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Winford’s presence on team felt despite a limited role

Winfords presence on team felt despite a limited role

“If I had a daughter, I would hope that she married Kevin Winford.”

These strong words from former EWU men’s basketball coach Kirk Earlywine are a small example of the praise directed at senior guard Kevin Winford, specifically to his character.

“His character is impeccable,” Earlywine said. “I’ve been very fortunate in 26 years to coach a lot of great guys, great players [and] great human beings. There isn’t a finer person; there isn’t a finer human being that I’ve ever been around than Kevin Winford.”

Earlywine, who recruited Winford and coached him from 2008-2010, currently serves as the director of player development for the University of Idaho’s men’s basketball team. He believes Winford can succeed at whatever he puts his mind to.

“If he wants to go to law school, he’d be a hell of a lawyer,” Earlywine said. “If he wants to be a doctor, he’d be a hell of a doctor. Whatever he chooses to do, he’s going to be a successful at it. He’s got an engaging personality, people gravitate towards him, people want to be around him. He’s one of those people.”

The transition from Earlywine to current coach Jim Hayford has meant less time on the floor for Winford. Earlywine’s offense, in place at Eastern from 2007-2011, called for three guards on the floor at a time, while Hayford’s offense relies on a more traditional two guard approach. Under Earlywine’s tutelage in the 2010-2011 season Winford set school records for 3-pointers made, nine, and 3-pointers attempted, 23, in a single game. With Hayford as his coach in 2011-2012, Winford attempted just 35 3-pointers all season.

“It’s just a new adjustment,” Winford said. “The majority of my [new] role is just being a floor leader. Would I like to make more shots like I used to? Yes. It’s more of a maturity thing. We don’t play a three guard lineup anymore; it’s just something I got to adjust to.”

Winford, a business administration major, was selected to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team for the third-straight year after the 2011-2012 season. Despite a limited role for Winford, Hayford emphasizes the positives of having a player like Winford on the roster as a contributor.

“Kevin has great personal character,” Hayford said. “He is a joy to coach every day and he’s a team-first player. We have a lot of good guards so any playing time that those guys get, they’ve really earned it.”

Hayford explained why, despite Winford’s ability and maturity, he has chosen to have him on the floor less.

“It is true we’re pushing a lot of those minutes into two guard positions whereas some programs spread that over three guard spots,” Hayford said. “But we’re trying to improve our rebounding game and get a little more size into that three position.”

Hayford added,” Kevin just needs to play fearless and not fearful. When he’s playing with full confidence, he’s a more than capable Big Sky guard.”

Winford, born in Wichita, Kan., moved to Alaska with his family after his dad, a U.S. Air Force serviceman, was re-stationed there.

“My senior year, it was kind of a tough time,” Winford said. “It’s hard in Alaska to get looks to play basketball. There’s only a handful of guys that are able to make it out to play basketball.”

Winford said he received many offers from junior colleges and Division II schools but his heart was set on playing Division I basketball. There were three Division I schools interested: Montana State, Cal Poly, and Eastern. Coach Earlywine made a personal visit to Winford’s high school in Anchorage, Ala., to ensure that Winford would become an Eagle.

Coach Earlywine, effusive in his praise for Winford, complimented Kevin’s family on helping him to become the man he is today.

“His mother and father did a remarkable job raising him [Kevin] and his younger brother,” Earlywine said. “They are terrific people and it’s very easy when you meet them to see why Kevin has turned out the way he has.”

Earlywine was not finished.

“If I played some small part in what he is today and the future success that he’s going to have, it was my honor and my privilege to coach him and be a part of his life and certainly not the other way around.”

Kevin’s younger brother, Brandon Winford, plays basketball at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and says Kevin is helpful when people are in need. “If people want help from him, he’ll help them.”

He added, “He’s like my best friend.”

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