Jois is predicted to win the MVP award won last year by the nation’s leading scorer, Tyler Harvey
Two major cogs in Eastern Washington University’s roll to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament earlier this year – Venky Jois and Bogdan Bliznyuk -- have been selected to the preseason All-Big Sky Conference team as selected by a panel of sportswriters, broadcasters and sports information directors in the league.
Jois, a senior 6-foot-8 forward, is EWU’s lone returning starter this season and was selected as the league’s MVP. A year ago, Eastern’s Tyler Harvey won the award and went on to lead NCAA Division I in scoring and eventually getting drafted in the second round of the NBA Draft by Orlando.
Besides Jois, Bliznyuk was also selected to the seven-player team and was the only underclassmen chosen. The others honored included Montana’s Martin Breunig, Montana State’s Marcus Colbert, Northern Arizona’s Kris Yanku and Weber State’s Joel Bolomboy and Jeremy Senglin.
“Preseason honors set up expectations,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford, whose team was picked to finish third in the league. ”We are comfortable with that, as our team has great expectations for the upcoming season.”
Jois was selected to the All-Big Sky Conference first team as a junior in the 2014-15 season, and then was named to the Big Sky Conference All-Tournament team. He was the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year in the 2012-13 season, and earned honorable mention All-Big Sky accolades his first two seasons in the program.
“On preseason lists that I’ve seen, Venky is listed as one of the top 20 forwards in college basketball,” said Hayford. “It’s pretty special to lose the nation’s leading scorer, but you still welcome back one of the top forwards in college basketball.”
Jois averaged 16.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots per game last year, and enters his senior season with a school-record 184 career blocked shots, as well as 1,278 total points (10th) and 737 rebounds (fourth).
Hailing from Boronia, Australia, Jois has a 3.51 grade point average as an interdisciplinary studies major (biology/pre-med emphasis). He is a three-time member of the Big Sky All-Academic team and was a member of the NABC Honors Court as a junior.
“Venky is a threat to have a double-double every night out,” praised Hayford. “He plays with great passion and energy, and is a captain of our team. Venky has been a foundation in the building of our program -- he is an outstanding student, a great leader, and committed to developing into the best basketball player he can be. I join all Eagle fans in anticipating a great senior year for Venky. ”
The six-foot-6 Bliznyuk was the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year after coming off the bench to average 8.7 points and 4.0 rebounds for the Eagles. It’s an honor now won six times in the past 14 seasons by Eastern players, including Jois in the 2012-13 season.
Bliznyuk, a native of Ukraine who also earned Big Sky All-Academic honors, averaged 12.0 points in league play to rank 24th in the Big Sky -- tops among all freshmen. He was also fifth in field goal shooting (58.0 percent) and 12th in rebounding (5.6) while also averaging 24.3 minutes and 1.4 assists. He made 58.0 percent of his shots (80-of-138) in those 18 league games and converted 39-of-51 free throws (76.6 percent).
“Bogdan had a great freshman year and has a great career ahead of him,” said Hayford of the 2014 graduate of Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way, Wash. “He’s a very coachable player and he plays hard. He has a great drive game and rebounds with tenacity. He is efficient as a player and has great shot selection. I think he has a great career ahead of him because of his determination to be the best that he can be.”