Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Laying the foundation - Jim Hayford's EWU opening moves

Jim Hayford; photo from
After reading Jim Allen's story in the Spokesman Review, I got to thinking about the foundation that Coach Hayford is trying to build with the Eastern Washington Basketball program.

In his first season as Head Coach of the Eastern Washington Eagles, Jim Hayford guided the team to an 8-8 record in the Big Sky Conference, earning and winning a home playoff game for the first time since the 2006-2007 season.  The Eagles 15 overall wins was also their best since 2006-2007.  The on court accomplishments of this team were largely built on the solid play of four departing seniors, Cliff Colimon (#11), Cliff Ederaine (#42), Laron Griffin (#15) and Tremayne Johnson (#20).  Yet when we look at this season we can see a foundation being laid for future success.

Coach Hayford and his staff brought in Junior College Transfers Collin Chiverton (#24) and Jordan Hickert (#25) to contribute right away, but he also brought in potential star point guard Justin Crosgile (#5) and athletic big man Martin Seiferth (#12) on scholarships and patiently allowed them to red shirt this year.  Coach Hayford's involvement in the community while at Whitworth also allowed him to build rapport with Kelly Parker (#10) who as a walk-on true freshman was a pretty big contributor for the Eagles this year and certainly will be even more so in years to come.  These moves reflect patience and willingness to sacrifice for the future of the program.

Coach Hayford also brought in an impressive group of freshmen for the upcoming season, including Danny Powell a top 5 prospect out of the State of Arizona.  Here's some highlights:

In addition to recruiting and on court production, Coach Hayford founded the 6th Man Club which raised the money for new seating at Reese Court, and he started up the Eagle Summer Basketball Camps with over 900 kids attending last summers camps.

Coach Hayford has truly made every effort to reach out and bring Eagles basketball to the community and it is in part due to those efforts that the Eagles average attendance more than doubled from the previous season (1,101 per game in 2010-2011 vs 2,286 in 2011-2012).  That kind of increase is dramatic and shows well to recruits.  They know they'll get to play in front of fans rather than playing in an empty gymnasium.

Back to the on court successes,  The Eagles played an aggressive non-conference schedule and didn't win much but in most of the games they played competitively and were not run out of the gym.  That's a step in the right direction.  Winning a tournament game is also a step in the right direction.  High School athletes want to play for teams that can win, they want a chance to get on the court early and they want to play for a team that is going to take its shots on the biggest stage.

Laron Griffin; photo from
More importantly, the Eagles may have graduated most of their offensive and rebounding production from last season, but the work of those young men and the coaches isn't lost.  We will see it when new recruits take on Coach Hayford's vision more quickly, when Justin Crosgile comes out next year with Cliff Colimon's lessons already in the back of his mind.  When Martin Seiferth can hear the coaches, in his memory, working with Laron Griffin to develop his post presence, he'll get there more quickly.

I don't expect the Eagles to dominate overnight, I don't expect them to suddenly be considered a favorite for the Big Sky Championship.  In fact they may not even win as many games this coming season as they did in 2011-2012.  They will be a lot less experienced and a lot younger.  I do expect that this core group of young players will have a chance to grow and develop together and could turn into something special.

It's just the first steps, the first floor, but it is a foundation.