‘It’s going to be fun’: Eastern Washington solidifies roster, builds around core going into David Riley’s second season
May 9, 2022 Updated Mon., May 9, 2022 at 6:10 p.m.
Eastern Washington Eagles guard Steele Venters (2) drives to the hoop against Northern Colorado Bears forward Bryce Kennedy (21) during the first half of a college basketball game on Saturday, Jan 22, 2022, at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Two months after Eastern Washington’s season ended at the Big Sky Tournament, the Eagles’ men’s basketball roster looks to be settled heading into the fall.
And while the starting core will remain intact, the contributors down the roster are going to look quite a bit different.
“I hope that it’s not a thing (where) we have this much changeover every year,” said David Riley, who is heading into his second season as the Eagles’ head coach. “But we were in a situation where a lot of young guys were playing, and other guys wanted a chance at a fresh start.”
In recent weeks the Eagles finalized their newest recruiting class, which includes five transfers and two new freshmen. Later this summer, when the team ramps up full-team activities again, they will join a core that includes three returning starters in Angelo Allegri, Steele Venters and Ethan Price, as well as contributors Casey Jones and Ellis Magnuson.
Venters led the Eagles in scoring (16.5 points per game) a year ago. Price was the Big Sky freshman of the year. Jones averaged 10.3 minutes as part of the Eagles’ eight-man rotation. All will be sophomores in the fall and, alongside the senior-to-be Allegri and the junior-to-be Magnuson, they figure to play plenty of minutes again next season.
“I think to have our core of Ethan, Steele and (Allegri) coming back, and then a guy like Ellis who is a veteran in the program,” Riley said, “to have those guys with Casey and (junior-to-be) Tep (George), I think that’s six guys I can count on right off the bat.”
Then there are the newcomers, who will bring varying levels of experience to Cheney.
Junior David Bohm, a 6-foot-9 forward, played the last two seasons at Northern Kentucky, where he averaged more points his freshman year (7.5) than he did as a sophomore (3.5). He also has international experience representing his home country, the Czech Republic.
Tyreese Davis, a redshirt junior transfer, started 80 games at Jacksonville University and previously played with Allegri at Link Year Preparatory School in Missouri. Former Eagles assistant coach Roberto Bergersen – who is now an assistant at Boise State – coached Davis at Link Prep.
Ty Harper, a sophomore, is the Eagles’ third Division I transfer in the class. He started 10 games in his two seasons at Louisiana Lafayette and, like Bohm, produced more points as a freshman (5.6 per game) than he did as a sophomore (2.0).
Though he has played two seasons, Harper is still listed as a sophomore for next season because the NCAA granted all athletes an extra year due to the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on college sports.
The Eagles also landed two transfers from lower divisions – but each is coming off a freshman of the year campaign in his respective conference. Dane Erikstrup, a 6-10 forward, averaged 11.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season at Division II Cal Poly Pomona, which plays in the California Collegiate Athletic Association.
That’s the same conference in which Linton Acliese III played before he transferred to EWU for his senior year. Acliese – one of two graduates who started for the Eagles last season – ranked second on the Eagles in minutes per game (29.7) and points (16.5).
Cedric Coward averaged 19.4 points and 12 rebounds at Willamette last season and was named the freshman of the year in the Northwest Conference, the same one Whitworth plays in. The 6-foot-5 forward also will join the Eagles in the fall.
Rounding out the class are true freshmen LeJuan Watts, a 6-6 guard from Fresno, California; and Sebastian Andersson, a 6-10 forward from Stockholm, Sweden.
Many of those roster spots opened up because some of Eastern’s depth players transferred out, most notably Mason Landdeck, who averaged 13.5 minutes per game as a freshman last season. He will play at D-II Hawaii Pacific next season. Victor Radocaj, who appeared in seven games for Eastern last year, will be at D-II Simon Fraser.
Perhaps the most notable departure is redshirt sophomore Casson Rouse, who entered the portal in recent weeks. He started the Eagles’ first two games last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Addressing generally those players’ choice to transfer, Riley said that they wanted more opportunities to play. It’s all part of what he called the “changing world” that college coaches live in.
“The recruiting piece is different on all fronts,” Riley said, “where you’ve got to recruit your own guys, and guys who can play right away, and freshmen who can develop in your program. It’s a new way to look at things.”
He also said he feels really good about the group he’ll have in Cheney next season.
“It’s going to be a battle this summer,” he said. “It’s going to be fun.”
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