The path to the National Basketball Association begins in Las Vegas for former Eastern Washington University basketball player Bogdan Bliznyuk, Eastern head coach Shantay Legans said Saturday (June 23).
The Big Sky Conference all-time leading scorer has agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Clippers, and will represent the team in the NBA's Summer League in Las Vegas from July 6-13. All five of their games will be broadcast on either ESPN or NBATV.
Since ending his illustrious career in March, Bliznyuk trained in Los Angeles and had workouts with the Detroit Pistons and the Sacramento Kings. Bypassed in the NBA draft on June 21, he also went through EWU commencement exercises on June 16 after receiving his bachelor's degree in management. Bliznyuk is formerly from Lutsk, Ukraine, and graduated from Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way, Wash., in 2014.
The Clippers begin Summer League play on July 6 at 8:30 p.m. versus NBA Champion Golden State at the Thomas and Mack Center on ESPN. The Clippers then play Sacramento on July 8 on NBATV at Cox Pavilion, then play the next day versus Houston at 8:30 p.m. on NBATV at Thomas and Mack. Depending on results from those games, Los Angeles will play two more games between July 11-13.
"The way he plays he has a chance," said Legans on Bliznyuk's chances on making the team beyond Las Vegas. "He can score the ball and offensively he is one of the most talented guys out there who can do what he can do. He was one of the most efficient players in college basketball this year and is a very good defender."
Bliznyuk, an All-American who scored 2,169 points in his career, was out in front of NBA scouts in March and April. He scored 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the Reese's College All-Star Game on March 30. He was one of just 20 players in the nation invited to play in the prestigious game at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas – site of the NCAA Division I "Final Four."
Bliznyuk started and led his West squad to a 98-94 victory over the East in the game, which is presented annually by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. He also finished the game with three rebounds and a pair of steals, and made four of his last five shots.
He then averaged 15.3 points and made half his shots in three games at the prestigious Portsmouth Invitational Basketball Tournament on April 12-14. Although he wasn't chosen to the all-tournament team, he sank 18-of-36 shots from the field and scored a total of 46 points to rank 11th in the tournament. He also sank all six of his free throws to lead the tourney, and averaged 2.0 steals (second), and 3.3 assists (15th). In addition, he contributed 4.3 rebounds and made 4-of-10 3-pointers among the 64 players who were invited.
The team he played on (Roger Brown's) was 1-2, and he had 15 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals in a victory in the squad's final game. In his first game he had 14/3/1/2, and his second outing he had 17/4/4/2 on 8-of-11 shooting from the field.
Besides his obvious playing ability, Legans believes his character will shine through. Bliznyuk was a four-time member of the Big Sky All-Academic team.
"I have gotten calls about him and about his character," said Legans. "He always is there for somebody when they need him. That is the best part about Bogdan. You wouldn't know just by talking to him that he is the all-time leading scorer in Big Sky history. You wouldn't know that he is getting ready to go into the NBA."
Bliznyuk is following in the footsteps of former Eagle Jacob Wiley, who was an All-Tournament selection in Portsmouth a year ago as the first-ever EWU invitee to 66-year-old event. That helped Wiley eventually sign a two-way contract to play professionally for the Brooklyn Nets of the National Basketball Association and the Long Island Nets of the NBA's G-League.
Bliznyuk became the third Eagle in the last four years to earn both honorable mention Associated Press All-America honors and first team Lou Henson mid-major All-America accolades. Jacob Wiley earned both honors in 2017 and Tyler Harvey was honored in 2015. Alvin Snow (2004) and Rodney Stuckey (2006 & 2007) also earned honorable mention All-America honors from AP.
Bliznyuk joins Wiley, Harvey and Stuckey as former Eagles to play in the NBA's Summer League.
The Big Sky Conference MVP, Bliznyuk scored 2,169 career points to break the previous Big Sky Conference record of 2,102 and smashing the previous EWU record of 1,803. In the final game of his career against Utah Valley in the College Basketball Invitational on March 13, Bliznyuk tied Eastern's single season scoring record with 50 seconds left, then broke it with a 3-pointer on the last shot of his illustrious career with 20 ticks remaining. He finished with 741 points as a senior to rank sixth in league history and break the previous school record of 738 set three years ago by Tyler Harvey.
In setting a total of 16 school records, Bliznyuk scored 27 points in the 138th and final game of his career -- the 44th time he scored at least 20 and his 100th double-digit performance. He also closed his career with a variety of Big Sky Conference Tournament marks and a NCAA Division I single season free throw record with 77-straight makes.
"He is an NBA player and he is an NBA talent," added Legans. "I'd be shocked if he's not in a jersey next year playing for somebody."
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