First-year Redhawks coach Jim Hayford, previously at Eastern Washington, has brought in seven newcomers — and some are expected to make immediate contributions.
Since taking over the Seattle University men’s basketball team in March, new coach Jim Hayford revamped the Redhawks’ roster with seven newcomers, including three fifth-year graduate senior transfers who are expected to make immediate contributions.
Each has NCAA tournament experience with their former team and came to Seattle U looking for a fresh start.
“I’ve been part of two Final Four teams and it was great, but I personally don’t feel like I can claim that because it wasn’t me doing it directly on the court in a significant role,” said 6-foot-4 guard Jordan Hill, who spent the past three seasons at Wisconsin while averaging 1.9 points and 11.2 minutes as a reserve. “Here, I actually get to be the point guard and make calls and put guys in the right spot.
Seattle U men
Coach: Jim Hayford, first year.
2016-17: 13-17 overall, 5-9 WAC (6th).
Starters returning: 2.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jordan Hill, G, 6-4, Sr. – Played in 76 games, including one start, during past three seasons at Wisconsin while averaging 1.9 points. Appeared in two NCAA tournament Final Fours. SU’s best defender, who also will be asked to score.
Matej Kavas, G, 6-8, So. – WAC Freshman of the Year winner who averaged 8.6 points while coming off the bench in 27 games. Shot a team-high 40.4 percent on three-pointers last season.
Aaron Menzies, C, 7-3, Jr. – Averaged 12.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 14 starts before suffering a season-ending foot injury. Tallest and biggest (285 pounds) player in the WAC has at times overwhelmed opponents.
Jim Hayford spent the previous six seasons at Eastern Washington where he compiled a 106-91 record and averaged 22 wins the past three years, including a 2015 NCAA tournament appearance when the Eagles were 26-9. His best teams were high scoring, whereas SU averaged just 69.7 points last season and lost three of its top four scorers. The Redhawks will need to survive the early part of the schedule when five of first six games are on the road, including stops at Washington State (Nov. 15) and Washington (Nov. 24). Then, 13 of next 14 are at home.
“It’s a very different system than what I’m accustomed to running, but I’m excited for the responsibility and the challenge and all the pressure. I like to embrace that.”
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Hill will likely be joined in the backcourt by Richaud Gittens, 6-4 guard who averaged 6.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists during a four-year career at Weber State that included a pair of Big Sky titles and two trips to the NCAA tournament.
Gittens suffered a foot injury after playing six games last season and was granted a fifth year by the NCAA.
“He can do a lot of things out there,” Hayford said. “He can score, get to the rim, shoot the three, make plays not just for himself but for his teammates, rebound and defend. Lots of talent there.”
And Josh Hearlihy, a 6-8 swingman, makes his third stop after playing two seasons at Tulane and spending last season at Vermont, where he averaged 2.0 points and 9.9 minutes.
The other new additions — forward Myles Carter (Seton Hall), guard Dashawn McDowell (SMU), guard Matt Owies (Hawaii) and guard Delante Jones (American) — are sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules.
“You look over there and you know what’s coming and you feel pretty good about that,” said Hayford, referring to the newcomers who become eligible next season. “Our job now is to get this group going. It’s kind of separated in three groups right now.”
In addition to the newcomers, the six returners are distinguished by their experience.
The most seasoned veterans from the 2016-17 team that finished 13-17 overall and sixth in the Western Athletic Conference at 5-9 include returning starters Aaron Menzies, a redshirt-junior center, and sophomore guard Morgan Means, along with redshirt-sophomore guard Matej Kavas.
Monday: WSU men and women
Today: Gonzaga men and women
Wednesday: Seattle U men and women
Thursday: Washington men and women
“I know that my role is bigger,” said Kavas, the WAC Freshman of the Year last season who averaged 8.6 points and 2.9 rebounds as a reserve. He was selected to the 2017-18 preseason All-WAC second team by conference coaches and media.
“I shot a lot (in the offseason) to get ready for this year,” Kavas said. “Last year, I was getting back from a knee injury. I got my quickness back.”
Forward Scott Ulaneo and guard Mattia Da Campo — both sophomores — averaged fewer than 15.3 minutes while sophomore guard Jake Spurgeon sat out last season with a foot injury.
The Redhawks also brought in freshman guard Aaron Nettles, a former Seattle Prep standout.
“We’ve got some pieces, now it’s a matter of how quickly we can come together,” said Hayford, who spent the previous six seasons at Eastern Washington, where he compiled a 106-91 record and averaged 22 wins the past three years, including a 2015 NCAA tournament appearance when the Eagles were 26-9.
His best teams were high-scoring and proficient in three-point shooting.
“That’s how I want to play, but Eastern didn’t look all that pretty the first couple of years, either,” Hayford said. “You’ve got to coach, recruit and develop. We want to play with pace and we want to play downhill, but we’re also going to play off of a 7-foot-3 center (Menzies) and we’ll be more balanced in scoring. That’s the beauty of this offense. There’s something for everyone. Now we integrate the big guy and still shoot a lot of threes.”