There is no denying that Jacob Wiley took the league by storm.
After a league season to remember, the senior graduate transfer from Newport, Wash., was rewarded with Big Sky Conference Most Valuable Player honors as chosen by the league's head coaches, the conference office announced on Monday (March 6).
Wiley was a unanimous first team All-Big Sky selection after an 18-game league season in which he was tops in the Big Sky in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and blocked shots. In addition, junior Bogdan Bliznyuk was selected to the All-Big Sky second team after earning the league's Freshman of the Year honor two seasons ago.
He is EWU's third player in 30 years in the Big Sky to earn MVP honors, joining Alvin Snow (2004) and Rodney Stuckey (2006). After graduating in 2012 from Newport High School, Wiley started his career at Montana and played two seasons at Lewis-Clark State before transferring for his senior season at EWU.
He enters this week's Big Sky Conference Tournament averaging 20.0 points per game overall to rank 38th in NCAA Division I and sixth in the Big Sky, and has made 63.9 percent of his shots to rank seventh in the nation and second in the league. He leads the league in rebounding (9.2) and blocked shots (2.8). In league-only statistics, he averaged 24.6 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots while making 65.9 percent of field goal attempts and 81.7 of his free throws. He also averaged 2.6 assists and 0.6 steals in 18 league games.
"We are very happy for Jake -- what a great honor and well-deserved," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. "He is a tremendous worker and very deserving of this recognition. As a staff this is our first conference MVP in the six years we've been a part of this program, and I am really proud of the work done by our assistant coaches with Jake. He was very committed to his improvement and our staff did a great job working with him."
Bliznyuk is from Lutsk, Ukraine, and graduated in 2014 from Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way, Wash. He is averaging 26.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists in his last five games entering the Big Sky Conference Tournament.
He ranks in the top 10 in four different statistical categories in the league, ranking fifth in points (20.1 per game), eighth in rebounds (6.5), sixth in assists (4.0) and 10th in free throw percentage (.814). Southern Utah's Randy Onwuasor is the only other league player to rank in the top 10 in each of those four categories. Bliznyuk ranks 37th nationally in scoring and 165th in assists.
"We're also very happy that Bogdan received all-conference recognition on the second team," Hayford added. "Our conference does not have as many players on the first team as some other conferences, so to be among the top vote-getters on the second team is very good. In most conferences he would be on the first team."
Wiley's 20.0 scoring average is currently 10th in EWU single season history, and he is just the seventh Eagle to score 600 points in a single season (he is currently eighth with 620). Bliznyuk's scoring average (20.06) is currently ninth in EWU single season history, and recently he became the eighth Eagle to score 600 points in a single season (he is currently seventh with 622).
Wiley is also averaging 2.77 blocked shots (first in the league and eighth nationally), with a school-record total of 86 to break the previous record of 69 set by Venky Jois in 2015. He's also ranked third all-time in the league, just seven from second (93, Slim Millien, Idaho State, 2005-06) and nine from the record (95, Brian Qvale, Montana, 2010-11). Wiley has made 83.1 percent from the free throw line (eighth in the league and 105th nationally). In addition, he is averaging 9.2 rebounds on the season (first in the league and 40th nationally) and 2.3 assists per game.
More on EWU's Honored Players . . .
#24 - JACOB WILEY - F - 6-7 - 220 - Sr. - TR* - Newport, Wash. / Newport HS '12 / Montana / Lewis-Clark State
Quick Facts: Working toward his master's degree in communications at Eastern and has a current 3.36 GPA at Eastern (3.20 as an undergrad). Born Sept. 4, 1994. His fiancé is Brittany Hopkins and they have a daughter named Aliya. His mother is Sheree Gilkey, his grandfather is Jack Wiley, and his guardian is Bryan Hopkins. He moved to Newport from the Long Beach, Calif., area to live with his grandparents. Both his father and his grandmother passed away while he was in high school. His grade point average as a high school freshman was 1.6 and he passed one class, but at Newport he had a 3.1 GPA.
