Bill Rozak

Eugene Harvey is the latest Claim Jumper basketball player to parlay his time in Columbia into a scholarship at a four year institution.

Harvey, a 6-foot-6 forward from Florida, played for one season with Columbia head coach Rob Hoyt then returned to his home state and inked his National Letter of Intent with Florida Memorial University, a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

“He had a lot of interest,” said Hoyt, “We were going in circles with so many schools. But he really wanted to be back home and he did a lot of this on his own and made it happen.”

Harvey started and helped give the Claim Jumpers a needed physical presence in the paint to play defense and grab rebounds and he excelled at both.

Harvey was the 10th leading rebounder in the Central Valley Conference, was eighth in offensive rebounds, fourth in field goal percentage (62 percent) and ninth in blocks.

Overall, Harvey scored 6.8 points per game and brought down 5.9 rebounds per contest.

The way Hoyt describes Harvey sounds comparable to the Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green.

“He was the vocal energy of our team.” Hoyt said. “His attitude and enthusiasm were contagious. He has a non-stop motor mouth that is 100 percent positive. He was easy to coach.”

Harvey also put together his best stretch of games during the Claim Jumpers’ six-game win streak that kept them in the CVC title hunt until late in the season.

During the stretch, Harvey averaged 10 points and eight rebounds and had his best game of the season in the final game of the streak when he scored 19 points and grabbed 12 boards.

“Our win streak we had in league this year, he was a big part of that,” Hoyt said. “He brought toughness down low that we needed. He was a good rebounder.”

Harvey contributed to the winning ways Columbia has developed over Hoyt’s three seasons at the helm. The Claim Jumpers made the playoffs for the first time in many years and last year beat Fresno City for the first time in over a decade.

More importantly, his players are graduating and moving on to four-year colleges.

“The best thing he did was help enhance our culture,” Hoyt said. “My only regret is that I only got to coach him one year. I’ll take that over not having him.

But ultimately, that’s why kids come here. We wanna win league and all that, and we’re really close, especially with the team I feel we have coming in this year, but they leave this college better students, athletes and people.”