Bogdan Bliznyuk is cementing himself in the record books


Bogdan Bliznyuk shoots a free throw against North Dakota on Jan. 25. Bliznyuk became EWU’s all-time leading scorer in the win over North Dakota. | Bailey Monteith for The Easterner

By Michael Brock, Sports Editor

The accolades just keep piling up for Bogdan Bliznyuk.

The latest for the senior forward—becoming EWU’s all-time leading scorer. On Jan. 25, a little over a minute into the 95–71 victory over North Dakota, Bliznyuk knocked down a triple from the right corner, giving him 1,805 career points, two more than former teammate Venky Jois.

Bliznyuk, an immigrant from Ukraine, was the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year in 2014-15, averaging 8.7 points and 4.0 rebounds while making 58.6 percent of his shots in 19.0 minutes per game. The Eagles were the regular season and tournament conference champions, and made the NCAA Tournament.

In 2015-16, he recorded the first triple-double in school history, notching 11 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists in a win over Northern Arizona. With Drew Brandon and Parker Kelly graduated, and Tyler Harvey getting drafted by the NBA’s Orlando Magic, Bliznyuk’s minutes increased to 33.2 per game as a sophomore. He put up 12.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game as the team made the College Basketball Invitational and won their first postseason game as a Division I member.

As a junior, with Jois graduated and Austin McBroom gone after a single graduate season, Bliznyuk’s role increased again. Alongside graduate-transfer Jacob Wiley, Bliznyuk put up 20.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 2016-17, earning second team All-Big Sky honors as the Eagles again made the CBI.

He currently ranks in the program’s top 10 for points (1st), free throws made (1st), games played (3rd), assists (4th), rebounds (5th)  and steals (8th).

In his three-plus years at EWU, Bliznyuk has never missed a game. The Eagles are 77–48 (61.6 percent) overall and 43–20 (68.3 percent) in the Big Sky over that span.

So when Bliznyuk hit the three against UND, head coach Shantay Legans called a timeout to let his star player not only celebrate the new record, but his career as a whole.

“It was very special,” Bliznyuk said following the game. “It’s a moment that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Bliznyuk received an honorary plaque and the game ball. After posing for pictures, the 6’6” forward walked back towards the bench, clapping his hands above his head. As he got closer to his teammates, Bliznyuk pointed to the two words on the front of his jersey, Eastern Washington, as if to signify their importance.

“I’m glad that we as a team played really well so it’s not a lone bright spot,” said Bliznyuk. “There’s a lot to be happy about tonight.”

Bliznyuk said a few of his teammates have recently tried to get him to talk about the record, but he keeps shooting them down. He’d rather focus on wins.

After all, for the star forward, team success is always more important than what he does individually.

Earlier in the season, in a 82–67 victory over Sacramento State, Bliznyuk set the all-time free throw record at EWU, passing 10-year NBA veteran Rodney Stuckey.

When Legans acknowledged the achievement, Bliznyuk responded: “We won the game, that’s all that matters.”

“He’s not big about records,” said Legans. “But he does just about everything for our team.”

The senior forward is the definition of versatile for the Eagles. He is putting up similar numbers as last year (19.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists), and is the only player in the Big Sky’s top 10 of all three categories on the season.

His physical, below-the-rim skill set—equipped with spin moves and shifty crossovers—has proved effective at EWU.

“He comes out and works hard every day,” said Legans. “I haven’t ever heard him say anything negative toward another player—he’s always uplifting […] He’s had some great mentors along the way and he’s taken things from everybody, and now he’s giving back to all his teammates.”

“I give a lot of credit to my coaches and teammates,” said Bliznyuk. “From the day I got here, Eastern was really big about player development and made sure to get the best out of me every single day […] Played with Venky (Jois), played with Tyler (Harvey), Jake (Wiley) and Parker (Kelly). All those guys showed me every day what it is to get in the gym, to work, to get better and never settle.”

Speaking of mentors, Wiley, who played with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets this season on a two-way contract, was in Cheney to see his former teammate’s record-setting moment. Wiley said that Bliznyuk is the best player he ever played with in college, though the stoic Bliznyuk would never admit it.

“He never talks about himself,” said Wiley. “I was telling him he’s a true professional because in my opinion, a professional is someone who shows up every day, regardless of what’s going on. Man, he showed up every day ready to work. He never got too high, never got too low, never got rattled. And when we needed him, he was there for us.”

Headed into the season, Bliznyuk had a 3.29 grade point average, and was a three-time member of the Big Sky All-Academic team. He is set to graduate with a marketing degree in the spring.

For now, Bliznyuk said he hasn’t had a chance to put his four years at EWU in perspective.

“I think it’ll come more at the end of the season,” said Bliznyuk. “Be able to really sit back and reflect on my career. Probably start missing playing basketball here already. Sometimes I think about it, but at the same time we still have a lot of our season left.”

EWU is 6–3 in conference play, and are tied with Idaho for third place in league standings. With Montana currently at 9–0 and Weber State 6–2, the Eagles face a tough battle in the Big Sky.

Still, Bliznyuk is focused on closing his career the way it began—with a trip to the NCAA Tournament.