Bliznyuk to play in Portsmouth Invitational Tournament - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Bliznyuk to play in Portsmouth Invitational Tournament

Photo: EWU Athletics Photo: EWU Athletics

By Eastern Washington Athletics

His aspirations to play professional basketball got off to a great start last Friday in Texas, and now Bogdan Bliznyuk sets his sights on doing what his former Eagle teammate did a year ago in Virginia.
 
The Eastern Washington University All-American and all-time leading scorer in the Big Sky Conference scored 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the Reese's College All-Star Game last Friday (March 30) at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas – site of the NCAA Division I "Final Four." He was one of just 20 players in the nation invited to play in the prestigious game.
 
Next, Bliznyuk plays in the prestigious Portsmouth Invitational Tournament on April 11-14 in Virginia. Eagle head coach Shantay Legans said Bliznyuk recently accepted an invitation to become one of 64 players to take part in the tournament, at which former Eagle Jacob Wiley was an All-Tournament selection a year ago. That helped Wiley eventually sign a two-way contract to play professionally for the Brooklyn Nets of the National Basketball Association and the Long Island Nets of the NBA's G-League.
 
This is the 66th year the PIT will take place, with Wiley the first Eagle to take part in the pre-NBA Draft tourney. Wiley averaged 27.2 minutes, 17.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in three games a year ago. This year's NBA Draft is June 21, with subsequent non-draftee signings taking place after that.
 
"The exposure Bogdan is getting through the Portsmouth Invitational and the Reese's All-Star Game in San Antonio is an incredible opportunity for him," said Legans. "Last year Jake's performance at Portsmouth helped get him in contact with lots of NBA teams and jump-started his professional career. We're excited about the same opportunities presenting themselves for Bogdan."
 
Bliznyuk started and led his West squad to a 98-94 victory over the East in last Friday's all-star game, which is presented annually by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. He also finished the game with three rebounds and a pair of steals, and made four of his last five shots.
 
He had two points in the first half, then scored three in an 11-0 run that turned a 63-59 deficit into a seven-point advantage with 10 minutes left in the game. The West never trailed again, as Bliznyuk made baskets at the 7:08, 6:00 and 2:09 marks to help preserve the lead.
 
Bliznyuk recently became the third Eagle in the last four years to earn both honorable mention Associated Press All-America honors and first team Lou Henson mid-major All-America accolades. Jacob Wiley earned both honors in 2017 and Tyler Harvey was honored in 2015. Alvin Snow (2004) and Rodney Stuckey (2006 & 2007) also earned honorable mention All-America honors from AP.
 
Earlier in March, Bliznyuk repeated as a NABC All-District 6 selection. He was a first-team choice, a year after earning second team accolades. His honor was the ninth all-district honor won by an Eagle, and he went on to be selected by the NABC to play in the Reese's College All-Star game on March 30 in San Antonio, Texas.
 
The Big Sky Conference MVP, Bliznyuk scored 2,169 career points to break the previous Big Sky Conference record of 2,102 and smashing the previous EWU record of 1,803. In the final game of his career against Utah Valley in the College Basketball Invitational on March 13, Bliznyuk tied Eastern's single season scoring record with 50 seconds left, then broke it with a 3-pointer on the last shot of his illustrious career with 20 ticks remaining. He finished with 741 points as a senior to rank sixth in league history and break the previous school record of 738 set three years ago by Tyler Harvey.
 
In setting a total of 16 school records, Bliznyuk scored 27 points in the 138th and final game of his career -- the 44th time he scored at least 20 and his 100th double-digit performance. He also closed his career with a variety of Big Sky Conference Tournament marks and a NCAA Division I single season free throw record with 77-straight makes.
 
 
 

More on Bliznyuk . . .

Senior Bogdan Bliznyuk finished as the owner of 16 school records, and led the Eagles to national postseason tournaments in each of his four seasons. The all-time leading scorer in the league with 2,169 points, he was the MVP of the Big Sky Conference in 2017-18, and was the league's Freshman of the Year in 2014-15.
 
As a senior, he made 52.8 percent of his field goals (12th in the Big Sky, 71st in NCAA Division I) and 90.2 percent of his free throws (second in the Big Sky, 12th nationally) to average 21.2 points (third, 23rd nationally) through 35 games. He also averaged 6.8 rebounds (sixth) and 3.9 assists (second) to rank as the only player in the league to be in the top 15 in scoring, rebounding and assists – he was actually in the top six in all three. In league games only, Bliznyuk averaged 22.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists.
 
