By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
The season may be nearly six months off, but Clovis High boys basketball coach J.D. Isler believes the summer schedule his team will go through over the next six weeks is crucial.
Isler’s four-week summer league began Tuesday at Rock Staubus Gym, and he hopes the Wildcats can establish a foundation for the 2006-07 campaign.
“We’ve got a lot of experience coming back,” he said. “We were so young last year, but all these young kids played.
“I can absolutely tell a difference from (this time) last year.”
Teams play 20-minute games on Tuesday and Thursday nights through mid-June, with a running clock until the final two minutes. Seven teams are in the league, including two Clovis squads and “Clovis Exes,” made up primarily of former CHS players.
Others are Portales, Texico, Clovis Christian and Logan.
Veteran Portales coach Mark Gallegos said the Rams are in the process of trying to figure out how to replace several mainstays from last year’s 16-12 squad which lost in the Class 3A state semifinals.
“This summer, we’re trying to put some people into the rotation,” Gallegos said. “We’re going to have to kind of come together as a team and figure out our roles.”
The Rams have been relatively small in recent years, but usually figure out a way to counter the lack of size.
“We’re going to have to shoot the ball a lot better than we have,” Gallegos said. “I think we’ll be OK inside; we’re never very big, but we’re going to have to overcome it.”
Meantime, Clovis wraps up its summer with four consecutive out-of-town weekend camps, beginning June 9-10 at Frenship, Texas.
“I want us to get in good enough condition for our team camps so we can get some good out of them,” Isler said. “Obviously, we’ve got a good core back. They’re real competitive, tough kids.”
CHS guard Bryce Hill said the team hopes to use the summer schedule as a building block. The Cats’ season came to an end in March with a loss at Valley in the Class 5A round of 16.
“We’re just trying to work hard and make sure we’re ready for the season,” said Hill, who will be a junior. “We’re trying to make it to the final four (at state) this year, and then try to win it. We have to outhustle people if we want to go (farther than last season), and we have to play as a team.”