Career: Having attended nearby Newport (Wash.) High School, this Wiley's first and only year in an Eastern graduate after transferring from Lewis-Clark State and having begun his collegiate career at Montana. He has four games worth of experience both in national and conference postseason tournaments. He played two games in the Frontier Conference playoffs in each of the past two seasons, then played in one NAIA Tournament game in 2015 and two in 2016. Although he didn't play in the Big Sky Tournament as a freshman at Montana in 2013, he played versus Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament. His 84 blocked shots this season already ranks fifth on the EWU career list.
Chasing Big Sky History: Wiley has compiled some of the top statistics in not only the league but NCAA Division I. And shortly, he should be achieving some Big Sky history. The only player to score at least 639 points and have at least 303 rebounds in the league's 54-year existence is Montana's Larry Krystokowiak (now head coach at Utah), who had 709 points and 364 rebounds in the 1985-86 season. Wiley is currently at 620 points and 285 boards, and could be the first to finish a season with at least 639 points/303 rebounds, plus at least 58 blocks (he currently has 86 to rank third-all-time in the league). Likewise, no previous player that has had 639/303 has also had at least a .621 field goal percentage (Wiley is currently at .639). No Eastern player has had at least 600 points and 300 rebounds, with Ron Cox having 554/328 in the 1975-76 season and 485/356 the following year as a senior. Former Eagle Venky Jois had 525/278/56/.679 last season, and 518/238/69/.610 as a junior.
10-Game Scoring Totals Tops in EWU History; Back-to-Back Performances Tops in Big Sky: Even higher than the likes of Rodney Stuckey, Austin McBroom and Tyler Harvey, Wiley averaged 28.5 points in a 10-game stretch from Jan. 12 to Feb. 11 for a total of 285 points. Stuckey's best 10-game totals were 284 (28.4) as a freshman and 282 points (28.2 per game) during his sophomore season in 2006-07, prior to heading off to the NBA where he now plays for the Indiana Pacers. McBroom's top 10-game stretch was 261 points (26.1) in the 2015-16 season, while Harvey had a stretch of 274 (27.4) as a junior in 2014-15 and 247 (24.7) the year before. Wiley's 83 points against Sacramento State (38 on 2/2/17) and Portland State (45 on 2/4/17) are the most in back-to-back games overall and in conference play in school history, and also a record in the Big Sky. The Big Sky record was previously set by Damian Lillard (now of the Portland Trailblazers), who had 75 in two games in Feb. of 2012 (40 vs. Portland State 2/2 and 35 vs. Northern Colorado 2/4).
2016-17 Honors: Wiley was selected by the leagues head coaches as the Big Sky Conference MVP and a first team all-league choice. He is EWU's third player in 30 years in the Big Sky to earn MVP honors, joining Alvin Snow (2004) and Rodney Stuckey (2006). Wiley earned Big Sky Player of the Week honors in four different weeks, was honored once as Mid-Major Player of the Week, won a tournament MVP honor, and garnered a variety of National Player of the Week accolades for his record-breaking efforts earlier this season in a home sweep of Sacramento State (2/2/17) and Portland State (2/4/17).
2016-17: For the season, Wiley is averaging 20.0 points per game overall to rank 38th in NCAA Division I and sixth in the Big Sky on 63.9 percent shooting to rank seventh in the nation and second in the league. His scoring average is currently 10th in EWU single season history, and he is just the seventh Eagle to score 600 points in a single season (he is currently eighth with 620). He's also averaging 2.77 blocked shots (first in the league and eighth nationally), with a school-record total of 86 to break the previous record of 69 set by Venky Jois in 2015. He's also ranked third all-time in the league, just seven from second (93, Slim Millien, Idaho State, 2005-06) and nine from the record (95, Brian Qvale, Montana, 2010-11). Wiley has made 83.1 percent from the free throw line (eighth in the league and 105th nationally). In addition, he is averaging 9.2 rebounds on the season (first in the league and 40th nationally) and 2.3 assists per game.
In league-only statistics, Wiley led the Big Sky in four different categories during what will be a one-year career at EWU. He leads in scoring (24.6), rebounding (10.3), blocked shots (2.5) and field goal percentage (.659). He was also 10th in free throw percentage (81.7 percent), and has averaged 2.6 assists and 0.6 steals in 18 league games.
