Eastern Washington’s Steele Venters nears 1,000 career points ahead of rivalry game at Idaho
Feb. 7, 2023 Updated Tue., Feb. 7, 2023 at 9:09 p.m.
Steele Venters finished his Ellensburg High School career with somewhere around 1,200 points. He doesn’t remember the exact number.
But he does remember when he scored his 1,000th point.
“It was the first play out of halftime,” Venters said. “I think I needed two points and my coach drew up a (play for a) 3, and I hit it in the corner.”
At the next timeout, Venters was given a banner to commemorate the achievement.
“It’s a big milestone if anyone hits 1,000 career points,” he said, “whether it’s in high school or college.”
Now a redshirt sophomore on the Eastern Washington men’s basketball team, Venters – who has made plenty of those corner 3s at Reese Court in Cheney – is just 10 points from reaching the threshold again.
Score five points under his season average, and he would get his 1,000th point at Idaho on Saturday, when the Eagles (18-7 overall, 12-0 Big Sky) put their 14-game winning streak on the line against the Vandals (9-16, 3-9).
While a pair of Venters’ teammates have already reached that career mark – Tyreese Davis did earlier this year and Angelo Allegri did at the end of last season – they did so while scoring at least some of those points in other programs. Venters is poised to become the 24th player to score at least 1,000 points all while at Eastern Washington.
“I think it’s really special that he’s been able to do it here at Eastern Washington and to go through every step possible in a basketball career,” EWU second-year head coach David Riley said.
“(Steele’s) a guy who had to redshirt and then move his way up to being a 1,000-point scorer on a team that’s doing well.”
Venters isn’t counting the points, either, though he said that it would be a great accomplishment. But to him, the victories matter more.
“Going into every game,” he said, “it’s all about winning.”
Venters has also done plenty of that while at Eastern.
After redshirting the 2019-20 season, Venters played 17 games off the bench for the Eagles’ 2021 NCAA Tournament team that went 16-8 overall (12-3 in Big Sky play) in a COVID-shortened season that didn’t end until a first-round loss to No. 3 seed Kansas. He scored 61 points that year and made 12 of 29 3-pointers.
When Shantay Legans resigned as head coach to take the same job at Portland, Venters opted to stay at EWU with Riley, who was promoted from within the program to replace Legans.
Last year, Venters started 33 games and helped the team to an 18-16 overall record. He averaged 16.7 points and led the Big Sky in 3-point percentage, making 90 of 207 (43.5%). He was named second-team All-Big Sky.
This year, his scoring is down slightly (to 15.2 points per game, 11th best in the Big Sky) and so is his 3-point percentage (40.2%). But he also isn’t asked to dominate games in the way that players on a team with fewer scoring options might be.
For instance, six of the Big Sky’s top seven scorers this season play for teams with losing records in conference games.
“Steele just wants to win, and he knows what he’s best at,” Allegri said. “Others would think he just wants to shoot the ball, but no. He shoots at a really high clip, he’s really efficient, and that’s all we need him to do.
“I wouldn’t say he’s driven by stats. He is accountable, and he makes sure he does what he’s best at.”
The production of Davis – who scored his 1,000th career point against Idaho State on Jan. 26 – and Allegri – who scored his 1,000th point against Fresno State in Eastern’s final game last year – are two big reasons why Venters hasn’t necessarily needed to take over more games.
In nine games this year, Allegri has led the Eagles in scoring, one more time than Venters . Davis has done so three times. Sophomore post Ethan Price has been their top scorer five times.
“We have guys coming off the bench that can drop 20 (points) on any given night,” Venters said. “It’s absurd.”
Riley, who joined Eastern’s coaching staff as an assistant for the 2011-12 season, has coached eight other players who scored 1,000 points within the program. The last to do so was Jacob Davidson, who scored 1,365 points from 2018 to 2021, the 10th most in program history. At 13th is Mason Peatling, who scored 1,250 points during his time at Eastern (from 2017-20).
Felix Von Hofe is 20th (1,028 points, 2014-17), followed by Jeffrey Forbes (1,022, 2010-13) and Parker Kelly (1,006, 2012-15).
Tyler Harvey, who played for the Eagles from 2013 to 2015, is fourth with 1,564 points. Venky Jois is second with 1,803 (2013 to 2016).
Venters, with two years of eligibility left, could pass all of them if he keeps up his current scoring pace.
He could even top Bogdan Bliznyuk, the program’s career leader, who scored 2,169 points from 2015 to 2018. He is the only Eagles player to score more than 2,000 points .
“He’s a winner, first of all,” Riley said of Bliznyuk, whose Eagles teams won at least 10 Big Sky games each of his four seasons in Cheney. “But (he was) a bit like Steele in a way. He went about his business, was a leader by example, hypercompetitive but also super unselfish.”
But all those potential numbers are a long way down the road as far as Venters is concerned. He is more focused on extending the Eagles’ winning streak, which stands as the longest in Division I men’s basketball, and with getting back to the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s crazy to look back on: (junior guard) Ellis Magnuson and I are the only two left from that (2021 tournament) team,” Venters said. “At the end of the day, coaches have done a great job recruiting and coaching in the style that they want to coach. They’ve recruited the right players.
“It’s easier to win when you pair that with good coaching, freedom and playing to our strengths.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.