By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — Based on the Lone Star Conference South Division polls, not much is expected of Eastern New Mexico University’s basketball teams this season — both were picked for last place in the seven-team circuits.
With practice starting Wednesday afternoon, men’s coach Shawn Scanlan and women’s coach Linden Weese hope their teams can pull off some surprises despite relatively inexperienced rosters.
“We didn’t do anything to make them pick up higher,” Weese said of the Zias, who went 5-22 overall and 2-12 in the South a year ago. “But I don’t think there’s any question we’re headed in the right direction.”
The Zias’ roster includes six sophomores — all of whom played last year — and seven freshmen, with one junior walk-on. ENMU, which has scrimmages at New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs on Oct. 23 and at Wayland Baptist on Oct. 28, opens its season Nov. 15 at Fort Lewis College.
“The ones that stayed (from last year’s squad) understand what I want done and how I want it done,” Weese said. “They’re been great leaders for these seven freshmen.
“They understand what the difference between high school and college basketball is.”
The ENMU men went 6-21 (0-12 South) in 2007-08, and will have an even newer squad. The only players returning from that squad are sophomore center Tommy York, who had to sit out last season with an injury, and sophomore forward Matt Churchman, who made the team as a walk-on last year and played significant minutes.
Still, Scanlan is cautiously optimistic with a 16-man roster which also includes 10 transfers and four walk-ons.
“You’re not real comfortable saying anything, because there’s a lot of unknowns,” Scanlan said. “We’re looking for great energy and guys who can come in with a sense of purpose.
“With all the questions we have, I’m optimistic where we can go with these guys, but there’s just so many unknowns.”
The Greyhounds will scrimmage defending NJCAA champion South Plains College in Levelland, Texas, on Oct. 30 before playing at exhibition game at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff on Nov. 7. They open at New Mexico Highlands on Nov. 15, then play their home opener two nights later against Emporia State.