A pretty good team
Last updated 1/12/2024 at 5:41pm
It is hard to predict what type of team that the Eastern Washington Eagles will field each season especially with the transfer portal changing rosters all over the country. The Eagles have lost a few players in the last few years because of it and some really good ones too. Some have made good decisions while a few others have had trouble finding playing time or maybe they have had trouble adjusting to the new coach.
When Shantay Legens left for Portland after a Big Sky Championship and NCAA appearance EWU hired Eagle assistant David Riley. Comments from players were glowing. Everyone asked said he was the right choice for Eastern and they supported the choice. Then a couple followed Legans to Portland and the Groves brothers went to Oklahoma. It was disappointing to see these athletes give the thumbs up to the new coach that they thought so highly of and the leave him to rebuild a team when the majority of the scoring talent was departing.
In his first year Riley put together a competitive team. After the season more transferd out. But two can play this game and Riley picked up a few transfers himself. Last year his team won the Big Sky Conference regular season championship. After losing out in the first round of the Big Sky tournament the NIT called and invited the Eagles to play WSU in Pullman. EWU defeated the Cougars and would then travel to Oklahoma State where they were defeated by the Cowboys.
Again there were a couple of defections most notably Big Sky player of the year Steele Venters who was picked up by Gonzaga. Riley would add some players that fit the EWU model quite well. The EWU schedule in November is seldom kind to the Cheney boys as travel and playing the Power 5 conference foes has been the recipe for quite a few years now. But that is how you build a team. Come together on the road and understand how hard you have to work to be a good team. The Eagles started off November 1-6. Since then they are 7-1 and 2-0 in Big Sky play. So the tough schedule isn’t a bad thing. Playing in a hostile environment will help the Eagles throughout the season.
I had the opportunity to watch Eastern play the last two Saturdays. They beat Sac State on the 30th by 26 and then beat North Dakota State on January 6 in a highly entertaining game. After losing to the Bison on the gridiron it is good to return the favor on the basketball court. I know it’s not the same but what the heck!
For most basketball fans Gonzaga is the team that this area wants to see. But it is very hard to get a ticket to a sold out McCarthey Athletic Center. If you really want to watch some really good college basketball then you should go to Cheney and see the Eagles. It’s not that far away and there are no bad seats. It’s reasonably priced and a lot of fun to be at Reese Court.
When it comes to the type of game the Eagles play let’s just say they’re an aggressive defensive team. They challenge at the rim and harass point guards full court. They have some kids that are really fun to watch from three point land and driving dunks to the hoop. Against Sacramento State the Eagles forced turnovers via shot clock violations when the Hornets couldn’t get a decent shot off in 30 seconds. That isn’t easy in todays’ college game. The Eagles do a very good job of sharing the ball and finding the open man all over the court. This is the type of basketball that fans love to watch.
Against Sac State the Hornets implemented a man to man full court press on the point guard. Eastern merely passed the ball off to a 6-10 or 6-11 forward and they brought the ball up. The Hornet big men didn’t challenge. Coach Riley is doing a great job of making adjustments. He has some good rotations and he plays about 10 a game to keep the team fresh.
These guys aren’t names you would recognize but they are really good and they should challenge for another Big Sky Championship. I’m hoping things work out so that I can watch them play again this year because they really are a pretty good team.
— Dale Anderson is a sports columnist from Ritzville. To contact him, email [email protected].