Wiley now has seven 30-point performances this season and 15 with at least 20, and he has had at least 27 points in eight of his last 15 games. He had at least 20 in 13 of EWU's 18 league outings. For the season, he has scored in double figures in all but four of EWU's 31 games and has 10 double-doubles, with a total of 12 double-figure rebounding performances.
Wiley had a total of 58 points, 28 rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots in EWU's home sweep of Weber State (2/23/17) and Idaho State (2/25/17) to earn College Sports Madness Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honors. Wiley scored 20 points and had 13 rebounds versus Weber State to help Eastern tie the Wildcats for second in the Big Sky standings. He then had a 38-point effort on Senior Day versus Idaho State on Feb. 25 – equaling his second-best performance of the season. His 15 rebounds in that game was also his second-best effort of the season. For the weekend he made 22-of-33 shots for 66.7 percent and also sank 14-of-16 free throws for 87.5 percent.
Wiley was honored by NCAA.com on Feb. 6 as the National Player of the Week in NCAA Division I for his epic performances in victories over Sacramento State 77-72 and Portland State 130-124 in three overtimes. In addition, ESPN analyst Dick Vitale named him as his National Player of the Week as well. Plus, Wiley was the Mid-Major Player of the Week for the second time this season as selected by College Sports Madness, and was Big Sky Conference Player of the Week for the third time. He was also named the league's POW by College Sports Madness. The next day (Feb. 7), Wiley earned prestigious Oscar Robertson Player of the Week honors from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and honor won the previous two seasons by McBroom (2016) and Harvey (2015). No other school in the nation has had three winners of that award. He scored 83 points in those victories to set one of the 11 school records and four Big Sky Conference marks he and his team were involved with. In two games he made 32-of-46 shots from the field (70 percent) and 19-of-25 free throws (76 percent), and averaged 14.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.0 blocks. His 45 points against Portland State in EWU's 130-124 triple-overtime victory equaled a school record, which was equaled again in the final seconds when Bogdan Bliznyuk finished with 45. Wiley's 17 rebounds versus PSU equaled the eighth-most in school history. Wiley had double-doubles in both games. Against Portland State, Wiley made 18-of-23 shots from the floor and 9-of-12 from the line to finish with 45 points and 17 rebounds. Against Sac State, Wiley scored 38, which ranked as the eighth-most in school history (now ninth). He made 14-of-23 from the field and 10-of-13 free throws, and also had 12 rebounds, four blocked shots and three assists.
Records Fall in 3-Overtime Win: Against PSU (2/4/17), Eastern set Big Sky and EWU records with 130 points scored, as well as the 90 points combined by Wiley and Bliznyuk (they each scored a school record 45). They came just two points from the NCAA record for combined points of 92. Wiley also broke the school record for field goals made with 18, and he and Bliznyuk equaled the EWU record with 53 minutes played each. The 254 combined points by the Vikings and Eagles were also league and school records.
At Lewis-Clark State: Wiley capped a spectacular junior season for Lewis-Clark State in 2015-16 by earning first team NAIA All-America honors after averaging 14.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots per game. He led L-C State to a 29-5 record and was the fourth-most accurate shooter (.604) in the NAIA, as well as ranking 20th in blocks per game and 43rd in rebounds per game. He was an Academic All-Frontier Conference selection while at L-C State.
At Montana: As a true freshman for Montana in the 2012-13 season, Wiley played in 20 games and averaged 3.0 minutes, 0.9 points and 0.6 rebounds per game. In two regular season victories over EWU, he played one minute in each. Wiley scored two points in an 81-66 win in Missoula and had a rebound in a 65-46 triumph in Cheney. His career highlight came during Montana's 2013 NCAA Tournament round game against Syracuse when he scored five points and recorded one block in the 81-34 loss. After quitting the basketball team prior to his sophomore season, he joined the Montana track and field squad and competed in the 400 meters.
Jim Hayford Comments: On Last Year for Wiley: "A year ago we were wondering how we were going to replace Venky Jois – arguably the best post player who ever came through Eastern Washington. At Senior Day last season, there was a guy sitting up in the stands saying this is where he wanted to go and this is what he wanted to do. He came and worked his tail off all summer, and then went on our foreign tour to Australia, and Jake said 'I like this offense, it works for me.' And then his coach says, "I like this post player, this works for me.' It was like love at first sight. He just keeps getting better each week and he's a big part of why we have such great chemistry. Imagine somebody getting these types of numbers with an ego thinking about himself. It just shows you he's a mature man to have this kind of success. It was a match made in heaven – if there was a guy sitting in the stands watching Jake, I have a scholarship for him if he can come do what Jake did."
