When Anthony Graham decided to take the head coaching job at Ellensburg High School for the boys basketball team in 2016, he remembers what Scott Malcolm, his old basketball coach at Cle Elum-Roslyn High School, told him when he accepted the job.

“You’re going to have a sophomore that’s pretty special,” Malcolm said to Graham.

That sophomore was Steele Venters, who turned out to be the linchpin for the Bulldogs in his last two years.

On Wednesday, Venters officially signed his letter of intent to play at Division I Eastern Washington University next season.

“I knew I was going to have a great player, but I didn’t know I would have such a great young man,” Graham said. “It’s been an absolute pleasure to coach Steele along the way. … What today is for me is that culmination of a lot of hard work.”

Venters averaged 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists per game his senior season. He led the Bulldogs to a Central Washington Athletic Conference league title with a 16-2 mark by knocking off perennial Selah High School in the regular season final, 79-78, with his 32 points.

Venters had four 30-point games with a high of 37. He was voted first-team Associated Press 2A All-State and first-team All-CWAC for the second consecutive year. He scored over 1,200 points in his career.

He made the biggest jump after his sophomore season, going from 13 points per game to 26 as junior.

The adept 6-foot-7 Venters can play most positions on the floor. Adding the guard element was especially important after his sophomore season, as he was cognizant that would gain interest from more colleges.

Venters received other offers from Central Washington University, Hawaii-Hilo University, St. Martin’s University and Alaska Fairbanks University — all Division II schools.

Eastern waited until February to offer Venters and he committed a month later.

“It was kind of a long process,” he said. “It was a lot of deciding the pros and cons of every school. It was hard to pick.”

Eastern head coach Shantay Legans couldn’t be more euphoric to get Venters signed with the program.

Legans said most games Venters will be on the perimeter for the Eagles, but the position your assigned to for Eastern is by who you can defend. Venters could be playing guard one game, and forward the next. Legans really liked that adaptability with him.

“I think he’s one of the better players in the state of Washington,” Legans said. “To be able to get a player of his caliber is huge for us and his upside is so big being 6-foot-7 and being able to do the things he can do. The sky is the limit for him. When we saw him play, it was like a no brainer.”

Legans and his staff have been following Venters for a couple years and watched him progressively improve.

“Man, when he signed those papers, it was an exciting day for us,” Legans said.

Eastern waits until October to decide who redshirts and who doesn’t. Former Eagle Bogdan Bliznyuk was planning on redshirting his senior year, but didn’t and became the Big Sky Conference Player of the Year in 2018.

Venters won’t know until then if he will suit up as a true freshman in the 2019-20 season.

“His skills and where he’s at right now, he could obviously play,” Legans said. “You never know how it’s going to play out until he gets here.”

Eastern was the Big Sky runner-up after its loss to University of Montana in the championship game in March, having its NCAA Tournament bid fall short. It started the year 1-9, but finished 16-18 with the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament.

Legans has been with Eastern since 2009, starting out as an assistant. He earned the head coaching job in 2017. He’s accumulated a 36-33 win/loss record and 25-13 in league play.

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