By Dave Wagner
Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball coach Dan Buzard will coach a team of regional players, including one from his own squad, in the Bajan Unifest Tournament June 20-29 in Bridgetown, Barbados.
The eight-player squad includes ENMU guard Laci Lee of Portales. Buzard’s assistant coach will be Brandi Thomas, a former ENMU softball player who is now teaching and coaching in the Clovis school district.
“I feel like its an honor to coach kids of this caliber,” Buzard said. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Buzard said he was approached by USA Athletes International executive Bill Eddington about coaching a team.
The team will meet in Philadelphia for a flight to Barbados, an island located just off the coast of Venezuela.
Originally, ENMU senior Valencia Rollins was scheduled to play, but she was unable to raise the money for the trip. Rollins, a mother of two young boys, who will turn 30 later this year, played the last two seasons for the Zias and will be a graduate assistant in the program next year.
Joining Lee, who will be a junior next year at ENMU, are three players from Lone Star Conference South Division rival Angelo State — 5-7 guard Kami Williamson, 5-5 guard Kelli Goble and 5-10 post Megan Clift and former ASU player Jaclyn Nowlin, a 5-8 guard who is now a Rambelles graduate assistant.
Williamson was a senior this year and earned LSC South player of the year honors, while Goble and Clift will be seniors in 2003-04.
Two players from St. Mary’s University, 6-0 post Erin Griffin and 5-5 guard Meosha Nash, are on the team, along with 5-9 guard Jessica Melvin, who played at Adams State but is planning to transfer.
All three will be seniors next season. Griffin was the Heartland Conference’s Player of the Year in 2002-03.
The players have to come up with around $2,300 each to make the trip.
“I think it’s going to be fun,” said Lee, who averaged 4.6 points and an LSC-leading 4.2 assists last season. “It’s just a great opportunity to get to do this.
I think it’ll be good to play against international teams, to see how the game is different. And you can learn so much from playing with these people. It makes you a better player.”
Lee is busy finishing up the semester at ENMU, but she still works out in the offseason and said she doesn’t think it’ll take her long to get back into playing condition.
“It’s been kind of hectic right now, with finals coming up in two weeks,” she said. “But you never get too far away from (basketball).”
Thomas, who coaches volleyball and girls basketball at Yucca Junior High and is an assistant softball coach at Clovis High School, is also looking forward to the trip.
“I was excited when (Buzard) asked me if I wanted to go,” she said. “It’s an opportunity of a lifetime. It’s going to be a huge learning experience.
“I was getting excited filling out thank-you cards for all the people who contributed money for me.”
Buzard said the team will probably play a half-dozen or so games on the trip. He isn’t that concerned about having just eight players.
“If they’re going to go, they’re going to go play,” he said. “They’re not going there to just sit on the beach and waste their money.”
He believes the team will be competitive.
“We’re not real big, but we’re pretty quick,” he said. “We’ve got a post player (Griffin) who can dominate inside. If we can get some perimeter shooting, it’s going to open things up for her.
“I think we’ve got good guards on the team. I feel like if you’ve got good guards, you can compete.”