By Dave Wagner
Basketball practice begins today at Clovis High School and other schools around New Mexico.
CHS boys coach J.D. Isler and girls coach Miles Watters, both beginning their third seasons at the helm, will have less-than-full squads to work with for now with players still involved in football and volleyball. But both are ready to get going with longer game schedules that begin earlier this fall.
The CHS boys are slated for 26 games and the girls for 25, up from the 22 allowed in previous years by the New Mexico Activities Association. Watters said the girls would like to add a 26th game if they can find one.
“We’re a little shorthanded for now because some of our basketball players are also football players,” Isler said. “But I really like our returning players, and I think we had a really good offseason.
“We’ll try to fine-tune these guys, and the when we get the others we may have to start over a little bit. The only thing that’ll help us is that we played together a lot this summer with this group. It’ll just be a matter of getting their timing.”
The Wildcats were eliminated by La Cueva in last year’s regional playoff on a last-second basket. The top players lost to graduation were Derond Jackson, Tory Roberts and Stephen Monson.
Senior Mario Caswell and juniors John Props, Elliott Hita and Jacob Jones are the top players still involved in football, Isler said.
“Once we get everybody, I think we’ll be a team that has to be reckoned with,” he said. “It just won’t happen immediately.”
The Cats open the season at home on Nov. 18 against Hereford. Isler said he’s looking forward to the extra games.
“We need to play these extra games,” he said. “It sure makes the preseason a lot shorter.”
Isler said the team will host Amarillo High, Frenship (Texas), Rio Rancho and Lovington in a day-long scrimmage session on Nov. 15.
The Lady Wildcats, who also lost at La Cueva last spring in the regional round, will have to replace 3-point specialist Lisa Taylor and point guard Chelo McElrath from last year’s squad. Watters said the team is looking for some sophomores to step up and help provide depth.
“It’ll be a good nucleus coming back, and a nice bunch of sophomores coming in,” he said. “(Depth) will depend on how quickly those soplhomores step in. They’re very talented, but there will probably be some growing pains.”
The girls open their schedule on the road Nov. 25 against Lovington.
“It seems like we’ve been waiting a long time to get this rolling,” Watters said. “We can only do so much until we get the volleyball kids out. It’s kind of a two-edged sword — you want the volleyball kids to play well and win, but you want to get (everybody) as soon as we can.”