Men’s basketball ready to shoot from downtown

Eagles have a smaller and young roster with a plethora of three point shooters


Bailey Montieth

Senior Ty Gibson drives into the lane against North Dakota last season. Gibson is one of the teams’ three seniors.

By Taylor Newquist, Sports Editor

Jacob Wiley and Bogdan Bliznyuk led the Eagles on the way to their own Big Sky MVPs in 2016 and 2017. Now the Eagles enter this season with depth, youth and a question mark around who will lead them in scoring.

Head coach Shantay Legans begins his second season at the helm after securing a 20-15 record in his first season. EWU was picked fourth in the Big Sky by the media and coaches, with rival Montana—the consensus favorite at the top.

“I think we could have a different guy every night,” Legans said about who will lead the Eagles in scoring. “We have a talented bunch of guards, young guys and old.  It’s exciting to see who is going to step up and be that guy.”

Bailey Montieth
Sophomore Jack Perry shoots against North Dakota last year. Perry shot 43 percent from three last season.

Legans said that sophomore Jacob Davison is coming in as probably the Eagles’ best scorer, but that they have multiple guys like that. Davison averaged 7.1 points per game in his freshman year, shooting 48 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from three.

The Eagles return three seniors, guards Ty Gibson and Cody Benzel, and forward Jesse Hunt. This year EWU will be guard-heavy and play undersized, with only three true forwards in rotation. At 6’7”, Hunt will lead the way, with 6’9” redshirt freshman Tanner Groves and 6’6” true freshman Jordan Veening mixing in. Swing-man, 6’7” redshirt freshman Kim Aiken Jr. will also get time in the front court.

EWU’s depth comes with its guards, who will be spacing the floor and looking for open threes. Benzel and Gibson are prolific shooters and both are in the top-15 in EWU history for made three-pointers. Luka Vulikic also returns from lingering injury problems that plagued him last season. Vulikic averaged 7.1 points and 3.6 assists in the eight games he played last season.

“Obviously we didn’t achieve our goals the last two years,” Vulikic said. “I think this group can do it, I think we can go all the way and be the number one team in the conference.”

The Eagles nonconference schedule will be a test. They start the season in New York against ACC powerhouse Syracuse, and then take on Oregon who is predicted to win the PAC-12. Other nonconference opposition includes Washington, Stanford and South Dakota State.

“Since you were a kid you wanted to play against those top teams,” Vulikic said. “You want to see yourself against the highest level of competition.”

There will be 10 home BSC games for the Eagles this year compared to eight last year. EWU will step onto Reese Court for the first time on Nov. 16 against Green Bay, and then play either UMKC or Morehead State the following day as part of the subregional 2K Classic. The Eagles won’t return to play another home game until Dec. 18, when SDSU comes to Cheney to conclude the nonconference schedule.