The process by which the Eastern Washington men’s basketball team recruited Ethan Price was, in Coach David Riley’s estimation, unique.
Pandemic restrictions being what they were and Price playing in England, the two did not meet face to face. There was no official campus tour — except, perhaps, the Zoom video tour they took Price and his family on.
Their first official meeting came last June, when then-Eagles head coach Riley picked up the 6-foot-10 center at Spokane Airport.
“It was weird at first,” Price said. “You put all your trust in a group of people, and Dave was the only one left from the original staff.”
And the first thing Price said he noticed?
“He’s bigger than I thought.”
It was June 18, Price’s first day in Spokane. He has hardly left since. The rookie has become a crucial part of the Eagles roster this season, which continues with home games against Northern Arizona (9-20, 5-13 Big Sky) on Thursday and Portland State (11-15, 9-9) Saturday. , the last regular season games for Eastern Washington (15-14, 9-9).
“We’re not going without Ethan,” transfer graduate Linton Acliese III said last month after Eastern’s home win over Weber State, a game in which Price had 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 34 minutes. “He has a huge role in this team.”
Price’s 17- and 18-point efforts in last weekend’s games pushed his scoring average to 10 points per game this season, giving the Eagles five players — each of their regular starters — scoring double-digit averages. The Englishman also has the third-most assists on the team (63), and he’s made 29 of 68 3-point attempts, the second-best percentage (42.6) behind the conference-leading rate of Steele Vents by 44.8%.
All of those skills were on display for Riley once Gonzaga’s female assistant Craig Fortier alerted him to Price two years ago.
“He was doing things that other 6-10 guys can’t do,” Riley said. “Handle the ball, shoot it. (And) I was unaware of the feel and IQ he had until he got here.
Price played on the same program – Ipswich Basketball Academy, about two hours’ drive northeast of London – as Esther Little, who is now a rookie on Gonzaga’s women’s team. She also happens to be dating Price.
But Price said the proximity of the two universities was not the determining factor in his own commitment.
“She decided before, long enough before (to attend Gonzaga),” Price said. “If Eastern was somewhere else, I would still have gone to Eastern.”
Such was Price’s relationship with Riley and Shantay Legans, who was Eastern’s head coach last season, and such was his trust in Riley that Price remained true to his commitment even after Legans left to become the coach at the University of Portland last spring.
Price is also part of a large international group of Big Sky actors. Of the 11 teams in the conference, all but Idaho have at least one player from a country other than the United States on their roster.
Price is one of three Eastern players, including Michael Folarin, who is from London but played at a prep school in Arizona, and Tommaso Camponeschi, who is from Italy but played at a private school in Minnesota.
Big Sky’s rosters include players from nearly a dozen other countries, including Australia, Canada and the Netherlands.
Idaho State, coached by Central Valley graduate Ryan Looney, has two freshmen from Denmark, another player from Spain and one from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Weber State has players from four other countries, including the Czech Republic and Lithuania.
But England, with nine players, are particularly represented in the conference, including three at Montana State, where junior Jubrile Belo and senior Amin Adamu are two of their team’s top three scorers this season. Chris Haslam, in his ninth season as a Bobcats assistant, comes from England.
Of the nine Englishmen on the Big Sky, eight are at least 6ft 8in tall, which is no coincidence for Riley.
“Any child over the age of 6 to 10 in the United States will be assessed by each college,” Riley said.
But abroad, this is not necessarily the case. Riley said he has worked to build relationships with coaches internationally to better recruit players who may be overlooked by other Division I programs in the United States. One such person is Pedro Garcia Rosado, now the Eagles’ director of basketball operations, whom Riley first met in Europe.
Eastern have also successfully signed players from Germany, Lithuania, Serbia and Australia in recent years. In that sense, Price is just the latest in a steady line of international recruits who find Cheney their home.
For Price, winning a college scholarship while playing basketball would not be possible in Europe. Following this path prepares him to graduate from college and then play professionally anywhere in the world.
“For me personally, it would have been to come here or go and play professionally somewhere in Europe,” Price said.
“But I thought I had the opportunity to play college and then pro basketball. I can’t do the reverse.”
Proof of vaccine, negative test no longer required
Those attending matches at Reese Court this week will no longer be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test before entry, although they will still be required to wear masks. Concessions will be open.
Eastern will be offering free food to the first 200 students Thursday (mac and cheese and churros) and again Saturday (chicken wings and drinks), courtesy of Outback Steakhouse. Ahead of Saturday’s game, the Eagles plan to honor seniors Acliese and Rylan Bergersen. Both transferred to the program ahead of this season to play their final year of eligibility.