Prep hoops: Rams reloading

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers

Like their female counterparts, the Portales High Ram basketball players are coming off of a Class 3A runnerup performance. Like the Lady Rams, the Rams are hosting Muleshoe on Tuesday night.

That’s about where the similarities end for the Portales squads.

“(Girls coach Brenda Gomez) basically returns most of her team intact,” Portales coach Mark Gallegos said. “We’re not starting from scratch, but we’re bringing kids off the JV.”
Portales lost quite a bit off of last year’s squad, starting with senior guards Chris Carter and Chris Kirchner. While Gallegos has confidence in his returning players, he knows the first few weeks will be a struggle, partly because of situations out of his control.

“We’re quite a bit behind from where we have been in the past,” Gallegos said. “We’ve had some sickness and we’ve had some kids hurt. We’re running a lot of basic stuff, which is unusual for us.”

Senior Johnny Garcia and Gallegos shared a sentiment that of all the problems the Rams have right now, chemistry is not one of them.

“We’re a really, really close bunch,” Gallegos said. “These guys really like being around each other and working together. I think that’s going to serve us well down the road.”

Even new players are growing into the system, such as junior post Erett Grubbs. Grubbs, whose family is with the Air Force, has moved eight times and spent the previous three years in Germany. He played football, basketball and baseball there and has the same plans at Portales. At his old school, most seasons were only 10 games and baseball would start in late February.

“The seasons were pretty short,” Grubbs said, “so you have to accommodate for them.”

Now, every season is longer for Grubbs, and the pace is quicker.

“I like the intensity the coaches give to the players,” Grubbs said. “They don’t care how many mistakes you make. The only thing they want is that you do things at 100 miles an hour, so you can look back on the mistake and correct it and move on.”

That’s the way the Rams may have to treat their pre-district schedule — moving quickly through and not paying attention to what could be an ugly record.

“We’re going to struggle early with the tough schedule that we have,” said Gallegos, who will lead the team in games against Roswell High, Moriarty, Artesia and Clovis.
Once Portales opens District 4-3A play against Lovington (Jan. 31 at Lovington), Gallegos is optimistic the team will be ready.

“I feel like we can compete for a district championship,” Gallegos said. “We have good quickness, maybe a little more size than in the past. We’ll have a little more of an inside-outside game than we have.”

Gallegos feels Class 3A does have its favorites, but 4-3A should be well-represented in the new 16-team tournament format.

“I think both St. Michael’s and Grants are the two big guns,” Gallegos said, “but if you look in our district, Lovington and Ruidoso are as good as any two teams in the state.
“With the new playoff system, you want to play to have a home game. That district championship is still pretty important.”