CHENEY — Eastern Washington basketball star Tyler Harvey dropped a minor bombshell Wednesday when he declared his intention to turn pro, but he did so only after Eagles coach Jim Hayford dropped a major bombshell.
“When I recruited Tyler at Whitworth,” Hayford deadpanned, “I knew he’d make the NBA.”
Harvey was headed to Whitworth – a tiny Spokane school that competes in NCAA Division III, where athletic scholarships are forbidden – before Hayford left the Pirates to take the Eastern job in 2011. Harvey redshirted as a walk-on in 2011-12, then went on scholarship and gradually developed into this year’s national scoring leader in Division I.
Harvey has another year of eligibility left, but the 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Torrance, CA., said he plans to make himself eligible for the NBA draft.
“I just felt like it was the right time to go,” Harvey said at a press conference at EWU’s Reese Court. “I mean, it’s a great opportunity, an opportunity you only get once in your life. You’ve got to go after it 100 percent.”
Harvey’s words aren’t entirely accurate. He also would be eligible for the NBA draft next year, and Harvey said he has not completely ruled out a return to Eastern for his senior year. April 26 is the deadline for submitting his name as an early draft candidate.
Harvey said he has yet to sign with an agent, which would end his college eligibility. Asked what might cause him to change him mind about declaring for the draft, Harvey said, “I don’t know. I’m all in right now.”
Hayford said Harvey’s information has been sent to the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee. The coach said the committee’s take on Harvey’s draft prospects are expected in two weeks.
“My counsel to Tyler is not to dip your toe in – go all out,” Hayford said.
Harvey leads Division I with 23.1 points and 4.0 3-pointers per game. NBA draft expert Chad Ford of ESPN ranks Harvey the No. 41 prospect for the June 25 draft. That would put Harvey midway through the second round, but Ford said it’s possible Harvey could go in the first round.
The 185-pound Harvey, who was quite skinny in high school and received no basketball scholarship offers, said he needs to add strength to succeed in the NBA.
“I think I’m an alright shooter,” Harvey said with a sheepish grin.
Harvey, an honorable mention All-America selection, is a first-team Academic All-America who must complete one class online to earn his communications degree. Harvey led Eastern to the NCAA tournament for the second time in school history this year. In just three seasons, he’s climbed into second place in EWU career scoring, just 113 points behind Ron Cox, who scored 1,546 points in four seasons when the Eagles were an NAIA program in the 1970s.
SportspressNW was the first to report last week that Harvey was considering an early departure for the NBA.
“Every day I’ve been able to coach Tyler has been a joy,” Hayford said. “We’re talking about a guy who never once has showed up with a bad attitude. Never once complained. Just, ‘Coach, what do you want me to do?’ Then he’d do it.
“He exemplifies everything that you would want in a player. An outstanding student. An outstanding person, and then he worked every day to the very, very best he can be.”
Harvey’s departure would leave the Eagles with just two returning starters off a 26-9 team that won the Big Sky Conference regular-season (shared) and tournament championships. Hayford said the Eagles are well-equipped to continue running his up-tempo, 3-point-gunning offense. Still, it’s never easy replacing 23 points per game.
“Playing with Tyler has been fantastic,” teammate Felix Van Hofe said. “It makes life easy for a lot of players, because you’ve got five guys trying to guard Tyler.”