Tag: Eastern Washington Eagles

Travis DeCuire
Montana head coach Travis DeCuire (AP Photo)

Big Sky Preview: Montana, Weber State lead the way

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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Big Sky.

After a 2013-14 season in which eight teams managed to win at least ten games in conference play, there was more separation in the Big Sky pecking order in 2014-15. The number of teams with ten or more league wins was trimmed to five, with Montana and Eastern Washington finishing tied for first at 14-4 and Sacramento State and Northern Arizona a game behind the Grizzlies and Eagles at 13-5.

Jim Hayford’s Eagles managed to win the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, winning at Montana in the Big Sky title game, but he has a lot to replace with four starters from that team having moved on including high-scoring guard Tyler Harvey. That leaves senior forward Venky Jois as the lone returning starter, but fellow forward Bogdan Bliznyuk could be one of the Big Sky’s breakout players after averaging 8.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in 19 minutes of action per game. Even with their personnel losses EWU has the potential to be a factor in the Big Sky race.

As for the favorites, a Montana team led by forward Martin Breunig and guards Mario Dunn and Brandon Gfeller can certainly make that claim even with the graduation of leading scorer Jordan Gregory. Travis DeCuire’s first season as head coach at his alma mater yielded a share of the Big Sky regular season title and a trip to the Postseason NIT. The question now is whether or not this talented group can go a step further than they did in 2014-15, as they fell at home to EWU in the Big Sky title game.

Another team to keep an eye on is Weber State, which returns the tandem of guard Jeremy Senglin and forward Joel Bolomboy. In total five of Weber State’s top six scorers (four starters) from last season are back, meaning that the pieces are in place for the team to rebound from last season’s 13-17 record. The Wildcats struggled on both ends of the floor but especially offensively, shooting just 45 percent inside of the arc and ranking 258th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers.

But Randy Rahe’s squad was young, with a number of players getting used to new roles. With a season of experience under their belts, Weber State can make a leap up the Big Sky standings.

Jack Murphy’s Northern Arizona Lumberjacks, who won 13 league games last season, return two of the Big Sky’s best players and as a result are capable of contending as well. Guard Kris Yanku emerged as one of the conference’s top point guards as a sophomore, and with forward Jordyn Martin serving as the team’s defensive anchor (Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year last season) NAU can overcome the fact that they lost three starters from last season’s CIT finalists.

Southern Utah may be able to take a step forward in Nick Robinson’s fourth season at the helm, as they return five of their top six scorers led by senior wing A.J. Hess. The middle of the Big Sky won’t lack for intrigue, which is usually the case for the conference. Five teams won between seven and ten conference games last season, with the best offensive team of that quintet (Northern Colorado) finishing at the top of that group. Yet while in seasons past those teams were fighting for a conference tournament berth, they’ll only be fighting for seeding as the format (all 12 teams qualify) and location (Reno, Nevada) of the tournament have changed.

Prior to last season either Montana or Weber State won four of the last five Big Sky tournament titles (2011 being the exception), and at least one of those two has played in the last six championship games. Given the talent back at both programs, the 2015-16 season could see one of those two traditional powers holding the Big Sky trophy come March.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule


  • Favorite: “It’s either Montana or Weber State. Montana lost (Jordan) Gregory but they have some guys coming back, and Weber State has more experience after last season. The talent on both of those teams make them the ones that will be the favorites to win the league.”
  • Sleeper: “They lost some guys but I like Northern Arizona. (Kris) Yanku is one of the best players in our league, and he can score and distribute the basketball. And they’ve got the league’s Defensive Player of the Year (Jordyn Martin) back as well. Jack Murphy’s done a good job rebuilding that program.”
  • Star to watch: “He’s going to have more attention on him because of the guys they lost, but Venky Jois might be the best player in the conference. He’s a handful to stop in the post, and he rebounds and passes well too.”


In his first season on the court for the Grizzlies, the former Washington forward emerged as one of the top players in the Big Sky. Averaging 16.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game and shooting better than 59 percent from the field, Breunig was one of three players to be a unanimous All-Big Sky selection.


  • Venky Jois, Eastern Washington: A first team All-Big Sky selection as a junior, Jois is the most experienced returnee for Jim Hayford’s Eagles.
  • Joel Bolomboy, Weber State: Bolomboy averaged a league-best 10.2 rebounds to go along with 13.3 points and 1.7 blocks per game last season.
  • Kris Yanku, Northern Arizona: One of the conference’s top freshmen in 2013-14, Yanku averaged 13.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game last year.
  • Jeremy Senglin, Weber State: Senglin averaged 16.4 points and 3.5 assists per game as a sophomore.



1. Montana
2. Weber State
3. Northern Arizona
4. Eastern Washington
5. Southern Utah
6. Portland State
7. North Dakota
8. Northern Colorado
9. Idaho
10. Sacramento State
11. Idaho State
12. Montana State

Eastern Washington, head coach Jim Hayford agree to contract extension through 2020

Jim Hayford
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Prior to last season Eastern Washington had just one NCAA tournament appearance to its credit, back in 2004. Head coach Jim Hayford’s team changed that, winning 26 games and the Big Sky’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament with players such as Tyler Harvey, Venky Jois and Ognjen Miljkovic leading the way. As a result of that success, the school has decided to reward Hayford with a new contract.

Thursday it was announced by the school that the two sides have agreed on a contract extension that will run through the 2019-20 campaign.

Hayford’s Eagles put together the program’s most successful season as a Division I member, not only winning 26 games (which included a win at Indiana) but also winning 14 conference games. Now comes the tough part for Eastern Washington: accounting for the loss of three of their top four scorers (Harvey, Miljkovic and Drew Brandon) with Jois being their most productive returnee.

Among Eastern Washington’s additions are grad student Austin McBroom, who played his last two seasons at Saint Louis. The Eagles also add 6-foot-8 junior college transfer Rico Nuno and four freshmen to the program. Forwards Bogdan Bliznyuk, who averaged 8.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per game as a freshman in 2014-15, and Felix Von Hofe (5.1 ppg) should figure more prominently in the rotation as the Eagles look to earn the Big Sky’s NCAA bid for a second consecutive year.

Eastern Washington guard Tyler Harvey announces intentions to turn pro

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One of the nation’s best scorers has decided to move on to the professional ranks.

Wednesday afternoon Eastern Washington announced that junior guard Tyler Harvey has decided to enter the 2015 NBA Draft. According to the release Harvey, who was named an Academic All-American last month, will complete his degree requirements (he’s one class away from graduating) online while going through pre-draft workouts.

“When I went home (for spring break) I had a good chance to talk to my family about everything and what happened this year,” Harvey said in the release. “I was fortunate and blessed enough to lead the NCAA in scoring and we had a great year as a team, so we felt like the time was right. We thought this was the best opportunity to pursue a professional career.”

Harvey was outstanding for the Big Sky champion Eagles (they shared the regular season title with Montana and won the Big Sky tournament) this season, averaging 23.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while shooting 46.9 percent from the field and 43.1 percent from beyond the arc. DraftExpress.com currently ranks Harvey 84th on its list of the Top 100 prospects, projecting him to be a second round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.

While the school did state in the release that Harvey would be free to return to school should he decide to, as he hasn’t had an agent, current NCAA rules only give underclassmen until April 12 to declare their intentions to return. Harvey also stated that “as of now my mind is made up” in regards to turning pro.

There has been discussion of a more “player-friendly” calendar being put into effect in the future, which would get them more of the information they need to make an informed decision when it comes to moving on to the professional ranks.