Ederaine started 29 of 30 games, ranking third in the Big Sky Conference in rebounds, and his 34 blocked shots tied for fourth in school history.

He was also selected to the all-conference All-Academic team.

Still, his game was one-dimensional.

“It used to be that I’d better get some rebounds, or I’m not gonna score,” he said.

That changed with new coach Jim Hayford; Ederaine learned to become a playmaker and draw on the lessons of patience.

“This is the first opportunity where he’s had a role of multitasking and distributing and being a finisher in our offense,” Hayford said.

As his college basketball career is down to a few precious moments, Ederaine is seizing every one of them, along with seemingly every rebound in sight. In conference games, he ranks second with 9.3 boards per game despite just having 205 pounds on a 6-foot-7 frame. His 10.9 points a game ranks third on the team.

“What I think we’re seeing now is that he’s becoming more consistent,” Hayford said. “He’s always been a great rebounder. But now he’s the distributor of a running offense, making plays and making reads.”

And free throws. Last year, Ederaine shot 46 percent from the line, but thanks to assistant coach Craig Ehlo, a former NBA star, he’s up to 62 percent this season.

The academics are still a big priority.

Ederaine is EWU Scholar Athlete of the month for February as he pursues a degree in communications with a minor in medicine.

And his sisters? They reached America in 2004 at age 10, and followed Cliff onto the court. Both are freshmen at the University of San Diego and play for the Toreros.

Sadly, Cliff hasn’t seen Sophie and Sophia play since they left high school.

“We ran into each other at the airport once,” he said, looking forward to the end of another long wait.

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