Summer league lets coaches experiment

Clovis freshman Jaden Isler tries to get past Texico’s Garett Mayfield as he drives to the basket during their Clovis summer league basketball game Tuesday at Rock Staubus Gymnasium. Photo by Eric Kluth

By Dave Wagner

If they don’t already, the Clovis and Portales High boys basketball teams should get to know each other pretty well over the next few weeks.

The Wildcats and Rams squared off Tuesday night in the opening game of CHS’ boys summer basketball league, scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday nights through mid-June at Rock Staubus Gym.

They’ll also be seeing each other in basketball jamborees in Portales on June 19 and in Clovis June 26 and June 30.

Neither program plans to go far from home during the summer season.

“It’s good to be able to play a lot of games without having to travel a lot or spend a lot of money,” Clovis coach J.D. Isler said. “We both see the benefits of the summer league and the jamborees. I think they’re beneficial to both programs.”

Nine teams are taking part in the summer league, including a Clovis junior varsity team and another squad called “Wildcat Exes,” made up of former CHS players.

Games are generally 20 minutes in length, with a running clock until the final two minutes.

Portales coach Mark Gallegos said his Class 3A squad gets a lot of value playing against the Class 5A Wildcats. The teams also face off during the regular season.

“The main thing is to evaluate where our kids are,” Gallegos said of the summer schedule. “It’s nice to play Clovis three or four times a week. When you play somebody that good, it lets you know where you are.

“We’re trying to save a little money (by playing close to home). Traveling is expensive, and we’re trying to do what we can to reduce the cost.”

Both teams have several regulars back, but also have some holes to fill.

“For the older guys, it helps us get organized,” said 5-foot-11 guard Chris Kirchner, one of three returning Rams starters. “For the younger guys, it helps them learn the plays.”

Portales didn’t get out of its district last year, but Kirchner said the Rams can use that as incentive in the 2004-05 campaign.

“We’ll be good,” said Kirchner, who will be a senior. “We have a lot of guards coming back. We’re not a very big team, but we can get up and down the floor.”

Isler said the busy month of June provides a good opportunity to look at possible lineup combinations.

“There’s certain things we want to get done in the summer,” he said. “We try to play a lot in June to look at the things we want to do when the season starts. It’s important because we won’t have the football kids until late.”

Clovis guard Elliott Hita is preparing to spend some time playing in the post next year as a senior.

“I need to work on rebounding and handling the ball a little bit,” said Hita, who stands about 6-1. “The only time I’ve played on the blocks was probably in the third or fourth or fifth grade. I’ve been hitting the weight room hard for football, so hopefully that will help me out.”