Looking ahead-men’s basketball

Tanner+Groves+goes+for+a+dunk.

Mckenzie Ford for The Easterner

Tanner Groves goes for a dunk.

By Randle Kinswa, Co-Managing Editor/Sports Editor

The EWU men’s basketball team (1-0, 2-4) takes on Southern Utah (4-0, 9-1) on January 14 and 16 for a doubleheader at home. 

EWU has played only one Big Sky conference game so far, which was a 16 point win at Northern Arizona (2-3, 3-8) on December 19. 

In that lone Big Sky conference win, redshirt-junior post Tanner Groves scored 26 points, on 9-13 from the field. Groves also led the team with 13 total rebounds and 8 free throws. 

Groves said there have been some unique obstacles for himself and the team with the differences this year .

“The no fans thing is the weirdest thing this year though,” Groves said.

Groves said that practice is pretty much the same except for the COVID-19 questionnaire that is required for all members of the team to take before practice.

Groves said the team has tried to hold each other accountable to not be exposed to situations where they could contract COVID-19. 

“Our coaches do a really nice job,” Groves said, “and our team does a really nice job of holding people accountable.” 

“Our team does a really nice job of holding people accountable.” -Tanner Groves, Junior

Head Coach Shantay Legans said that COVID has been an “obstacle”, and that every team has had to face and overcome COVID this year. 

“We tell our guys to be as careful as they can,” Legans said. 

EWU lost two key players this offseason to graduation. Forward Mason Peatling and guard Tyler Kidd.

A key player on both last year and this year’s team, redshirt-junior Kim Aiken Jr., believes the team has not been bothered and distracted from the cancellations and other problems stemmed from COVID.

 “We aren’t really affected that much,” Aiken Jr. said, “we have a lot of returners.” 

Aiken Jr. said he has taken the time during the stretch of cancellations, to get better and try and get into a better shooting grove. 

“I haven’t really played my best basketball,” Aiken Jr. said. 

Aiken Jr. said he has struggled so far this year, yet he is averaging over 10 points per game so far this season, which is fourth on the team. He is also averaging over 7 rebounds per game, which is second on the team.

EWU sophomore guard/forward Kim Aiken Jr shoots a corner three. Aiken hit five threes in EWU’s 78-69 win over Weber State Saturday 2020. (Mckenzie Ford for The Easterner)

Aiken Jr. said he believes one of the team’s hidden strengths is the team’s basketball IQ, whereas Groves said he believes the team’s strength is the team’s self awareness and depth.

“One of my favorite things about this team,” Groves said, “is that we have a bunch of guys who know their role … and we have a bunch of guys that can hoop.” 

Legans said the team has seen many people step up so far this season. Yet, Legans said Tanner Groves and a couple others have stepped up in a really big way.

“Tanner Groves has been playing great basketball,”  Legans said. “Tyler Robertson has also been playing very well … we thought we would reshirt him, but he’s been playing so well.”

Legans also said that Groves’ younger brother has stepped up this year as well. 

“Jacob Groves has also been playing well,” Legans said. “We have had a lot of guys step it up this year but those three have done so in a big way.” 

EWU’s next game is home on January 14 against Southern Utah.