Senior Mario Caswell gives the Clovis Wildcats a big body inside CNJ photo by Eric Kluth.
By Rick White
Now when Clovis coach J.D. Isler looks down the bench he sees answers instead of question marks.
Bolstered by the addition of five players from the football team, Clovis takes on El Paso Parkland today in the first round of the Amarillo Kids Inc. Tournament in Canyon, Texas, with a much deeper and more experienced bench.
Instead of sophomores, the bench is now loaded with juniors and seniors.
Isler knows it’s gong to take time for the team to gel.
“What I’m looking for is the new guys to come in and add to what we’ve already got,” Isler said. “The first couple of games we had to do the little things right like block out and play good defense without fouling and I want to see us to continue to do that.”
After opening the season with a pair of blowout wins behind the one-two scoring punch of Justin Pinckney and Dominique Easterlin, Clovis (2-0) expects to get tested for the first time this season in a tournament that has Amarillo High and district rival Hobbs looming on the opposite side of the bracket in the eight-team tournament at West Texas A&M University.
“It looks like it will be the best competition we’ll face all season,” Isler said. “But more important than winning and losing is us getting a chance to play together.”
Senior point guard Bud Willis knows it’s going to take some time to mix in the new players.
“We’re going to make some mistakes, but the good thing about the football players is they know how to play, so it’s only a matter of getting our timing down,” said Willis, one of two returning starters.
Willis said the improved depth will allow the Wildcats to substitute with little or no drop off in talent.
The reinforcements from a Wildcats football team that was eliminated in the first round of the state playoffs include 6-5 post Mario Caswell and guards Elliott Hita and Jacob Jones, who all saw considerable varsity minutes last season.
“We’ll be a little deeper and we want to (full court) press more as the season wears on, so we can start doing a little of that.”
El Paso Highland, off to a 5-1 start, appears to be athletic and likes to play an up-tempo game, Isler said.
“They really try and push the ball,” Isler said. “It looks like they rely on their athletic ability to get second and third shots.”