Eagles basketball will play at Portland Sunday in Disaster Relie - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Eagles basketball will play at Portland Sunday in Disaster Relief Exhibition

Photo: EWU Athletics Photo: EWU Athletics

By Eastern Washington Athletics

For a good cause, the Shantay Legans era at Eastern Washington University will get an early start.
 
The Eagle men's basketball team has agreed to play at Portland this Sunday (Oct. 29) in an exhibition game benefitting the American Red Cross Hurricane Maria disaster relief efforts. The game will be played at the Chiles Center at 5 p.m. Pacific time.
 
The NCAA has approved the waiver request as part of its initiative in supporting disaster relief efforts across the country. Tickets for the game will be $10 for adults and $5 for children. In addition, the American Red Cross will have a contingent on hand that will be accepting donations at the basketball game, with all gate proceeds supporting Red Cross Hurricane Relief Efforts. Fans can also donate directly to the American Red Cross website.
 
One of Eastern's new players, Richard Polanco, is from the Dominican Republic, which was also impacted by Hurricane Maria after it made a direct hit on Puerto Rico on Sept. 20. Although his family and home survived the hurricane relatively unscathed, he was in the country at the time and had his return to EWU delayed as a result.
 
"This is a great opportunity for both of our programs to use our platform in order to help make an impact with all of those affected by the series of devastating natural disasters that have recently plagued our country," said Legans. "We want to thank University of Portland head coach Terry Porter and the athletic administrations at both schools for making this happen. I hope our Eagle Family shows up to support both the cause and their Eagle Basketball team."
 
The Eagles began practices for the 2017-18 season on Oct. 2, and will officially open the season at home at Reese Court on Nov. 10 at 1:05 p.m. against Walla Walla. The Eagles then go on the road for 10-straight games, including games against Pac-12 foes Washington on Nov 12 and Stanford on Nov. 14, before playing three games in Las Vegas.
 
Led by Big Sky Conference Player of the Year candidate Bogdan Bliznyuk, the Eagles feature a team with size throughout their lineup. A 6-foot-6 point-forward, Bliznyuk was named to the preseason All-Big Sky team, and is one of 10 returning players to the Eagle roster. The eight newcomers include Lithuanian seven-footer Benas Griciunas, a graduate transfer who has 59 games of NCAA Division I experience.
 
The Eagles are coming off a third-straight appearance in a national postseason tournament, and were 22-12 overall a year ago. Eastern finished 13-5 in the Big Sky to finish second behind regular season champion North Dakota, and then the Eagles advanced to the semifinals of the league tournament.
 
The Eagles return eight letterwinners from last year, including a trio of returning starters -- Bliznyuk, Mason Peatling and Luka Vulikic. The others are Cody Benzel, Grant Gibb, Ty Gibson, Jesse Hunt and Sir Washington, with Jacob Davison and Joshua Thomas returning as a 2016-17 redshirts. A senior, Bliznyuk was a second team All-Big Sky Conference selection a year ago, and was the league's Freshman of the Year in 2014-15.
 
Both the Portland men's soccer and basketball teams have members that have close ties to Puerto Rico and have been impacted by the hurricanes. Soccer alum and current assistant coach Logan Emory played professionally on the island, while freshman point guard JoJo Walker is a Carolina, Puerto Rico, native whose family has been dealing with the impact of the hurricanes on a first-hand basis.
 
Walker is one of nine newcomers for Porter's team, which will open the regular season on Saturday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. against Portland State at the Chiles Center. Porter and his staff return four lettermen and two starters from last year's team, which finished 11-22 overall and 2-16 in the West Coast Conference.
 
"This is a great opportunity for the Portland community to support a worthwhile cause," Porter said. "Almost everybody has been impacted, or knows of someone that has been impacted, by these disasters. We have seen it up close with JoJo and his family. It puts things in perspective and we are happy to be able to contribute in whatever way we can."

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