It's time to get ready for the Big Sky season again with some overviews of each team this month, and then eventually we'll get into more detailed looks at everything. We'll start with Eastern Washington, led by head coach Jim Hayford who got a contract extension in the offseason.
What They Lost: It looked like they might return everyone, but they did have a couple defections. The biggest was big man Martin Seiferth, who returned to Germany to play pro basketball. Seiferth was a solid rebounder, especially on the offensive glass where he grabbed 11.8% of offensive rebounds, a solid mark. He was also a good shot blocker, ranking in the top 125 nationally in block rate. He was capable on offense of getting putbacks and easy buckets as well. He was an outlier for EWU in that he was a plodder in an offense that wanted to run, but he gave them good production.
Forward Thomas Reuter is also not on the roster, though I am not sure what happened to him. In his two years, Reuter was a guy that could probably be described as a jack of all trades, master of none.
Who Returns: As judged by the minimal losses, EWU returns a lot of guys and a lot of talent, as they've been one of the youngest teams in the Big Sky the past two seasons. The most important among them is Tyler Harvey, who led the conference in scoring last year and is one of the most prolific shooters in the country. Forward Venky Jois didn't quite live up to his great freshman year, but is still an all-conference candidate as a guy that can do it all well - including rebound, block shots, pass the ball, and score inside.
A couple other notables are Parker Kelly and Ognjen Miljkovic. Kelly is still mostly a shooter at this point, but he is a very good one, making 36% of his threes on a lot of attempts, as well as being excellent at the foul line. Miljkovic had an up and down freshman year, but his talent is obvious. Though he needs to be a little more efficient scoring, the tools are there for him to be a big time player. Drew Brandon is a guy I haven't mentioned yet, but he is a nightly triple-double threat.
Newcomers: Their first signee was guard Will Ferris, who could push for time with his shooting ability, though a redshirt year seems possible. Sir Washington was a redshirt last year, and has good athletic ability as a two-guard.
Bogdan Bliznyuk continues the Eagles tradition of talented foreign big men (he is originally from Ukraine, though he appears to have lived in the USA most of his life), following guys like Jois and Miljkovic as versatile frontcourt players that get playing time right away. He can shoot outside as well, and should be a nice contributor.
Another newcomer is forward Kyle Reid, who was a highly rated JUCO forward out of California, averaging 14.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game last year. He will join Bilznyuk to help make up for any loss of Seiferth, as the Eagles should have a deep and talented frontcourt.
General Outlook: There is no doubt that the Eagles are one of the most talented teams in the Big Sky, and should lead the conference in scoring. The only problem could be finding minutes for all the talent. Four of their five starters return and will be upperclassmen, they return some experience on the bench, and they have talented newcomers to fill in the gaps. As we'll see as we go through the teams, there will be a lot of bunching at the top, but EWU is a team within that bunch that could legitimately win the Big Sky, or finish fifth. They will be fun this year.
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