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Sports >  EWU basketball

College basketball 2022-23: With key pieces returning and bolstered depth, Eastern Washington energized for March

Eastern Washington’s sharpshooting guard Steele Venters led the team in scoring last season at 16.7 points per game.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Eastern Washington’s sharpshooting guard Steele Venters led the team in scoring last season at 16.7 points per game. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

Last March, Eastern Washington was one tip-in basket from advancing into the Big Sky Tournament semifinals.

Late in that 68-67 loss to Northern Colorado, it was a tired bunch of Eagles: Their five starters had each played at least 34 minutes, and all season they had relied on that quintet to play what might be called more than their fair share of time.

“I talked to coach (David Riley) about it a lot. I talked to Rylan (Bergersen). I talked to Boogie (Linton Acliese III),” senior Angelo Allegri said, naming off two seniors for whom last year was their final one with Eastern. “We just all felt like we could have won and should have won.

“On that last play, we had three layups at the rim that we just couldn’t get to fall, and we all really felt like it was because of fatigue.”

Again there is heavy turnover on the Eastern men’s basketball roster this year. But unlike the turnover before last season in the wake of a coaching change, this season the Eagles return three starters and a couple key role players. That gives them confidence that this season – No. 2 with Riley as head coach – will end differently.

“It’s a totally different kind of turnover this year,” Riley said. “We have six guys back from our rotation. Three starters (who averaged) double figures. Coaches who’ve all been here. There’s just so much more continuity.”

Back is sophomore Steele Venters, the team’s leading scorer from a year ago at 16.7 points per game and the Big Sky’s leading 3-point shooter (43.5%). Also returning is sophomore Ethan Price, last year’s Big Sky Freshman of the Year. The Eagles have Allegri back for his second season after averaging 12.1 points per game a year ago and 14.6 points per game in the final eight.

“He took huge strides during the season, and what he did during the spring and summer was incredible,” Riley said of Allegri.

Also returning are junior guard Ellis Magnuson, sophomore Casey Jones and junior Tap George, who should all play larger roles than they did a year ago. Magnuson was usually the first man off the bench, with Jones and George not far behind.

Added to that are nine new players, including three true freshmen and six transfers. Sophomore Dane Erikstrup (6-foot-10, 240 pounds) gives the Eagles another option inside after Price (6-10, 230). Senior guard Deon Stroud played against Eastern in its final game last year against Fresno State, where Stroud played in 51 games over two seasons and averaged 8.4 points per game.

There is also junior Tyreese Davis, a redshirt guard who transferred from Jacksonville State. He averaged 8 points and 4.6 rebounds a season ago. Davis played with Allegri at Link Prep in Missouri, where Roberto Bergersen – the former EWU assistant coach who is now at Boise State – coached them both.

All that added depth has Allegri optimistic about the Eagles’ chances this season.

“We’re so deep and so talented,” he said. “There’s no way we’re tired in March.”

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