By Rick White
Granted, it’s only based on a month of summer league games and a team basketball camp, but the future looks considerably brighter for the Clovis Wildcats than it did at the end season.
One reason is the return of 6-foot-7 senior Tig Bunton, who re-enrolled at Clovis this spring after moving to Florida shortly before the start of the 2003-2004 basketball season.
Another is the development of a pair of 6-4 juniors in Devin Sweet and Chris Finch, who along with Bunton and returning senior Dominque Easterlin (6-4) form a potentially imposing front line.
“All of a sudden were pretty deep in the post,” Clovis coach J.D. Isler said. “Devin and Chris have really stepped it up this spring.”
Isler gets a final look at his team today when they host a five-team jamboree at Rock Staubus Gym. The round-robin format also includes the Portales Rams, who have faced Clovis on numerous occasions this season.
“We get a little tired of playing each other,” Portales coach Mark Gallegos said. “But it’s good for us because Clovis make us better.”
Bunton led the Wildcats in scoring and rebounding as a sophomore.
Isler said Bunton has matured since last season.
“He’s bigger and stronger,” Isler said. “I think he’s one of the top two or three players in state.”
The Wildcats, who finished third in the district last season and missed the state playoffs for the first time in three seasons under Isler, return a solid backcourt led by seniors Tizrick Phillips, John Props and Elliott Hita.
The biggest question is how to replace all-state point guard Bud Willis, the Wildcats’ primary ballhandler the last two seasons.
“That was a concern,” Isler said. “We’d plan to spread the ball around as far as ball-handling responsibilities.”
Led by senior guards Bo Gabriel, Chris Carter and Chris Kirchner, the Rams are running and pressing more than usual because they lack size.
“We’re not really big but we’re real athletic,” Gallegos said. “We give people matchup problems because of that.”
At the Eastern New Mexico University team camp earlier this month, the Rams finished with 10-straight wins after dropping their first two games.
“I just like how hard we’ve played this summer,” Gallegos said. “I’m real excited about our potential for next season.”