ENMU begins title defense

Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball coach Shawn Scanlan is entering his fourth season at the helm. Scanlan has a 39-42 career record at ENMU, but is 35-20 in his last two seasons. Photo by Kevin Wilson

By Dave Wagner

PORTALES — Three years ago, Irshaun Pinckney wasn’t quite sure where he was going.

A senior on the Class 5A state runnerup Clovis Wildcats in 2001, Pinckney didn’t know if his college years would be strictly academic, or if they’d be a continuation of his athletics as well.

Nearly three years later, Pinckney is a junior with defending Lone Star Conference South Division champion Eastern New Mexico University. Looking back, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound guard believes he made the right choice.

“I’m glad I made the decision,” Pinckney said. “I’m glad I’m playing basketball and I’m glad to be on a winning team. You don’t have to go to a Division I school to get an education. Getting a degree is getting a degree.”

Pinckney and the Greyhounds have some ideas about where they’d like to go this year, but fourth-year coach Shawn Scanlan hopes his players realize the game-to-game commitment it will take to reach their goals.

“The ultimate goal is the national tournament,” Scanlan said. “The intermediate goal is the LSC South championship.

“And the immediate goal,” he added with a smile, “is to play one game at a time.”

Game one is set for tonight, with a 7 p.m. tilt against Incarnate Word at Greyhound Arena. It will be the Hounds’ first game action since losing to Tarleton State last march in the LSC tournament semifinals.

ENMU lost four players from last season’s squad, including LSC South Player of the Year Cedric Palmer, but added several junior college transfers to a cast that returns South Defensive Player of the Year Garland Coleman.

Scanlan hopes that additions like 6-foot-4 shooting guard Kennis Green and 6-foot-5 forward Edmound Elzy can help the Greyhounds be a quicker, more athletic team than in previous years.

The tradeoff, however, is a lack of size. The tallest Greyhound is 6-foot-6 Travazz Buckley, a mid-year transfer from Faulkner State College (Ala.), but he will not be eligible until the semester break.

“I think it’s going to be pretty obvious we’re going to be outsized,” Scanlan said. “So you’ve got to be smarter, you’ve got to be quicker. Mistakes are magnified when you’re outmanned. We’re not outmanned player-wise, but we are size-wise.”

With the team undersized most nights, Scanlan has stressed basic philosophies like limiting teams to one shot per possession. Pinckney said the team has a goal of no more than three offensive rebounds per half for the opposition.

“We’ve just got to box out, rebound,” Pinckney said, “give our opponent less opportunity to score.”

The Hounds will rely on returners like point guard Brent Cooper and forward Jamaal Hunnicutt to carry the offensive load. Scanlan is hopeful that his junior college transfers pick up the system quickly before Buckley arrives to provide an additional post presence.

“He’ll be a strength at the position,” Scanlan said of Buckley, who broke a backboard during spring practice. “When he plays, he’s capable of making plays other guys just can’t make because of his athletic ability.”