Time to take a little more in depth look at the preview posted on the Eastern Washington website, full of solid information on the Eagles.
Hayford knows what building a championship contender is like. Before he arrived at Whitworth, the school was 13-12. His first year at the helm the Pirates were 20-7, and his second season they were 23-4 and advanced to the NCAA Division III Tournament. In his final two seasons, Whitworth was 54-5 overall and 31-1 in league play, and advanced to the DIII Sweet 16 in 2010 and the Elite Eight in 2011.This is why most Eastern Washington fans are and should be excited for the Jim Hayford Era. The guy has proven he can coach and win. It was at the Division III level, which is a lot different than Division I, but you still have to be a good basketball teacher to win as much as he did. Those skills should carry over.
“The beginning of each new season brings promise and opportunity,” he said. “This is a new beginning for Eastern Washington basketball and there is hope on the horizon. In between hope, promise and opportunity and realizing our goals, is just a bucket load of work. It’s time to go to work and that is our focus. We’re excited – we think we’ve added some players to our roster who will make us even more competitive.”
The biggest change for Hayford will be recruiting at the DI level, and I think he is off to a good start there. He got JUCO wing Collin Chiverton to stay aboard (who Rivals sees as a second team Big Sky player), and has a verbal from Danny Powell, a guy he coveted.
Three guards return who all averaged at least 24 minutes per game, including senior point guard Cliff Colimon and juniors Jeffrey Forbes and Kevin Winford. That trio combined to start 60 games last year and have 99 total starts in their careers.It is no secret that the guards will be the strength of this team, as they are very experienced. I have written a lot about them, and if EWU is going to cash in on some of the promise that many (myself included) think they have, they will need the guards to be one of the best units in the Conference. However, concerning the guards, I thought this was a very interesting nugget:
“The most experienced part of our team is the backcourt,” said Hayford. “We have three guards who have been through Big Sky play and have performed in conference games at a high level. That is the most solid part of the foundation that we are building on.”
“Last year, those three players were frequently on the court together,” Hayford explained. “As we looked at video, that created match-up problems because they are all under 6 feet tall. We don’t plan to have all three of those guys on the court at the same time too much, which means we’ll have two guys with some experience but other spots with not as much experience. This is where we need to find out the right blend.”That means likely that either Jeffrey Forbes or Kevin Winford will see some minutes cut, and my guess is that Winford will see his playing time drop the most. He is a bit of a gunner that doesn't do as much as Forbes and Colimon. Hankins will get some run, reports have been good about his potential.
“As I’ve talked with other coaches in the Big Sky and reviewed video, over the course of the last five or six games of the conference season, Cliff played as good as any guard in the league,” praised Hayford. “Cliff is excited to be the undisputed leader of this team his senior season, and I expect him to be one of the standout guards in the Big Sky Conference.
The trio of returning players will be joined in the backcourt by some taller newcomers in Willie Hankins (6-3), Tyler Harvey (6-4) and Parker Kelly (6-4), in addition to St. Joseph’s transfer Justin Crosgile (5-11). Harvey and Crosgile will redshirt the 2011-12 season.
“I think Tremayne Johnson is going to have a great senior year,” said Hayford. “He’s maybe the biggest “X” factor on this team and needs to reach his potential. I’ve told him the worst word you want next to your name heading into your senior year is potential. I expect him to have a great year.”Hayford does and should expect big things from Johnson, who I think will be the key for the Eagles this year. He's got the talent for a big year, and could receive some honors if he plays up to his ability.
Among Eastern’s newcomers is high-scoring junior college transfer Collin Chiverton. The 6-6, 200-pound junior averaged 19 points, five rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in leading City College of San Francisco to a 32-1 record and the 2010-11 California Community Colleges Athletic Association title. Most importantly, in the four seasons he has played since his junior year in high school, teams that Chiverton has played on have won 114 of 131 games for an 87 percent winning rate.Chiverton will immediately be a top athlete in the Big Sky, and he has the potential to be a star in Cheney. He is great on the break and has a solid outside shot as well. He can play the 2 or 3 and will allow the Eagles to go with a lot of different looks this year. Out of everyone in the Conference, he is on my short list of players I am most excited to watch.
“Collin was a prolific junior college scorer and one of the top high school players on the West Coast,” said Hayford. “He can slide down and play the shooting guard position, which makes us bigger in the backcourt as well.”
The whole article is worth a read, it is very good and gives a good look into Jim Hayford and his program. The Eagles have one of the highest ceilings in the Conference... should things come together, they will be a darkhorse.