Eastern Washington aims to honor seniors, beat Idaho State
For Felix Von Hofe, the finality of Senior Day didn’t sink in until it was almost too late.
“Since I was a freshman, I always looked at Senior Day as something way out there,” the Eastern Washington forward said earlier this week.
“Now it’s going to be real emotional, one last chance to play in front of the home crowd,” said Von Hofe, a native of Australia who also will see his parents in the Reese Court stands for the first time on Saturday. “For me to stand out here four years later …”
Then Von Hofe’s voice trailed off – a rare thing for the talkative forward from Melbourne who also has a chance to become the leading 3-point shooter in school history.
Emotions are sure to run high Saturday afternoon for Von Hofe and fellow seniors Jacob Wiley and Julian Harrell, who will be honored before EWU’s Big Sky Conference game against Idaho State.
That would be the same Idaho State that spoiled last year’s Senior Day, dropping the Eagles to sixth place in the final Big Sky standings.
“There’s a game to play, but hopefully my last game will be in the NCAA Tournament,” said Von Hofe, a key contributor to the Eagles’ tournament run in 2014-15 who also will end his career as the winningest player in EWU history as a Division I school.
In the last four years, the Eagles have won 78 games, but they’d like to take a few more.
“Our goal going into the season was to get 20 wins … That’s a lofty goal and we’re closing in on it,” said coach Jim Hayford, whose team is 11-4 in the conference and 19-9 with three games left in the regular season.
The Eagles are also 14-1 at Reese Court this year. A win over the Bengals would tie the school record for home wins in a season and make Senior Day that much more special.
But if Von Hofe’s had a long time to think about Senior Day, the Eagle experience has been too brief for Wiley and Harrell.
Wiley transferred to Eastern this year as a graduate student following stints and Montana and Lewis-Clark State. Few expected him to fill the shoes of career scoring leader Venky Jois, but the versatile Wiley has been the surprise of the Big Sky Conference and could be named the league’s Player of the Year.
“What a neat person to coach because what is behind all of that is really hard work and character,” Hayford said.
“It’s character he’s learned through adversity in life. A lot of people might have gone the other way in life, but Jake has used that,” Hayford said.
Wiley has made the most of his one year in Cheney. In conference games, Wiley ranks in the top two in four major catorgories. He leads in scoring (25.5), rebounding (9.9) and blocked shots (2.5), and is second in field goal percentage (.656).
Wiley is also 11th in free throw percentage (80.4 percent), and has averaged 2.7 assists and 0.7 steals.
Harrell, who transferred to Eastern last year from City College of San Francisco, was a key part of last year’s team that reached the second round of the College Basketball Invitational tournament.
In his 23-game career as an Eagle, Harrell averaged 7.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists, making 47.1 percent of his shots from the field before a career-ending shoulder surgery in November.
“Julian has giving everything he can to our program for two years,” Hayford said.