By Rick White: CNJ managing editor
Even after 11 state titles and nearly three decades of coaching, Clovis girls basketball coach Miles Watters will wake up today with a little extra spring in his step. He won’t be the only one.
After two months of off-season workouts, the high school basketball season in New Mexico officially starts today as teams prepare for a season that culminates in March with the state tournament.
Watters has plenty to be excited about as Clovis returns most of its top players from last year’s Class 5A state runner-up team, including the junior trio of Brittany Blackmon, Aimee Hilburn and Tori Quintana.
Watters said it’s hard to believe the Lady Wildcats have just three weeks to get ready for their season opener.
“Up until this point it’s been conditioning and strength training,” said Watters, entering his fourth season as head coach at Clovis. “We haven’t really put in a whole lot of team stuff.”
“The kids have really worked hard but now it’s time to start getting ready for the season.”
Clovis boys coach J.D. Isler’s excitement is tempered by the fact that the Wildcats may have to play a game or two without eight of his top 12 players if the school’s football team goes deep into the playoffs.
“We’ll try to put in our basic offense and defense and try to make sure we’re in good condition because the players we have now might have to play a lot of minutes until we get everybody,” Isler said.
When the football players join the team, Isler said he’ll have the deepest squad he’s had in his four seasons at Clovis.
The Wildcats, who missed the playoffs for the first time in five years last season, are also bolstered by the return of 6-foot-7 senior Tig Bunton, who moved to Florida right before the 2003-04 season and returned to Clovis in the spring.
“We have some good size and some good depth,” Isler said.
Led by Bunton, who is drawing interest from New Mexico and New Mexico State, the Wildcats will feature four players 6-4 or taller.
Clovis Christian boys coach Jimmy Joe Robinson is another veteran coach excited about getting started.
Robinson, 68, returns to coaching two years after leading Melrose to the Class 1A state title.
“I was at the state tournament last year and I started thinking about how much I missed it,” said Robinson, who led Clovis to its last state title in 1979. “Then (Clovis Christian) called and wanted to know if I’d come in and talk to them.
“They caught me in a weak moment I guess.”
Robinson, who takes over a program that is eligible for the district title and state tournament this season for the first time.
“The kids have a great attitude,” said Robinson. “It just felt like a good situation for me.”
Watters, who is looking for his first state title at Clovis after 11 at Clayton, said it’s important not to get too excited.
“It’s a long season,” Watters said. “You have to be careful how you bring them along.”