Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
PORTALES — Shawn Scanlan thinks once Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball team recovers from a rash of preseason-injuries the Greyhounds can contend for another conference title.
In the meantime, the two-time defending Lone Star Conference South Division champion Greyhounds enter tonight’s season-opener against Lubbock Christian shorthanded — particularly in the backcourt.
Junior point guards Reggie Wallace (sprained ankle) and Jolen Montoya (lower quad) and senior off-guards Irshaun Pinckney (ankle) and Jamal Washington (staph infection) are all listed as no better than questionable for the opener.
“We’ve just been hit pretty hard in one area of the floor,” said Scanlan, whose team went 20-9 (10-2 South) last year and lost to Northwest Missouri State in the opening round of NCAA Division II regional competition. “I thought we came in two-deep in just about every position, and that we could rotate people if we had to.”
Wallace, a 5-foot-9 transfer from Mt. San Antonio (Calif.) College, was listed as “questionable to doubtful” for tonight by Scanlan. He said Montoya, a 5-9 transfer from Neosho County (Kan.) CC, appeared to have a better chance of playing.
Pinckney, a 6-2 senior from Clovis entering his fourth season at ENMU, should play. Washington, though, will probably be out for the early part of the season after developing the infection in his surgically-repaired ankle.
Junior college transfer Billy Austin, who played at Hobbs, could be pressed into duty at point guard with the team’s injury situation, Scanlan said.
Meantime, LCU has traditionally been a solid NAIA team and usually provides a quality test for the Greyhounds.
“We’re fighting a lot of injuries,” said senior forward Edmound Elzy, one of four returning regulars from last year’s squad. “We’re just trying to work hard in practice until we can get people back.”
Along with Pinckney, Elzy and Washington, the Hounds return 6-5 senior forward Jamaal Hunnicutt, who led the team in scoring (12.6) and rebounding (8.8) last season, but is coming off a broken leg sustained in the regional tournament game.
Scanlan said Hunnicutt has returned to “about 80-85 percent” of his pre-injury capability.
“He’s not the athletic presence he was before,” said Scanlan, who has gone 59-51 in his first four seasons at ENMU. “I think he’ll get there, but he’s not there yet.”
Pinckney and Washington both averaged more than eight points last season, while Elzy averaged just over four.
“We’ve got plenty of talent; we started out deep, so that’s what we can still handle (the injuries),” Elzy said. “We’ve got a lot of new players and we just have to get used to playing together.”
Newcomers who could help at the inside positions are juniors Jason Breland and Daniel Sherman, like Wallace transfers from Mt. San Antonio, and Mikal Monette, who transferred from the University of New Mexico after seeing limited duty in two seasons with the Lobos. Chad Donnell, a 6-4 sophomore who played sparingly last season, could add some depth.
The Hounds were picked to win the LSC South title again in the conference’s preseason poll.