EOU looks to keep national appeal up with new coach

By Paul Harder, The Observer November 01, 2013 12:34 pm

EOUís Kalvin Johanson and his team will try to stay at the top of the Cascade Conference under new head coach Jared Barrett.
EOUís Kalvin Johanson and his team will try to stay at the top of the Cascade Conference under new head coach Jared Barrett.

Mountaineers host Quinn Classic this weekend 

It won’t take long looking out at the floor or at the Eastern Oregon men’s basketball bench to see how much things have changed. 

Gone is head coach Isaac Williams, who guided EOU to No. 1 in the NAIA Division II polls last season. Williams, a Mountaineer alum, took a job as the director of basketball operations at Boise State University. He finished his four-year coaching stint with a 96-32 overall record. 

Filling his shoes will be a fellow alum, Jared Barrett.

Barrett spent last season at Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah.

“We’re excited to see what we can do this season,” Barrett said. “This is a program that has built a strong tradition and we’ll be trying to keep it at a high level.”

The Mountaineers graduated their top-three scorers — Trent Roos, Jason Mumm and Anthony Brown. 

Junior Tony Eackles Jr. returns as the most experienced player last season, with 15 starts under his belt. He averaged 8.3 points per game last season and recorded 32 steals.

The Mountaineers return big-men Kalvin Johanson and Kyllian Wood. On the perimeter, Craig Tucker knocked down 35 percent of his shots from behind the arc last season.

“I told all the kids that we’re starting with a clean slate,” Barrett said. “Whoever is the most productive out on the court is going to play. Tony is a well-rounded player and we’ll look for him to score for us. Kalvin and Riley have worked very hard in the offseason to improve in the post.” 

EOU was selected to finish fifth in the the preseason Cascade Collegiate Conference poll. Senior J.D. Esters was also the lone Mountaineer selected to the preseason all-conference team, but fans won’t see him on the court this season.

“J.D. decided that he didn’t want to play with the team this season,” Barrett said. “As far as where we were picked in the coach’s conference poll, I think that’s a good place for us to start. We have a lot of new pieces, and need to learn how to play together. We still haven’t had the full team together yet.”

The Mountaineers are still waiting for some new pieces of the puzzle to hit the floor.

Junior Deonta Edwards, a transfer from Washington State, was just granted his eligibility by the NAIA Wednesday. 

“We expected Deonta to be able to challenge for the starting wing spot before the season started,” Barrett said. “He’s a long athletic wing, and he can score the ball. He also gives us more depth at that position now that he’s eligible.”

A familiar name to the area waiting to step onto the floor is Tavin Hurley. The Joseph native went to Humboldt State, in Arcata, Ca., and will suit up this season as a junior for the Mountaineers. 

“He’s probably the most polished big-man that we have,” Barrett said. “Tavin has great touch around the basket. He’s got a knack for playing with his back to the basket.”

Another local transferred to EOU this season, former La Grande standout Kevin Attila. The senior makes his way from Hawaii Pacific University. 

“We really want Kevin at the two-guard,” Barrett said. “He’s scoring will come in nice, but he can also run the point very well. Kevin is a very coachable player.”

Barrett not only knows that he has big shoes to fill but that enviroment is a tough one to succeed in.

“This is a tough conference every year,” Barrett said. “We know that we’re on the outside looking in the season with where we were picked. Put once we get everyone out on the court, I think we’ll be very competitive. We just need to get time to get everyone on the same page.

EOU, 2-0 overall this season, will host the Quinn Classic this weekend. The Mountaineers kick off the tournament against Carroll College at 7:30 p.m. tonight in Quinn Coliseum. Saturday, the Mountaineers will play Walla Walla University at 7:30 p.m.