A record more than two months in the making, Bliznyuk set a new NCAA Division I single season record for consecutive free throws made on March 3 in EWU's regular season finale against Northern Arizona at Reese Court. Bliznyuk made all six of his free throws, including a pressure-packed, record-breaking pair with 3:46 left in the Senior Day game to give him 74 and break the NCAA Division I single season record of 73 set by Gary Buchanan from Villanova over a 21-game stretch in the 2000-01 season. Bliznyuk sank his first three versus Portland State on March 8 before missing, ending the record at 77 in a span of 18 games dating back to EWU's game at North Dakota on Dec. 31,
 
The Big Sky Conference MVP finished 78-of-79 during conference play (98.7 percent), but came up short of the career record of 85-straight free throws between Feb. 15, 2001, and Jan. 18, 2003, by Darnell Archey from Butler during a 57-game stretch. Bliznyuk entered the Big Sky Tournament leading the league and ranked sixth nationally at 91.4 percent, and finished the year with a school-record 90.2 percent to rank second in the Big Sky and 12th in Division I.
 
His 2,169 career points in 138 career games surpassed the previous record of 2,102 set by Orlando Lightfoot from Idaho in three seasons from 1991-94. Bliznyuk achieved the record on March 9 in a 32-point effort in the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference Tournament. One game earlier in the quarterfinals, he scored 35 and passed Weber State's Jeremy Senglin with 2,078 from 2013-17. Bliznyuk is just the fifth player in the 55-year history of the league to hit the 2,000-point mark and now he stands above them all. "It's definitely an honor and there have been a lot of great players in this conference," said Bliznyuk after the record fell.
 
Interestingly, Eastern women's player Delaney Hodgins became just the fourth player in the 29-year history of women's basketball in the Big Sky to hit 2,000 points when she scored 30 versus Weber State on Feb. 22. She had 37 on Feb. 28 versus Southern Utah and a Big Sky and EWU record 46 two days later at Northern Arizona, and finished with 2,120 in her career to also rank third all-time in the league (29 years).
 
In a 32-point effort versus Southern Utah on March 1, he passed current Utah head coach Larry Krystokowiak from Montana with 2,017 points from 1982-85 and Bruce Collins from Weber State with 2,019 from 1976-80. He hit the 2K mark in EWU's 74-69 road win at Idaho State on Feb. 24 when he scored a pair of baskets in the first 3:08 of the game to help EWU open an early 9-2 lead. His 3-pointer with 1:31 remaining gave Eastern the lead for good.
 
His rise to the top was breathtaking, and it took him just 10 minutes against Montana on Feb. 15 to move from No. 9 to No. 6. He passed Steve Conner from Boise State with 1,927 from 1974-78, followed by No. 7 Steve Hayes from Idaho State with 1,933 from 1973-77, No. 6 Damian Lillard from Weber State with 1,934 from 2008-12 and eventually tied No. 5 Tanoka Beard with 1,944 from 1989-93.
 
With 40 points against Sacramento State on Feb. 1, Bliznyuk moved up to ninth in league history as he passed Montana State's Nate Holmstadt with 1,864 points from 1995-99. Bliznyuk moved up four spots on the Big Sky list against North Dakota on Jan. 25 to 11th in the 55-year history of the Big Sky, then moved into 10th one game later. Besides passing his former teammate Venky Jois with 1,803 from 2013-16, Bliznyuk passed the 1,810 points by Jim Potter from Idaho State from 1992-95, the 1,819 by Donn Holston from Idaho State from 1984-87, the 1,827 by Michael Ray Richardson from Montana from 1984-87 and the 1,841 by Tom Domako from Montana State from 1985-88.
 
Earlier in the season, Bliznyuk broke the previous school record of 1,803 set by Venky Jois (2013-16). Bliznyuk broke the school record on Jan. 25 in a 95-71 victory at home versus North Dakota with a 3-pointer barely a minute into the game to give EWU a 7-2 lead, which ballooned to 30-8. On EWU's all-time listings, Ron Cox had 1,741 points from 1974-77 and held the school record for 39 years – about 14,300 days – until broken by Jois on March 3, 2016 in an Eagle loss. Thus, Jois owned the record for just 693 days. Against San Francisco on Dec. 7, Bliznyuk passed Irv Leifer (1,550 from 1942-47), who held the Eastern record for 30 years after playing for EWU from 1942-47. He then passed the 1,564 points of his former teammate Tyler Harvey (2013-15). Previously, Bliznyuk passed 10-year NBA veteran Rodney Stuckey (1,438 points from 2006-07) in EWU's first game of the season, and then Dave Hayden (1,461 points from 1970-73) against Washington.
 
Bliznyuk, along with fellow senior Sir Washington, ended his career as EWU's winningest player in EWU's 35-year history as a member of NCAA Division I. They won 86 games overall and 50 in the Big Sky Conference, and led the Eagles to national postseason tournaments in each of those four seasons. Washington redshirted in the 2013-14 season, then they both played as freshmen in 2014-15. Eastern won 26, 18, 22 and 20 games for the best four-year stretch in EWU's Division I history, and most since winning 106 from 1942-43 to 1945-46. The Eagles had Big Sky Conference win totals of 14, 10, 13 and 13 since Washington and Bliznyuk were freshman – again, the best four-game stretch in 31 seasons as a member of the Big Sky. Former Eagle Felix Von Hofe was formerly the winningest Eagle with 81 overall wins and 47 league wins from 2013-14 through 2016-17.
 
