Eastern Washington basketball is giving something back to the community, even if that community is half a world away.
The Eagles departed Cheney on Friday morning for a three-week adventure to Australia, the home of five current Eagles as well as the just-graduated Venky Jois.
Besides breaking every EWU scoring record, Jois started a pipeline of talented Australians who’ve made a big difference in the Eastern’s basketball fortunes under coach Jim Hayford. Jois and current star Felix Von Hofe were key players in the Eagles’ NCAA tournament appearance in 2014-15, and the five Australians on this year’s roster look ready to make a big contribution.
Which begged the question: why not a tour Down Under?
“We told them the next time we go on an overseas trip, we’re going to Australia,” said Hayford, whose Sixth Man group helped raise almost $100,000 to make it happe.
“We are very grateful to all the donor support that made it possible,” Hayford said. “The opportunity for our Australian players to play in front of their family means so much to the guys.”
Besides the obvious benefits – eight additional games and 10 practices – the Eagles get a chance to say “thank you” to the families and communities who sent their sons to Cheney.
After two days of practice in Los Angeles, the Eagles will fly to Sydney. Eastern will play eight games in 12 days, including an Aug. 22 matchup against the Dandenong Rangers, the home club of Jois as well as redshirt freshman Michael Wearne and incoming freshman Mason Peatling.
Dandenong beat the University of Washington 100-96 in overtime on Aug. 3, with Jois scoring 10 points and grabbing seven rebounds. However, Jois recently signed a contract to play in Estonia, and it’s unclear whether he’ll still be in Australia when the Eagles arrive.
Meanwhile Peatling, who is replacing Jois as EWU’s power forward, and Wearne will make their homecoming at the Dandenong Basketball Centre.
Other current Aussies on the EWU roster include Geremy McKay and Jesse Hunt.
The Eagles will play with junior forward Bogdan Bliznyuk on the bench. Bliznyuk broke a wrist last week and will be out until late September.
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