Eagle men return next year with loaded roster

By Josh Friesen, Sports Editor

Photo by: Aaron MalmoeFreshman forward Venky Jois was recently awarded Big Sky Freshman of the Year for his breakout performance for the Eagles this season.
Photo by: Aaron Malmoe
Freshman forward Venky Jois was recently awarded Big Sky Freshman of the Year for his breakout performance for the Eagles this season.


In the face of insurmountable hardships, the Eagle men’s basketball team triumphed through adversity and showcased their resiliency.

The 2012-2013 season consisted of the departure of star point guard Justin Crosgile, forward Collin Chiverton’s personal struggles, a car accident and injuries to several key players.

However, the Eagles also managed to be defensive stalwarts, breaking the school record for blocked shots with 176, three shy of the Big Sky Conference record. Several young players had breakout seasons, including sophomores Parker Kelly and Martin Seiferth, redshirt freshman Tyler Harvey and true freshmen Thomas Reuter, Daniel Hill and Venky Jois, who was awarded Big Sky Freshman of the Year. The team was able to overcome all that was happening around them, and they instead focused on basketball.

“Our guys just kept pushing,” said Hayford. “I just really feel like those are seeds that are planted that will bring us future success.”

Jois agreed that the team was forced to face some significant struggles. He was focused on not getting deterred.

“With all the different injuries and disasters going on that we couldn’t really help, I think we just really wanted to push and keep focused just to give the seniors a good chance at a postseason berth,” Jois said.

A force near the hoop all season, Jois enjoyed his first season at Eastern. His basketball experience in his native country, Australia, helped him as a freshman. The style of play in the US is faster and focuses more on being in isolation with one defender, Jois said.

“You get to create your own shot and create something out of nothing,” he said.

According to Jois, his success hinged on the aura of confidence Hayford created on the court. The coach made sure players were comfortable taking shots, said Jois.

“I think that really brings out the best in a lot of shooters,” said Jois. “[Hayford] puts people in positions to succeed. … He gives us those opportunities.”

Though the roster went through several changes that favored youth, a veteran presence was also felt. Senior Kevin Winford reflected on his collegiate career that saw the transition from former head coach Kirk Earlywine to Hayford.

“My injuries were a downfall of my career,” said Winford. “[However], I had the 3-point record for the whole school, and we made the conference tournament a couple of times.”

According to Hayford, the future looks bright for the Eagles. He is excited at the opportunity to continue to develop a young roster that he believes has the potential to be strong.

“When you look at it, we have a lot of the pieces, and it’s exciting that none of those pieces are seniors,” said Hayford. “I just think that it’s going to be up to the players to give their very best to improve and the coaches to just keep developing that talent.

“I think that we have a roster that we can really build on to be successful in the Big Sky.”
According to Jois, next season will be different because the team knows their own dynamic and tendencies. They have built team chemistry.

“I think the thing that will help us the most is knowing what we’re getting into,” Jois said. “Now that we know what we’re doing, we know where shots are coming from. We know a bit more how to play with each other.”

Besides building successful teams, Hayford wants to see Eastern become a basketball power in the Big Sky. He is trying to build a culture that attracts the community.

“A big part of us making that atmosphere happen is winning; we need to win more,” said Hayford. “But ultimately what we need is our students to make Reese Court a hostile environment, and that’s something I hope we’ll see in the future.”