Bliznyuk finished with a record 10 games of Big Sky Tournament experience, and Eastern was 7-3 in his four seasons as an Eagle. In those 10 games, Bliznyuk averaged 19.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game in the league tournament. Besides his 32 points against Southern Utah and 35 points against Portland State in 2018, he scored 32 points with eight rebounds in the 2017 semifinals versus Weber State, and had 18 points, nine rebounds and six assists in the quarterfinals against Sac State.
 
En route to breaking a total of nine Big Sky Conference Tournament records in his career, Bogdan Bliznyuk scored 82 points in three 2018 tournament games, making 31-of-46 shots overall (67.4 percent), 6-of-8 from the 3-point stripe and 14-of-18 free throws. His points and field goals made were Big Sky single tournament records as he was named to the All-Tournament team. He also set Big Sky Tournament career records for games played (10, 7-3 record), minutes (333), points (193), field goals (72) and field goals attempted (126), as well as fouls (24) and turnovers (30). He shattered the previous scoring record of 165 set by current Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak from Montana from 1983-86.
 
Not only did Bliznyuk shatter EWU's career scoring record, but he set the single season record; he broke an all-time EWU free throw record held by a former 10-year NBA veteran; set another mark for field goal attempts held for 45 years; and broke the school's all-time field goals record that had lasted 41 years. He established a total of 16 EWU records, as well as one NCAA mark (plus another un-recognized NCAA first), three Big Sky all-time marks and nine Big Sky Conference Tournament records.
 
In the final minute of the final game of his 138-game career, Bliznyuk broke set a school record for single season points with 741 and tied another with his 265th field goal of the season. En route to scoring 27 points in a loss to Utah Valley on March 13 in the College Basketball Invitational, Bliznyuk tied EWU's single season scoring record with 50 seconds left, then broke it with a 3-pointer on the last shot of his illustrious career with 20 ticks remaining. His 741 points as a senior ranks sixth in league history and broke the previous school record of 738 set three years ago by Tyler Harvey.
 
Less than two weeks before that, Bliznyuk broke the 41-year-old record for field goals in EWU's 74-51 win over Southern Utah on March 1. He finished with 776, bettering the 729 Ron Cox had from 1974-77. With 467 free throws made in his career, Bliznyuk also broke the record of 386 held by Rodney Stuckey, who played a total of 10 years with the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers in the NBA. Bliznyuk set the record when he was 13-of-13 from the line against Portland State on Jan. 4, and also made 16-of-16 versus Northern Arizona on Jan. 18 (Harvey holds the school and Big Sky records with a 20-for-20 performance). Bliznyuk currently finished ranked third in school history with 84.0 percent accuracy rate from the free throw line, and his season percentage of 90.2 was a school record.
 
Bliznyuk had a school-record 1,553 field goal attempts, breaking the 45-year record on Jan. 18 against NAU when he moved past the 1,286 Dave Hayden had from 1970-73. In addition, Bliznyuk played in 138 games to surpass the previous record of 128 set by his former teammate Felix Von Hofe from 2014-17, and his 4,272 total minutes passed the record of 3,927 previously held by Venky Jois (2013-16). Von Hofe, now living back in Melbourne, Australia, was at EWU games on Jan. 25 and 27. Bliznyuk is ranked in the top 10 in school history in several other categories, and against Providence on Dec. 20 moved passed Eagle legend and former Big Sky MVP Alvin Snow (2015-17) into seventh in assists (Snow had 318 and Bliznyuk finished with 414 to rank third all-time at EWU. In addition, Bliznyuk closed his career second in free throws attempted (556), fifth in rebounds (831), fifth in steals (126), eighth in career scoring average (15.72), eighth in 3-pointers made (150), ninth in 3-pointers attempted (397) and 111th in blocked shots (55).
 
He finished the 2017-18 season with the fifth-best scoring average in school history at 21.17 per game, and his 20.62 average as a junior is now eighth. Bliznyuk had two performances in his 138-game career of at least 40 points, 13 with at least 30, 44 with at least 20 and 100 scoring in double figures, including the school record scoring total of 45 set as a junior. He had 10 or more rebounds 20 times and double figures in assists on three occasions, with 21 total double-doubles (17-4 record). He also ranks tied for seventh in school history with 40 points at Sacramento State on Feb. 1 when he sank 15-of-18 shots. Plus, he had the lone triple-double in school history as a sophomore. On nine occasions an Eastern player has flirted with a triple-double (within a combined total of three rebounds and/or assists), including four by Bliznyuk, three by Drew Brandon and one each by Rodney Stuckey and Justin Crosgile.
 
Bliznyuk was honored five times by the league in his senior season as Ready Nutrition Player of the Week, and a total of seven times in his career. His career total is two more than former Eagle legends Tyler Harvey and Venky Jois won in their careers, and equals the EWU record of seven set by 10-year NBA standout Rodney Stuckey. Bliznyuk's five honors in 2017-18 alone surpassed the four Stuckey had in the 2005-06 season.

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