PORTALES — It’s time for basketball to begin at Eastern New Mexico University.
The Greyhounds and Zias are slated to begin official practice today, the women practicing at 2 p.m. and the men at 7 p.m. at Greyhound Arena.
The Hounds (10-16, 5-7 LSC South in 2009) expect to find out in a hurry what kind of team they’ll have with exhibition games at Texas-El Paso on Oct. 30, at New Mexico on Nov. 3 and at New Mexico State on Nov. 8. All were NCAA tournament teams last season.
“All three have really good coaches and good players,” second-year ENMU men’s coach Andrew Helton said.
The Hounds will have a mix of veterans and newcomers this season. They return two of their three leading scorers in 6-foot-6 senior forward Tyler Jefferson (11.7 ppg) and 6-foot-5 senior forward Victor Reid (9.2 ppg).
“With Vincent and Tyler, we’re talking about guys who played 30-35 minutes (per game last season),” Helton said. “We’ve got some experienced guys coming back, but we’ve got a lot of new guys.”
The Hounds open the regular season at home on Nov. 12 in a 7 p.m. tipoff against Northern New Mexico.
The Zias (8-19, 3-9) will build around five fourth-year seniors in 5-8 point guard Tori Northcutt and 5-4 guard Vanessa O’Neal, both from Clovis, as well as 5-11 senior forward Til-Lois Fifer, 6-1 guard/forward Cat Clay and 6-3 post Kara Bible.
The Zias scrimmage Wayland Baptist and New Mexico Junior College on Oct. 26 at Plainview, Texas, and at New Mexico State on Oct. 30. They host Lubbock Christian in a 6 p.m. exhibition on Nov. 9 before opening the season at defending NCAA Division II runnerup Fort Lewis four nights later.
Fifth-year coach Linden Weese thinks his strong base of players will help the Zias compete well in the South.
“I just feel it; it just feels different,” he said. “They’ve shown good leadership, and I think they’ll be fun to watch.
“We were in position last year to win a few more ballgames, but we just didn’t. I think this year we’ll pull those games out.”