Eastern Washington’s Steele Venters named Big Sky MVP, David Riley earns coach of the year honors
March 3, 2023 Updated Fri., March 3, 2023 at 7:27 p.m.
Following a regular season that included an 18-game winning streak and a 16-0 start to conference play, Eastern Washington redshirt sophomore Steele Venters was named Big Sky MVP and David Riley was named Big Sky Coach of the Year on Friday.
EWU senior Angelo Allegri was also named first-team all-conference, and sophomore post Ethan Price was recognized as an honorable mention. The awards were voted on by the conference’s 10 men’s basketball coaches.
This is the third time in four seasons and the fifth time in the past seven that Eastern has produced the Big Sky MVP. The most recent was Tanner Groves in 2021, a year after Mason Peating was similarly honored.
Riley, Eastern’s second-year head coach, joined the team’s staff as an assistant in 2011 and served under two other Big Sky coaches of the year: Shantay Legans won the award in 2020, and Jim Hayford shared the honor with Sacramento State’s Brian Katz in 2015.
Ray Giacoletti won the award while at Eastern in 2004, as did Steve Aggers (in 2000 and 1998) and Bob Hofman (1990).
For Venters, the MVP award comes at the tail end of a season in which his statistics are down some from last season, when he averaged 16.7 points and 3.9 rebounds per game and was named second-team all-conference. This year, Venters is averaging 15.1 points per game, making 38% of his 3-point attempts (down from 43.4% last year) and grabbing 2.8 rebounds per game.
Yet other teams have often made limiting Venters their primary defensive objective, which has allowed other Eagles players to fill in the scoring. Eastern leads the Big Sky in scoring (77.0 ppg) and shooting (49.1%).
Allegri, a fifth-year senior, has thrived with the ball in his hands, averaging 13.5 points and 3.4 assists per game.
“(Allegri) was a shooter and a rebounder last year, and now he’s making all these decisions out there and coming off ball screens and leading us, and he’s our voice in the huddle,” Riley said after the team’s 79-74 loss to Montana State on Monday. “The growth is unbelievable.”
Also named to the Big Sky first team were Dillon Jones, Weber State; RaeQuan Battle, MSU; and Josh Bannan, Montana.
The second team includes Dalton Knecht, Northern Colorado; Isaac Jones, Idaho, also named the newcomer of the year; Cameron Parker, Portland State; Aanen Moody, Montana; and Jubrile Belo, MSU, last year’s conference MVP.
Named to the third team were Callum McRae, Sacramento State; Jalen Cone, Northern Arizona; Brayden Parker, Idaho State; Steven Verplancken, Weber State; and Darius Brown II, MSU. Brown was named defensive player of the year.
Price, an honorable mention this year, was the conference’s freshman of the year last season. This year, that distinction belonged to Idaho’s Nigel Burris. Divant’e Moffitt, a fifth-year senior at Idaho, was also chosen as an honorable mention.
Montana State sophomore Great Osobor was voted the top reserve.
After a first-round bye, the top-seeded Eagles will open Big Sky Tournament play on Sunday against either Idaho or Northern Arizona.
Trio of EWU women honored
In her first season with EWU’s women’s basketball team, graduate transfer Jamie Loera was named Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year.
Loera leads the conference with 71 steals, and her rebounding average of 6.0 per game ranks 12th . This is the fourth time an EWU player has received this award and the first since 2010, when Brianne Ryan won it.
Loera and sophomore Jaydia Martin were named third-team All-Big Sky. Junior Jacinta Buckley was an honorable mention.
Sacramento State’s Kahlaijah Dean was named Big Sky MVP and Newcomer of the Year. The senior – who transferred from Oakland University – ranks second in the conference in scoring (21.3 points per game) and assists (5.2).
Dean was joined on the all-conference first team by Beyonce Bea, Idaho; Darian White, MSU; Regan Schenck, Northern Arizona; and her SSU teammate, Isnelle Natabou.
Martin, who hasn’t played for the Eagles since Jan. 28 due to a leg injury, leads the team in scoring at 16.1 points per game and in free-throw percentage (82.2).
Buckley, a Lewis and Clark High graduate, has played in 23 of 28 games this season and leads the team in rebounding (7.2 per game) and is fourth in scoring at 10.8 points per game.
The Eagles earned the No. 4 seed in the Big Sky Tournament and will play their first game on Monday against No. 5 Montana.
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