By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
PORTALES — Jammal Hunnicutt is in a quandary. He’s having the best statistical season of a solid four-year at Eastern New Mexico University but the injury-ravaged Greyhounds are mired at the bottom of the Lone Star Conference South standings.
Hunnicutt, the South’s current player of the week, is averaging 17.2 points and 7.8 rebounds a game, and those numbers have gone up to 22.0 and 9.3, respectively, in division play.
But the Hounds (8-13, 1-5 conference) have lost four South games by seven points or less, including one in overtime.
“Statistically I’m having my best year, but it’s probably the worst record I’ve had in high school or college,” said Hunnicutt, a 6-foot-5 senior forward from Amarillo. “I’m just trying to do everything I can to help the team, but it seems like we keep coming up short.
“Just a lot of crazy things have happened this year. We’re trying to finish on a good note.”
Hunnicutt helped the Hounds to back-to-back LSC South titles and a berth in the NCAA Division II tournament last season.
ENMU coach Shawn Scanlan admits he leans on Hunnicutt a little more than he’d like — simply because he needs him to play at the top of his game every night.
“He’s lived up to someone who can do that, and he’s doing it,” Scanlan said. “I can’t ask for a whole lot more.”
Scanlan said the Hounds are hopeful they can regain the services of senior guard Irshaun Pinckney this week for games at Abilene Christian and Angelo State. The former Clovis High standout has missed the past eight games with a hairline fracture in his leg. That would provide some much-needed depth.
“If we get back any semblance of the old Irshaun, it’ll really help us,” he said. “I’m concerned about him as much on defense as anything. We’re going to need about a 75 percent Irshaun, at least, to have the kind of impact we need.”
The ENMU women (9-12, 3-5), also striving to reach the top four, face two of the division’s top three teams this weekend on the road.
ACU (14-6, 5-2 South) built a 22-point, first-half lead last week, then fell behind late before recovering to nip the Zias 76-73.
“I do think they (Zias) have a lot of confidence going into the Abilene game,” acting ENMU women’s coach Dustin Klafka said. “Abilene came out aggressive on the offensive end (last week), but we can’t allow them to do that in their gym.”
Klafka said the Zias plan to gear their defense against nationally-ranked ASU (18-2, 6-1) around the Rambelles’ 6-3 senior standout, Natalja Tsurbakova.
“With a team like that, you just have to pick your poison,” he said. “We can’t just play well (to beat ASU) — we’re going to have to play real well.”