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Eastern Washington University Basketball

EWU basketball notebook: Eagles announce addition of transfers Andre Mulibea, Jake Kyman

UCLA's Jake Kyman (13) dives for a loose ball ahead of Stanford's Sam Beskind (24) in the first half at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, in Los Angeles.  (Tribune News Service)
By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

Eastern Washington announced the signing of two more transfers in the last week, all but wrapping up its foray into the NCAA portal this offseason.

Joining the men’s basketball team heading into next season are 6-foot-6 junior Andre Mulibea and 6-7 senior Jake Kyman, two more players who will be counted on to replace the offensive production of last year’s leading duo of Angelo Allegri (graduation) and Steele Venters (transfer to Gonzaga).

“I am still really excited about the team we’ve got coming in next year,” Eagles coach David Riley said Tuesday. “Six returners, five of them who played minutes … if we stick with what we do, which is develop players and grow each offseason, then I like our chances to be even better than we were last year.”

Last year, the Eagles finished 23-11 overall and 16-2 in regular-season Big Sky play, making 49% of their field-goal attempts, best in the conference and ranked eighth nationally.

At Salt Lake Community College last season, Mulibea shot 47.9% and averaged 12.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Prior to his time at SLCC, Mulibea played at Utah Tech, and before that he was named 5A first-team All-Utah as a senior at East High School in Salt Lake City.

Riley said he likes Mulibea’s versatility and that he plans to use Mulibea much as the team has used wings in previous seasons.

“He can shoot it at a high percentage, high volume, and he can guard more positions,” Riley said. “He can do more than he’s shown.”

That is similar to what he said about Kyman, who will have just one year of eligibility at Eastern. Kyman played the 2022-23 season at Wyoming, where he averaged 4.5 points and 1.6 rebounds. Before that, Kyman spent three years at UCLA, where he averaged 10.3 minutes in 80 games played.

“He’s played at a high level, and I think there’s more he can do that he hasn’t shown yet,” Riley said of Kyman. “I think it’s exciting for him in his last year to be in a system (where he can) play a complete game.”

Kyman, Mulibea and previously announced transfer Nic McClain will join a core of returners that includes Ethan Price (9.6 points per game last season), Casey Jones (7.6), Cedric Coward (7.3) and Dane Erikstrup (6.5). All four will be juniors in the fall.

Also back is Ellis Magnuson, who saw his minutes increase later in the season, and LeJuan Watts, who redshirted last season.

“(Watts is) someone that can do all the little things,” Riley said. “Hopefully, he can be similar to Casey (Jones): a great rebounder (and a) really good finisher around the rim.”

Riley confirmed that Tyreese Davis will not return for next season while he recovers from knee surgery. After that, Davis plans to pursue professional opportunities.

Davis, who has one year of eligibility remaining, was third on the team per game in scoring (10 points) and minutes (28.2) last season. He started all 31 games he played.

Coaching staff to be rounded out ‘soon’

Riley anticipated that the team’s coaching staff would be finalized “soon” after the departure of assistant coach Mark Darnall in early April.

Darnall was hired as head coach at Jessup University – which is transitioning from NAIA to Division II – in Rocklin, California. It is his first head coaching position.

EWU to face South Dakota, NDSU

The inaugural Big Sky-Summit League Challenge announced its matchups last week. It will include men’s games between Eastern Washington and South Dakota (Jan. 3 in Vermillion, South Dakota) and North Dakota State (Jan. 6 in Cheney).

“It’s hard for us to schedule nonconference games,” Riley said. “Not many people want to play us, so it’s nice to have those games locked in.”

The EWU women will host Omaha on Jan. 3 and will play at North Dakota on Jan. 6.

The rest of Eastern Washington’s 2023-24 schedule will be announced later .

The Summit League matchups are part of an effort by the Big Sky to schedule more Division I games to increase the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) ranking for the conference’s teams. The Big Sky’s latest strategic plan, released in October, states that “members must host annually a minimum of three Division I nonconference regular-season home contests” beginning with the 2023-24 season.

The NCAA adopted the NET as its primary sorting tool for evaluating teams prior to the 2018-19 season.

Last season, the Big Sky ranked 18th in NET among the 32 Division I conferences.

Montana State finished with the conference’s best NET at 103. Eastern’s was 128.

AD Hickey to remain another month

EWU athletic director Lynn Hickey will remain in her role through the end of May “to provide leadership continuity to the department” during the search for her replacement, the university announced on May 2.

Hickey’s original plan, announced in February, was to retire when her contract expired on April 30.

Hickey became EWU’s athletic director in 2018 after holding the same post at the University of Texas San Antonio for 18 years.

The university is conducting a national search, according to the release.