Eastern gearing up for start of season

Adam Tumino, Editor-in-Chief

The Eastern men’s basketball team joined the women’s team in beginning a full slate of practices last week as the Nov. 25 start of the season nears.

Both basketball teams are set to be the first Eastern teams to play actual games since March, and men’s basketball head coach Jay Spoonhour said he is happy to be fully back in the swing of things.

“It’s always good to get back out here,” he said.

Spoonhour said that, outside of the two-week delay to the start of the season, not much has changed so far for the team. The biggest changes come with new health and safety protocols.

“Keeping them healthy has become the number one priority, and then we’ll have testing, so there’s lost of new things we’ve got to kind of acclimate ourselves to,” he said. “But I’m just glad to be out here. The guys are glad to be out here, and you feel  like you can get something accomplished, because this is going to be a good team.”

Eastern went 17-15 last season with a conference record of 9-9, earning them a sixth-place finish in the OVC.

There will be seven players returning from last season’s team, four freshmen and five incoming transfers.

Spoonhour said that the newcomers bring varied experience to the table to mix with the seasoned returning players.

“The incoming guys have all been other places, like Sammy Friday is a senior, so it’s not as though he hasn’t been coached in basketball. He’s coming in as a graduate guy, so he picks things up pretty fast,” he said. “When we start talking about having everybody back it’s a great thing, but we’re also adding some size that really helps us, so I feel like everybody who’s returning has kind of come back a little bit better and these guys are stepping in that are just getting here and they’re expecting to play. And I don’t blame them. They should.”

Along with Friday, transfers Madani Diarra and Barlow Alleruzzo bring size to the Panthers. Friday and Alleruzzo are each 6 foot 9 and Diarra is 6 foot 10.

As for the returners, the seven seniors were the top-seven scorers on last season’s team. Guard Mack Smith was the second-leading scorer on the team last season averaging 13.4 points per game. One of the main storylines to watch when the season begins is Smith’s three-pointer streak.

He ended last season with 81 straight games with a three point field goal, the longest active streak in the nation and the second-longest streak in NCAA Division I history, seven games behind the all-time record set by former Illinois player Cory Bradford.

“It doesn’t happen often that somebody is chasing a record that literally thousands of guys have been on the floor and had an opportunity to do it,” he said. “I’ll do whatever I can, but he’s definitely going to do his part in trying to make it, but it’s pretty remarkable and I’m proud of him.”


Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]