Eastern Goes Perfect 6-0 on Canada Tour - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Eastern Washington Basketball

Eastern Goes Perfect 6-0 on Canada Tour

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Eastern Washington went 6-0 on their tour of Canada during this offseason (Photo: EWU Athletics) Eastern Washington went 6-0 on their tour of Canada during this offseason (Photo: EWU Athletics)

by EWU Athletics

Going into his team's six-game preseason tour of Canada, second-year Eastern Washington University head coach Jim Hayford knew it was an opportunity for his team to gain experience and blend together.

But he and the Eagles got more than they bargained for.

The six-game, seven-day trek across British Columbia not only helped blend nine newcomers on the floor with his veteran players, but off-the-floor the experience was even more valuable. Hayford's biggest chore during the trek was developing camaraderie and a team-first attitude among a melting pot of a roster consisting of Germans, Australians and Americans from five different states. On the floor, he had to blend together returning letterwinners, redshirts, four-year transfers, a junior college transfer and lots of incoming high school players.

"It really was a great trip," said Hayford as his team prepared to head back to Cheney. "Our team enjoyed and got to know one another better, and we improved in many areas."

"We took a portion of each day going through a mental fitness curriculum and I'm very pleased with the buy-in each player had," he continued. "We know the competition in the regular season will be more difficult, but we were pleased with our play and the outcome of the games."

The team's trip was captured on a blog that included game recaps, videos and facts about the players. It was another tool Hayford utilized to bring his team together. The blog may be found at: http://ewuhoops.blogspot.com

NCAA Division I schools are allowed to make one preseason foreign trip every four years, including up to 10 practices and six games. Of the 15 players on his roster, 14 of them played during the tour.

The team departed on Sept. 6 and played six games in six nights. After opening with an 87-70 win over Thompson Rivers University, Eastern headed west and edged the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C., 77-73. Eastern then defeated the University of Victoria 77-58 on Sept. 9 before another narrow triumph over the University of The Fraser Valley, 84-79. Eastern concluded its tour with overwhelming victories over Quest University in Squamish (93-46) and Trinity Western (86-57) in Langley. The Eagles returned to Cheney on Sept. 13, with classes at EWU beginning on Sept. 26.

In winning six games in six nights, Hayford's squad had a different leading scorer each night.

"I think that shows we are going to have a deeper team with more balanced scoring," he predicted. "We have a team with a lot of newcomers and we know there are adjustments that need to be made. This trip goes a long way to expedite the process of becoming familiar with one another on the court."

The Eagles open the season Nov. 10 at Washington State, but won't play at home until Nov. 30 when Cal State Fullerton visits. Although the Eagles officially don't open at home until Nov. 30, they will host an exhibition game versus Concordia (Oregon) on Sunday, Nov. 4 at approximately 3:30 p.m. at Reese Court, following an exhibition game for the Eastern women's squad.

After losing four seniors to graduation from his first Eastern team, Hayford's 2012-13 squad will return two starters and four other returning letterwinners. His team also includes three players who redshirted last season – featuring a pair of NCAA Division I transfers – with six newcomers rounding out his squad.

Eastern finished 15-17 overall and was 8-8 in Big Sky Conference play to finish fourth, and the Eagles won their first Big Sky Conference Tournament game since 2006. Eastern improved by five victories from the year before, as the Eagles equaled their most wins since Eastern made its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 2004.

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