On Wiley's National Player of the Week Honors on Feb. 6 & 7: "Jacob is playing at an amazing level. He is working well with his teammates, and most importantly, leading us to wins. Jacob is deserving of this recognition when you consider all he has overcome and how hard he works. He is very humble and seeks out coaching daily."
On Jacob Wiley: "What a neat person to coach because what is behind all of that is really hard work and character. It is 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. He would be the first to give credit to a lot of different people, but ultimately it's Jake making the decisions of his life, so you see that character shine through. He's done the work and he's in the gym before everyone else, so I'm really happy to see him have these kind of games. You can use Jake so many different ways. We use him at the low block and we use him off the drive. Then we can use him as
a pressure release when teams press. And at the end of all that, if you foul him he's a really good free throw shooter."
#32 - BOGDAN BLIZNYUK - G/F - 6-6 - 215 - Jr. - 2L - Lutsk, Ukraine / Todd Beamer HS '14
Quick Facts: Marketing major at Eastern, and currently has a 3.29 grade point average at EWU. Born March 31, 1995, in Lutsk, Ukraine. He was less than 2 years old when his father, a truck driver, died in an accident. Their mother moved them to Federal Way five years later to be closer to family. His older brother, Dima, and his mother, Lyudmila, helped raise Bogdan, while also caring for his grandmother. Born with a gap in his upper jaw, he has had multiple surgeries after moving to the United States, included transferring bone from his hip. His most recent jaw surgery kept him out of half of his summer AAU season in 2013. He wears a size 14 1/2 shoe. His name is pronounced "Bawg-dun Bliz-nook."
Career: With exactly 100 career games (16th in school history), Bliznyuk is the 20th Eagle to join the 1,000-point club, currently ranking ninth with 1,349 points. The only player in school history with a triple-double, when Bliznyuk registers a double-double, good things usually happen for the Eagles. He now has six double-doubles in the 2016-17 season and 15 in his career. Eastern has won 10-straight games when he's had a double-double, and a record of 13-2 when he achieves that feat. The Eagles are 6-0 this season when he has a double-double, and one of the 13 career victories was the first triple-double in school history with 11 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists on Jan. 16, 2016. He now has six 30-point performances in his career (all this season), with 24 of at least 20 (17 this season).
Triple-Double History: Bliznyuk had 11 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists against Northern Arizona on Jan. 16, 2016, for the first triple-double in school history. But five other times – including twice by Bliznyuk this season -- an Eagle has come one stat from a triple-double. All of them have occurred since Jan. 11, 2014, including three by former Eagle point guard Drew Brandon. The closest former Eagle Rodney Stuckey – now playing in the NBA for Indiana – came was 14 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists on Nov. 19, 2005, versus Pacific Lutheran.
2016:17 Honors: Twice Bliznyuk has been honored as Big Sky Conference Player of the Week by the league office. He joined teammate Jacob Wiley on Dec. 30 as in being honored by HoopsHD.Com as mid-season All-Big Sky Conference selections. Bliznyuk was named that organization's "Player of the Year So Far." Prior to the start of the season, he was a first team selection on the College Sports Madness preseason All-Big Sky Conference team.
2016-17: A second team All-Big Sky selection, Bliznyuk is averaging 26.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists in his last five games entering the Big Sky Conference Tournament. He ended the regular season by getting 60 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists in a weekend split to help EWU finish with the second-most Big Sky victories in school history with 13. On the weekend, Bliznyuk made 48.6 percent from the field (17-of-35 with three 3-pointers) and 92.0 percent from the free throw line (23-of-25). Bliznyuk had 32 points, eight rebounds and six assists in EWU's 91-75 victory over Southern Utah (3/2/17). He sank 8-of-11 shots from the field and 15-of-16 from the free throw line, making his last 15 free throws after missing the lone EWU free throw attempt in the first half. Bliznyuk finished with 28 points, seven rebounds and five assists in EWU's 76-61 loss at Northern Arizona (3/4/17), making 9-of-24 field goals and 8-of-9 free throws. He had 24 points and 10 rebounds versus Idaho State (2/4/17), just two games after he had 25 points and 13 boards against Idaho (2/17/17). In between those two games he had 25-point effort with seven rebounds in an 82-72 win over Weber State on Feb. 23 to help boost Eastern into a second-place tie in the Big Sky standings with the Wildcats. His 32-point effort – including 8-of-11 shooting from the field and 15-of-16 from the free throw line – helped EWU move into a first-place tie with a 91-75 win over Southern Utah (3/2/17).
