After last year’s championship season, Eastern Washington basketball coach Jim Hayford’s top priority was finding a point guard to replace Drew Brandon.
A month later, that goal was still unrealized when national scoring leader Tyler Harvey decided to turn pro.
Now the Eagles have a little of both in transfer Austin McBroom, who describes himself as a “pass-first” point guard, yet leads the Big Sky Conference in scoring and minutes and isn’t afraid to launch a few shots from beyond the arc.
Most of all, “I want to help my players make plays,” said McBroom, who averages 3.3 assists.
“He’s played beyond expectations,” Hayford said of the 23-year-old McBroom, a graduate transfer who stands all of 5-foot-11 but has quickly gained stature in the last two months.
Apart from the weather, Austin McBroom is acclimating just fine to Eastern Washington.
“I’m not sure about the snow,” said McBroom, a southern California native who had 18 offers after his senior year at Saint Louis. But after a summertime visit to Cheney last summer, he appreciated that Hayford’s offense “has blessed me with the freedom to do a lot of things, especially coming from a school that sheltered me a little.”
Consider him unleashed. At Saint Louis last year McBroom played in all 32 games and scored 6.7 points a game while playing 20 minutes a game. Those numbers have multiplied in Cheney: McBroom is averaging 18.5 points while playing a staggering 37 minutes.
“Coach told me I was going to get a lot of minutes, so I had to stay in shape and get ready for it.”
McBroom made an immediate impact; his 19 points, five 3-pointers and five assists helped EWU win at San Francisco 81-77 on Dec. 1.
He scored 76 points during the Eagles’ recent three-game East Coast road trip, including 33 in a 12-for-19 shooting effort at Davidson.
In short, McBroom is trying to do everything to help Eastern defend its Big Sky Conference title. The Eagles (6-8 overall and 0-2 in the Big Sky) are at home Saturday against Idaho, hoping that defense and rebounding will improve as the season wears on.
“We’re just working on getting better,” McBroom said. For his part, McBroom likes to “penetrate, watch the defense collapse and give the shooters a great look.”
That includes himself. McBroom averages 3.5 made 3-pointers, good for second in the conference behind teammate Felix Von Hofe, who has 3.8.
The result is an offense that averages 80 points a game, tops in the Big Sky. Forwards Venky Jois (15.8 ppg) and Bogdan Bliznyuk (11.1) are in double figures, while Jois leads the lead in field goal shooting at 66.9 percent.
“It’s great to see our bigs finish the play,” McBroom said.
McBroom’s final season also closes the circle for Hayford, a disciple of coaching legend Rick Majerus, who was in charge at Saint Louis from 2007 to 2012 but died later that year. His last recruit was McBroom, who transferred from Central Michigan.
Says Hayford: “I’m kind of getting to finish the job.”
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