Ukrainian basketball recruit prepares to compete next season

By Elohino Theodore, Senior Sports Reporter

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The EWU men’s basketball team announced on May 14 the National Letter of Intent signing of Todd Beamer High School senior and Lutsk, Ukraine native Bogdan Bliznyuk.

Standing at 6 feet 6 inches and 215-pounds, Bliznyuk is a forward who can play multiple positions.

“He’s a stretch four,” said assistant coach Alex Pribble. “So he can play a lot of different positions and that’s what we like about him. We’ll take advantage of his matchups in a lot of different ways.”

According to head coach Jim Hayford, the Eagles had their eyes on Bliznyuk for a while. “We followed [Bliznyuk] as a coaching staff throughout his junior year and then into his senior year,” Hayford said. “It was a two year process of evaluation and recruitment.”

Bliznyuk was born in Lutsk, Ukraine. Due to family issues, his mother moved the family to Federal Way, Washington, to be closer to other family members. Bliznyuk earned first team All-State honors and All-Area Player of the Year from the Tacoma News Tribune.

During his junior year, Bliznyuk averaged 15.1 points along with 7.7 rebounds. Todd Beamer High School finished 18-8 during the season of his junior year.

During his senior year, he averaged 19.6 points, six rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.8 blocks. Bliznyuk also shot 49 percent behind the 3-point line. He also shot 50 percent from the field while shooting 87 percent behind the free-throw line.

In March, Bliznyuk helped his school finish in fifth place at the 4A State Championships. He was also honored by being named to the 2014 Association Press Class 4A All-State team. The Seattle Times also honored him with second team All-State.

Hayford explained what Bliznyuk must do in order to get situated and accustomed to his new school next year.

“He’s going to come out and go to summer school in the summer and work with our strength and conditioning program,” Hayford said. “Our coaches are allowed to work with him two hours a week throughout summer school under NCAA rules.”

In addition to all of the accolades, Bliznyuk was the South Puget Sound League South Division Player of the Year. He also helped Todd Beamer High School win their first South Puget Sound South Division title and their first West Central and Southwest Bi-District championship in 2014.

Hayford and Pribble stated how Bliznyuk will help the Eagles in the future.

“I think he gives us depth at multiple positions,” Hayford said. “He adds another outside shooter with size. He’ll stretch the defense, he brings great court smarts.”

“He can play from the perimeter, he can play inside,” Pribble said. “He can also handle the ball against bigger players.”

Both coaches look forward to working with Bliznyuk next year.

“He works hard, you can tell that he’s a guy who is a gym rat,” Pribble said. “He spends a lot of time in the gym working on his craft. When he gets here, I think that it’s just going to be a good experience for both him and for us.”

“I think he has great potential to be a defensive stopper, he has multiple offensive skills,” Hayford said. “[Bliznyuk] can score off the drive and the shot and the post-up and he’s a very good passer.

“So it’s exciting for me and my coaching staff when we look at helping him reach his full potential.”

Pribble is optimistic that Bliznyuk will have all of the resources he will need to fit in with the team’s program.

“The luxury with being a veteran team now, and not being as young of a team as we’ve been in the last couple of years, is that [Bliznyuk] can come in and he can learn from our juniors, learn from our seniors and understand the expectations of working hard every single day,” Pribble said.

“He is willing and able to fit in right away to make an impact right away,” Pribble said. “So we believe we have a culture set and [Bliznyuk] is going to add to that culture rather than take anything away.”

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