By Kevin Wilson
Three years ago, Irshaun Pinckney wasn’t quite sure where he was going.
A senior on the Class 5A state runnerup Clovis Wildcats in 2001, Pinckney wasn’t sure whether his college years would be strictly academic or if they’d be a continuation of his athletics as well.
Nearly three years later, Pinckney is a junior with Eastern New Mexico University, the defending Lone Star Conference South champion. Looking back, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound guard is glad he went with the Greyhounds and ENMU instead of a larger school.
“I’m glad I made the decision,” Pinckney said. “I’m glad I’m playing basketball and I’m glad to be on a winning team. You don’t have to go to Division-I school to get an education. Getting a degree is getting a degree.”
Pinckney and the Greyhounds have some ideas about where they’d like to go this year, but fourth-year coach Shawn Scanlan hopes his players realize the game-to-game commitment it will take to reach their goals.
“The ultimate goal is the national tournament,” Scanlan said. “The intermediate goal is the LSC South championship.”
“And the immediate goal,” Scanlan added with a smile, “is to play one game at a time.”
Game one is set for tonight, with a 7 p.m. tilt against Incarnate Word at Greyhound Stadium. It will be the Greyhounds’ first game action since losing to Tarleton State in the LSC semifinals.
The Greyhounds lose four players from last season’s squad, including LSC South Player of the Year Cedric Palmer, but add several junior college transfers to a cast that returns South Defensive Player of the Year Garland Coleman.
Scanlan hopes that additions like 6-foot-4 shooting guard Kennis Green and 6-foot-5 forward Edmound Elzy can help the Greyhounds be a quicker, more athletic team than in previous years.
The tradeoff, however, is a lack of size. The tallest Greyhound is 6-foot-6 Travazz Buckley, a transfer from Faulkner State College, but he will not be eligible until the semester break.
“I think it’s going to be pretty obvious we’re going to be outsized,” Scanlan said. “So you’ve got to be smarter, you’ve got to be quicker. Mistakes are magnified when you’re outmanned. We’re not outmanned player-wise, but we are size-wise.”
With the team under-sized most nights, Scanlan has stressed basic philosophies like limiting teams to one shot per possession. Pinckney said the team has a goal of no more than three offensive rebounds per half for the opposition.
“We’ve just got to box out, rebound,” Pinckney said, “give our opponent less opportunity to score.”
The Hounds will rely on returners like point guard Brent Cooper and forward Jamaal Hunnicutt to carry the offensive load, and Scanlan is hopeful that his junior college transfers will pick up the system quickly before Buckley arrives to provide an additional post presence.
“He’ll be a strength at the position,” Scanlan said of Buckley, who broke a backboard during spring practices. “When he plays, he’s capable of making plays other guys just can’t make because of his athletic ability.”