Seattle U defeated Eastern Washington 84-65 last season, a game in which Hayford was conflicted. But now, "I've really settled in, (and) am enjoying my team here," he said.
It was a game Jim Hayford didn’t want to play last season.
His new team, Seattle University, was playing Eastern Washington, the team he had left eight months earlier.
It was an emotional day for Hayford, who even after Seattle U won 84-65, was not all that happy because the victory came against coaches and players he cared about so much.
Hayford said it will be much easier for him when the teams meet again at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Redhawk Center.
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“I just feel like in a year and a half, I’ve really settled in, am enjoying my team here, and Shantay (Legans) is successful at taking over those guys, and life keeps moving,” Hayford said. “(Eastern Washington) has a big place in my heart, and I am very grateful for Eastern for that opportunity, but I don’t see it as being as emotional this year.”
Hayford’s Redhawks (7-2) come into the game on a roll, having won four straight games, including three in three days in last weekend’s Elgin Baylor Classic.
Legans, who was Hayford’s top assistant coach at Eastern Washington before being promoted to head coach, has had to deal with a brutal November schedule. The Eagles are 1-4, including losses at Syracuse, Oregon and Washington.
Seattle U’s schedule has been much easier by comparison, but among the seven wins is a victory over Washington State, the team’s first win over a Pac-12 team in Hayford’s tenure at Seattle U.
“It was a good November, but it’s going to get harder,” Hayford said.
He said he expected an even better record going into December, because he has high expectations for each of his players.
“I want to see my team get tougher and play a little harder every game, and really develop an edge, where you see your will being enforced on both sides of the ball,” he said. “I’d like to see that come along a little faster. We still take some plays off and are too quick to relax.”
Seattle U, which has no seniors, has five players averaging double figures in scoring, led by junior guard Morgan Means (16.7) and junior forward Matej Kavas (14.0). Junior forward Myles Carter is averaging 13.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and has 31 of the team’s 43 blocked shots.
“Every season comes together differently,” Hayford said. “It’s fun watching this team come together. I think every one of these guys can be a really good player.”