Silverswords Meet New Zealand All-Stars In Basketball Opener

When Chaminade men’s basketball head coach Eric Bovaird first saw Lee Bailey play, the veteran coach was sold immediately on the Detroit native.

Four years later, as Bailey gets ready to begin his senior season with the Silverswords, his stock is still on the rise.

“He was my very first recruit (as Chaminade coach) and, thankfully, he decided to come,” Bovaird said. “It all starts with him. He’s a four-year starter and a 3.5 (GPA) student, who has had a lot of success.”

Bailey is among the reasons hopes are once again high for the Silverswords, who open their 2014-15 season Friday night at McCabe Gymnasium with an exhibition game against a traveling New Zealand All-Star team. Chaminade is coming off a 19-13 season, which included a Pacific West conference tournament title and second straight appearance in the NCAA Division II tournament.

For his part, Bailey was a First Team All-Conference pick last year and ranked among league leaders in points (17.1 per game) and assists (4.5 per game). He previously had earned Third Team and Freshman of the Year honors his sophomore and freshman years, respectively. He also was PacWest tournament’s Most Valuable Player last March.

Bovaird credited the ultra-competitive prep scene in Detroit with seasoning his senior point guard.

“Lee was exposed to some of the best basketball in the country. When he was a freshman, playing in the Maui Invitational, he wasn’t (intimidated). He was like, ‘I’ve been playing against these types of players my whole life.'”

In addition to Bailey, the ‘Swords also welcome back James Harper, Kevin Hu, Kuany Kuany and Kiran Shastri.

“We have our key corps back from last year’s NCAA (tournament) run,” Bovaird said. “I’m really happy with their progress. They were good players last year. Whether we win or lose is going to depend on how well those kids play.”

Harper and Kuany came on late last season to help lead Chaminade’s post-season run. Harper dropped in nine 3-pointers in the win over Dominican University in the PacWest championship game, while Kuany made the All-Conference team, although just a freshman.

“When James is hot, he’s as good a shooter as anyone,” Bovaird said. “Kuany is going to be a real good player for us.”

Bovaird also expects 6-foot-10 senior center Frankie Eteuati to have an immediate impact after returning from a year-and-a-half hiatus from the sport because of injuries. “He’s hitting his stride,” he said.

The ‘Swords frequently have opened the season on the road in recent years, but they won’t play on the Mainland this time until after the first of the year.

Following Friday’s exhibition game, the team plays home games against Regis University Nov. 14 and Saint Katherine College Nov. 17 at McCabe.

The ‘Swords begin the Maui Invitational Nov. 24, when they meet Pittsburgh in a first-round game. They also play Nov. 25 and 26 on Maui against opponents to be named later.

“I’m happy to have a bunch of home games (to start),” Bovaird admitted. “Even the Maui games will be like home games.”

Chaminade Basketball Notes:

* Bovaird was rewarded with a two-year contract extension in the off-season that will keep him at the helm through the 2016-17 season.

“This would be a hard situation to beat,” Bovaird said of his job. “This is a place I can see myself at for a long time. I have the best athletic director (Bill Villa) in the country.”

* Chaminade will be the home team in the ‘Swords exhibition versus University of Hawaii Dec. 19 at Blaisdell Arena, marking Chaminade’s first appearance at that venue during the Bovaird era.

* Bovaird has a 48-27 record against NCAA Division II opponents as Chaminade head coach.