He was only in Hershey, Pa., for a quick visit in late August, but Scott Eatherton wanted to get some work in, so he called up his high school coach Tim Bean.
It wasn’t unusual for Bean to see Eatherton’s name on his phone.
They had been tight since Eatherton’s days at Hershey High School.
When Eatherton went to St. Francis University about three hours away, they talked.
When Eatherton decided to transfer to Northeastern last year, Bean guided him through it.
Even when Eatherton sat out the mandatory season after making the switch, he made sure to shoot texts to Bean. When the Huskies reached the Colonial Athletic Association tournament last season, Eatherton shot Bean a text message to make sure he was watching the championship game.
Popping in for a late-summer workout might not be normal for some players, but it is for Eatherton, Bean said.
“I don’t know how many kids come home for a week at the end of the summer and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to get in the gym with my high school coach, just him and I, three, four times,’ ’’ Bean said.
Before that, it had been a while since Bean had seen Eatherton. He could remember when Eatherton was still trying to grow into his body.
“For years, he would run and he would be kind of gangly and a little bit awkward and you could see the flashes where he had the nice hands and the nice touch,” he said.
Bean was caught off guard when he saw the 6-foot-8-inch, 219-pounder walk in.
“I was like, ‘Oh my god, look at those shoulders,’ ” Bean said. “I was just amazed at how big he was.”
But as long as Bean has known Eatherton, improving has been at the core of everything the player has done.
“He’s gotten better and better every year,” Bean said. “He’s grown into his body, now you see how well he runs and how well he moves.
“I think he’ll be the first to tell you, he wasn’t the most successful when he was younger, but he just continued to get better and better each year.’’
In seven games this season, Eatherton has made an immediate impact, posting five double-doubles. He’s gone for 20 and 12 twice (Stony Brook and Charlotte) and averaged 18.3 points and 12 rebounds in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, earning CAA player of the week honors.
Looking back at their workouts this summer, Bean said it wasn’t surprising. “I was so amazed at how be keeps progressing,’’ he said.
Eatherton averaged 18 points and nine rebounds as a junior at Hershey, then the next season averaged 18.6 and 11 and led Hershey to a division title.
“He kind of blew up and it was like, ‘Wow, he’s a stud, ’’ said Bean.
Eatherton slowly noticed the changes himself.
“I was able to do things like jump higher, run quicker, get rebounds more often,” Eatherton said. “You don’t really expect it. Like, you’ll be trying to do some sort of dunk and you won’t be able to do it, then the next year comes around, after you’ve been lifting, running, doing agility drills, and you’ll be able to do it. It’s just surprising really.”
During the recruiting period in July before his senior season, he suffered a broken finger. He had a list of events mapped out, from the Hoop Group camp that was supposed to be flooded with recruiters, to AAU tournaments, but he made only one.
He committed early to St. Francis. Bean remembers having another player drawing looks from different schools, and whenever their scouts would drop by practice, they would look at Eatherton and say, “Man, that’s a good get for St. Francis.’’
As a freshman, Eatherton played just under 10 minutes a game, averaging 3.9 points and 2.1 rebounds.
His sophomore season, injuries depleted St. Francis but put Eatherton in a position in which he became the team’s go-to player. He went from being a role player to constantly looking to score.
“They needed someone to step into that role,” Eatherton said. “That kind of helped me try new things shooting-wise, driving by people, stuff like that.”
Putting up 14 points and seven rebounds a night, he earned the Northeastern Conference’s most improved player award.
But when St. Francis fired coach Don Friday in 2012 after four seasons, Eatherton started thinking about his own future. “It was difficult,” Eatherton said. “I was close friends with a lot of guys on the team, but I just thought I could have a better opportunity someplace else.”
The way things work in the recruiting process, the degrees of separation are usually slim. Bean got in touch with Northeastern coach Bill Coen through a mutual friend. , Tilton school coach Marcus O’Neil, who went all the way back to youth basketball with Bean
“When you bring up Coach Coen’s name, everybody talks about how great of a guy he is,” Bean said.
Now, a Huskies team that was guard-centric a year ago when it came just a win away from an NCAA Tournament berth, plays through the post with Eatherton and 6-7 junior forward Reggie Spencer.
Eatherton commands attention on both ends. “He does such a great job of anchoring our defense, protecting the rim with either blocked shots or defensive rebounds,” Coen said. “And then on the offensive end, he usually gets extra attention. , which allows more space on the perimeter for our guardsWhen you have a player like him, people recognize him and they game plan for him and I think that helps everybody.”Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.