The 8,000-mile pipeline between Australia and Cheney remains strong, pumping out a valued export for the Eastern Washington men’s basketball program.
If the Big Sky Conference ever imposed a tariff, it would likely be due to the steady stream of Aussies who have helped elevate the Eagles.
In recent years, versatile forwards Mason Peatling (2020 Big Sky MVP), Jesse Hunt (2019 All-Big Sky), Venky Jois (All-Big Sky 2013-16) and Felix Von Hofe (team captain 2015-17) were the among Land-Down-Under-the-radar recruits who developed mightily at Reese Court.
It dates back awhile. Crafty guard Luke Egan, who exhausted his eligibility in 1997, is also among EWU’s most memorable Aussies.
As defending Big Sky champion and preseason favorite EWU (2-4, 1-0 Big Sky) dives back into its conference slate on Thursday at home against Portland State, it continues to seek production from a duo which hails from the southeast coastal city of Melbourne.
Jack Perry has long been the Eagles’ steady guard, in out of the starting rotation all four of his years at EWU, a career that included two appearances in the Big Sky Conference Tournament title game (2018 and 2019) and a regular season title in March before the Big Sky Tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus shutdown.
He was quietly among he country’s most efficient players last season, ranking among the best NCAA Division I players in KenPom’s offensive efficiency metrics while also ranking ninth in the popular site’s “true shooting percentage” category (67.5%) and 16th in “effective field-goal” percentage (64.4%).
“Jack, he’s a coach on the floor,” EWU coach Shantay Legans said. “He knows what it takes. He doesn’t have an ego.”
The son of former Australian pro and well-respected coach Darren Perry, Big Sky coaches have seen plenty of Jack Perry over the years.
They haven’t seen much of emerging forward Tyler Robertson, who appears to be the next valued Australian commodity for EWU.
The 6-foot-7 sophomore is averaging 12 points, 4.2 rebounds, two assists and is shooting 52.4% from the field, including a 10-for-23 mark from 3-point range.
Coached by Perry on the Australian 18U national team, the inside-outside threat was a role player as a true freshman last season as he adjusted to the American collegiate game, logging just 8 minutes a game.
With the return of four starters and several other contributors, Robertson expected somewhat an increase in minutes and considered redshirting.
“I thought I’d play a bigger role coming off the bench, but I never thought I would start,” said Robertson, who is jokingly referred to by teammates as a right-handed version of Utah Jazz wing and fellow Australian Joe Ingles.
By Game 3, a pair of double-digit contributions off the bench warranted a lineup change by Legans.
Robertson made the most of his first career start against a Division I program, scoring a team-high 17 points in 80-75 road loss to West Coast Conference power Saint Mary’s on Dec. 15.
“I knew he was really talented and he was such a good team player,” Legans said. “He came in highly touted as a freshman, but had to adjust to some things.
“Now he is becoming what I thought he would be.”
Robertson played on a national team that included current Virginia guard Kody Stattmann, Saint Mary’s starters Alex Ducas and Kyle Bowen and several other Division I players across the country.
Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons – nearly four years older than Robertson – attended the same high school in Melbourne. The two have played pick-up ball together in the summers.
Robertson wants to be the next Australian success story.
“My mindset, the belief the coaches have in me have helped,” Robertson said. “I just need to continue to stay aggressive.”
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