Supplanting the preseason Big Sky Conference Most Valuable Player has come with aplomb for Eastern Washington guard Mike Meadows.
It’s the product of a strange, unexpected scenario that’s ultimately helped the conference-leading Eagles (12-6, 11-2) rattle off nine consecutive wins.
An anomaly, really.
EWU senior Jacob Davison, a two-time All-Big Sky guard believed to be the conference’s most dynamic scorer before the beginning of the season, was tabbed the top returner by coaches and media.
The pick made sense.
Davison, a spring-heeled, deep-shooting talent who averaged 17 points between his sophomore and junior seasons, was one of four returning starters from an EWU team that won a 2020 Big Sky regular-season title.
But when EWU dropped a 78-76 decision at Northern Colorado in January to fall to 3-6 overall and 2-2 in a conference it was widely expected to bulldoze, head coach Shantay Legans needed to right the ship.
Benching the talented Davison, who appeared to be a defensive liability on a team that could it gets scoring elsewhere, was the brazen move Legans elected to make.
EWU hasn’t lost since.
Legans inserted the hard-nosed Meadows, previously an off-the-bench role player, to help provide consistent defensive presence while the balanced Eagles looked to Tanner Groves, Kim Aiken Jr. and Tyler Robertson to provide much of the scoring.
EWU, which has scored 90 points or more in four its past five wins, has seen the budding Meadows join the horde of prolific scorers.
Meadows has reached double figures in seven consecutive games, including a 20-point outburst in Saturday’s 90-76 win at Montana. He shot 43 for 74 from the field in that span, including a 10-for-21 mark from 3-point range with 20 assists.
His confidence is palpable.
“It’s been crazy,” Meadows said. “You wait for an opportunity like that, and coach Legans has always trusted me and knows I’m a leader because I’m vocal. It’s been really fun. We have so much fun. We have a blast.”
Davison has averaged just 16 minutes and seven points a game since elevating Meadows, a fellow Southern California native. He missed two games due to flu-like illness.
“That’s something you can’t help but think about,” Meadows said of Davison’s decreased minutes. “But he’s a great teammate before anything else and he is happy for us. And he has done plenty for this team. … It’d be easy to get that in situation and sulk, but he doesn’t. He helps me.”
Meadows was always a scorer, but rarely forced the issue on the older EWU team with its share of proven commodities.
At Campbell Hall High School in Hollywood – a school that produced NBA players Jrue, Justin and Aaron Holiday – Meadows was a double-figures scorer who could fill it up in a hurry.
With each passing game, Meadows is resembling the player he was before he stepped foot in Cheney. But that’s not why Legans is giving the 6-foot-2, 175-pounder more opportunities.
“He’s always been ready. Always one of the toughest guys, always defending,” Legans said. “He’s playing really good basketball right now. He’s the definition of toughness.”
Meadows also offers a sharp, commanding vocal presence which he learned from his father, Michael Meadows Sr., who starred at then-NCAA Division I Campbellsville University in Kentucky before playing professionally overseas.
“I always wanted to be just like my dad,” Meadows said.
EWU concludes its regular season next week when it hosts Idaho State (12-7, 7-3) on March 3 and 5 at Reese Court. A sweep would assure the Eagles at least a share of a Big Sky title.
Gift or a curse?: The Big Sky has given out preseason MVP honors since 2015.
None went on to win postseason MVP.
EWU’s Venky Jois (2015-2016 season), North Dakota’s Quinton Hooker (2016-2017), Montana State’s Tyler Hall (2017-2018), Montana’s Ahmad Rorie (2018-2019) and Weber State’s Jerrick Harding (2019-2020) were the five previous Big Sky Conference preseason MVPs before Davison earned the distinction in November.
Aiken honored again: Aiken was named Big Sky Player of the Week for the second time in a row.
The versatile 6-7 junior averaged 24.5 points and nine rebounds in EWU’s sweep of Montana last week, the Eagles’ first series win over the Grizzlies since the 2003-2004 season.
Correction: EWU’s longest Division I winning streak is 11 games, set during the 2003-2004 season. The Spokesman-Review incorrectly reported last week that eight was the record.
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