May 9, 2008
The state of Alaska Player of the Year, Kevin Winford, has signed a letter of intent to attend Eastern Washington University and play for the Eagle men's basketball program, EWU head coach Kirk Earlywine has announced.
Winford, a former high school teammate of Kansas point guard Mario Chalmers, is a 5-foot-11, 175-pound point guard from Bartlett High School in Anchorage, Alaska. He averaged 22 points, five rebounds and four assists per game in leading his team to a runner-up finish in the State 4A Tournament.
Among his many honors, he was selected as the 2008 Gatorade Player of the Year in Alaska and was also picked as the 4A Player of the Year on the Anchorage Daily News/Alaska Media All-State basketball team.
"We are very excited that Kevin has chosen to join our program," said Earlywine. "He is exactly the type of person that we want to build our program around. Not only is he a good player, but he is also an outstanding student who comes from a great family."
"It's been my dream for awhile to play Division I basketball," said Winford, who watched the Eagles when they played in the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage this past season. "I had my heart set on Division I. I didn't give up."
Winford helped the Golden Bears win their first Cook Inlet Conference championship since 2004. He was the league's most valuable player and earned all-tournament team accolades at the state tournament as well as in his conference tourney.
Bartlett lost to South Anchorage in the State 4A title game, with Winford scoring 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter. The Golden Bears nearly rallied from a 16-point deficit before losing 56-54.
He scored a season-high 43 points against Durango High School in Nevada at the Las Vegas Valley Invitational. He made 15-of-25 shots from the field in that game, including 5-of-7 from the three-point line to go along with eight rebounds and three steals.
"Kevin played in a terrific high school program," added Earlywine. "Bartlett has a great basketball tradition and Kevin was very well-coached."
As a freshman in 2005, he played with Chalmers, who helped Kansas win the NCAA Championship in 2008. As a junior, Winford earned honorable mention All-State honors from the Anchorage Daily News before enjoying a breakout season as a senior.
"I really look up to him a lot," Winford said of Chalmers, who earned Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors. Chalmers hit a dramatic three-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime in KU's 75-68 overtime triumph over Memphis in the title game. Earlier in the season, he had six points, eight assists and six steals in an 85-47 victory over EWU.
"I watch him all the time," added Winford. "I feel like I have a good scoring touch, but after seeing his game, it motivated me to get better in that aspect of my game."
He was coached at Bartlett by Vernon Lindo Jr. Besides Chalmers, the Bartlett tradition includes several past talented players who earned league MVP honors and went on to play college basketball.
"I've watched them for awhile," Winford said of the Bartlett tradition. "I've always wanted be in the history books at Bartlett and be listed with those guys."
He visited the EWU campus for the first time in early May, and came away confident that Eastern Washington was the right place for him.
"I got a very comfortable feeling," he said. "The school has a warming, hospitable feel to it and I felt at home there. The players and coaches are great and it's a nice college town."
"I heard of Eastern a long time ago," he added. "But when I watched them play this year I didn't realize I would be going there some day."
With a high school grade point average of 3.43, he plans on majoring in business administration at EWU.