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Sports >  EWU basketball

International flavor: Eastern Washington’s Ethan Price brings skill, size from England

March 2, 2022 Updated Wed., March 2, 2022 at 9:07 p.m.

By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

The process by which the Eastern Washington men’s basketball staff recruited Ethan Price was, in coach David Riley’s estimation, a unique one.

With pandemic restrictions being what they were, and with Price playing in England, the two didn’t meet face to face. There was no official on-campus visit – except, perhaps, the Zoom video tour they took Price and his family on.

Their first official meeting came last June, when Riley, by then the Eagles’ head coach, picked up the 6-foot-10 center at the Spokane airport.

“It was weird at first,” Price said. “You put all your trust in a group of people, and Dave was the only one left from the original staff.”

And the first thing Price said he noticed?

“He’s taller than I thought he was.”

That was June 18, the first day Price had spent in Spokane. He’s hardly left since. The freshman has become a crucial piece of the Eagles’ lineup this season, which continues with home games against Northern Arizona (9-20, 5-13 Big Sky) on Thursday and Portland State (11-15, 9-9) on Saturday, the final games of the regular season for Eastern Washington (15-14, 9-9).

“We don’t go without Ethan,” grad transfer Linton Acliese III said last month after Eastern’s home win over Weber State, a game in which Price had 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 34 minutes. “He has a huge role on this team.”

Price’s 17- and 18-point efforts in games last weekend pushed his scoring average to 10 points per game this season, giving the Eagles five players – each of their regular starters – scoring averages in double digits. The Englishman also has the third-most assists on the team (63), and he has made 29 of 68 3-point attempts, the second-best percentage (42.6) behind Steele Venters’ conference-leading rate of 44.8%.

All of those skills were on display for Riley, once Gonzaga women’s assistant Craig Fortier alerted him of Price two years ago.

“He was doing things other 6-10 guys can’t do,” Riley said. “Handling the ball, shooting it. (And) I wasn’t aware of the feel and the IQ he had until he got over here.”

Price played in the same program – Ipswich Basketball Academy, about a two hours’ drive northeast of London – as Esther Little, who is now a freshman on the Gonzaga women’s team. She also happens to be dating Price.

But Price said the proximity of the two universities wasn’t the driving factor in his own commitment.

“She decided before, quite a long time before (to attend Gonzaga),” Price said. “If Eastern were somewhere else, I still would have gone to Eastern.”

Such was Price’s connection with Riley and Shantay Legans, who was Eastern’s head coach last season, and such was his trust in Riley that Price stuck with his commitment even after Legans left to become the University of Portland coach last spring.

Price is also part of a significant international group of players in the Big Sky. Of the conference’s 11 teams, all but Idaho have at least one player from a country outside the United States on their roster.

Price is one of three at Eastern, including Michael Folarin, who is from London but played at an Arizona preparatory school, and Tommaso Camponeschi, who is from Italy but played at a private school in Minnesota.

Big Sky rosters include players from nearly a dozen other countries, including Australia, Canada and the Netherlands.

Idaho State, coached by Central Valley graduate Ryan Looney, has two freshmen from Denmark, another player from Spain and one from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Weber State has players from four other countries, including the Czech Republic and Lithuania.

But England, with nine players, is particularly represented in the conference, including three at Montana State, where junior Jubrile Belo and senior Amin Adamu are two of their team’s top three scorers this season. Chris Haslam, in his ninth season as a Bobcats assistant, is from England.

Of the Big Sky’s nine Englishmen, eight are at least 6-foot-8, something that isn’t a coincidence to Riley.

“Any kid above 6-10 in the United States is going to get evaluated by every single college,” Riley said.

But overseas, that’s not necessarily the case. Riley said he has worked to build relationships with coaches internationally so that he can better recruit those players who might be overlooked by other Division I programs in the United States. One such person is Pedro Garcia Rosado, now the Eagles’ director of basketball operations, whom Riley first got to know in Europe.

Eastern has also successfully recruited players from Germany, Lithuania, Serbia and Australia in recent years. In that sense, Price is just the latest in a steady line of international recruits who are finding their home in Cheney.

For Price, earning a college scholarship by playing basketball wouldn’t be possible in Europe. Going this route sets him up to get a college degree and then play professionally, wherever in the world that might be.

“For me personally, it would have been coming over here or going to play professionally somewhere in Europe,” Price said.

“But I thought, I have the option to play college basketball and then pro. I can’t do it the other way around.”

Proof of vaccine, negative test no longer required

Those who attend games at Reese Court this week will no longer be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test prior to entry, although they are still required to wear masks. Concessions will be open.

Eastern will offer free food to the first 200 students on Thursday (mac and cheese and churros) and again Saturday (chicken wings and drinks), courtesy of Outback Steakhouse. Before Saturday’s game, the Eagles plan to honor seniors Acliese and Rylan Bergersen. Both transferred into the program before this season to play out their final year of eligibility.

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