Bliznyuk ranks in the top 10 in four different statistical categories in the league, ranking fifth in points (20.1 per game), eighth in rebounds (6.5), sixth in assists (4.0) and 10th in free throw percentage (.814). Southern Utah's Randy Onwuasor is the only other league player to rank in the top 10 in each of those four categories. Bliznyuk ranks 37th nationally in scoring and 165th in assists. Bliznyuk's scoring average (20.06) is currently ninth in EWU single season history, and became the eighth Eagle to score 600 points in a single season (he is currently seventh with 622).
Bliznyuk sank 14-of-29 field goals and 17-of-20 free throws on his way to equaling the school record with 45 points versus Portland State (2/4/17) in a 130-124 triple-overtime victory. His 53 minutes and 29 field goal attempts were also records. He scored only seven points in the first half, had 11 in the second half, then exploded for 27 in 15 overtime minutes (4-11-12). He also had 10 rebounds and nine assists. The only player in school history with a triple-double, he came just one stat from another triple-double for the second time of his career. He had 28 points and 10 rebounds at Montana (1/26/17) for his highest-scoring game since netting 34 against Morehead State (12/13/17) and his first double-double since Dec. 4. He scored 21 points against Southern Utah (1/21/17), in which he equaled his career high with five steals. En route to 19 points versus Idaho State (1/12/17), he scored all 10 points in a game-deciding 10-0 run in the second half of the 92-85 win. One game earlier, he finished with 21 in a 65-59 loss to Montana (1/7/17).
He closed the nonconference schedule with a 25-point performance at Colorado (12/22/16) that included 21 in the first half, scoring 18-straight Eastern points at one point. He had a 34-point effort in EWU's 88-86 win over Morehead State (12/13/16), making 13-of-19 field goals and 7-of-10 free throws. Bliznyuk had a double-double with 31 points and 12 rebounds in EWU's 93-88 double-overtime non-conference victory over Seattle (12/4/16) to earn his second of two Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honors.
The previous week, after helping EWU win three home games, Bliznyuk was also the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week. He came a rebound away from the second triple-double in school history (he had the first as a sophomore last year) with 22 points, a career-high 11 assists and nine rebounds in an 85-80 win over Denver. The next night, he equaled what was then his career-high with 32 points, and added seven rebounds and seven assists in a 96-90 shootout win against San Francisco. He made 9-of-16 shots from the field, both of his 3-pointers and 12-of-13 free throws in the win over the Dons, which equaled the career high of 32 he had in a win over Bryant (11/21/16). In that game, Bliznyuk made 11-of-15 shots overall, both of his 3-point attempts and all eight of his free throws, to go along with seven rebounds and four assists.
Bliznyuk compiled some big numbers during Eastern's seven-game winning streak from Nov. 21 to Dec. 13, including four performances of at least 31 points. He averaged 25.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game in that stretch, making 53.0 percent of his field goals, 37.5 percent of his 3-point shots (9-of-24) and 89.6 percent of his free throws (43-of-48). Until falling 70-48 to Northern Kentucky on Dec. 18, Eastern hadn't lost since falling at Texas 85-52 on Nov. 17.
Jim Hayford Comments: "Bogdan is an amazing young man – he's a great student, a great member of his family and a great teammate. He was very honored when we made him a team captain this year, and he's taken that extremely serious. He leads by example and is one of our hardest workers. What he says is really meaningful, and all of his teammates have a genuine love and appreciation for him. He has multiple skills – he can shoot it better than he has this year but he has a great drive game and post-up game. He's kind of a bully. Idaho is a really physical team, for him to come up with 13 rebounds (on Feb. 17) shows he has some strength."