By Dave Wagner
PORTALES — Garland Coleman isn’t satisfied with Eastern New Mexico University’s spot — third — in the Lone Star Conference South Division men’s preseason basketball poll.
After all, the Greyhounds won the division championship a year ago. Still, the 6-foot-3 senior guard-forward from Flossmoor, Ill., near Chicago, plans to make use of what he perceives as a slight.
“I kind of like it,” he said. “It’s kind of a slap in the face, and it gives you some incentive to prove people wrong.”
Fourth-year ENMU men’s coach Shawn Scanlan doesn’t think the poll really matters, anyway.
“I don’t put a lot of stock in it, because I think everybody’s like me,” he said. “We don’t know a lot about the other teams. I just have to give my impression based on who you think will be back (from last year).”
Scanlan, whose team began regular workouts with “Midnight Mania” late Tuesday night, said the first few days of practice are always tough as the team tries to get into a routine.
“You always have guys who don’t know what’s going on yet,” he said. “But each practice gets a little better.”
The Hounds have come through a rigorous preseason conditioning period designed to whip them into some semblance of shape.
“(The new) people are getting a dose of what practice is like,” said Coleman, the LSC South’s defensive player of the year in 2002-03. “(Scanlan) wants everyone to do good in practice, because if you do that, you’ll probably do good on game night.”
ENMU lost South player of the year Cedric Palmer, among others, to graduation. Coleman knows it’ll be hard to replace the 6-foot-6 forward.
“Ced was a big part of our team,” Coleman said. “We lost a lot of senior leadership. We’ve only got three seniors on the team this year.”
Additional post help — With junior forward Tia Doss (ruptured Achilles tendon) likely gone for the season, ENMU’s women are turning to former Zias volleyball player Courtney Wallenborn for help in the post.
Wallenborn played two years in the volleyball program (2001-02) after transferring from Mount Hood (Ore.) Community College, where she also spent her sophomore season on the basketball team. Originally she planned to work as a student assistant for coach Dan Buzard.
“(Assistant) coach (Dustin) Klafka came up and said, ‘Courtney, we need a post,’” the 5-10 Wallenborn said. “It’s nothing new. I’ve played basketball since the fifth grade.
“I thought about playing (basketball) when I first came here, but after the volleyball season I was so drained I didn’t give it much more thought.”
The Zias, picked last in the South, have actually lost several players since the start of the school year for a variety of reasons and opened practice with just 11 players. But Wallenborn thinks they still have a chance to do well.
“Coach (Buzard) did a good job of recruiting people,” she said. “There’s a lot of girls who’ll step up and fill positions.”
Buzard also intends to prove the prognosticators wrong.
“We think we’re much better than that,” he said. “We feel like we’re going to be in the middle of things.”
Wallenborn, who is from the small southwestern Washington community of Camas, near Portland, says she’s not looking to steal anybody’s thunder.
“I’m just going to contribute wherever I’m needed,” Wallenborn said. “I’m not looking to force anybody out of their spots. I’m here to help.”