By Dave Wagner
Because of an ankle injury to teammate Reggie Wallace, Eastern New Mexico University’s Jolen Montoya has played extended minutes at point guard at the start of the season.
The graduate of Espanola Valley High School in northern New Mexico has taken advantage of the opportunity, averaging 17 points and shooting 67 percent from the field (10-of-15) as the Greyhounds split their first two games. He’s played 67 of a possible 80 minutes.
Still, he said he won’t mind seeing Wallace back in action this weekend when the Hounds travel to Topeka, Kan., for the Washburn Holiday Classic.
“Reggie’s a real critical part of our team,” said the 5-foot-9 Montoya, a transfer from Neosho County (Kan.) Community College. “He’s as quick and fast as anybody I’ve ever seen, and I’ve had to guard him in practice.
“His coming back will be a real positive for us.”
Injuries have hampered the Hounds to this point, but they erased a 13-point deficit in the final 10 minutes to pull out a 72-67 road win over Adams State on Saturday night at Alamosa, Colo.
“We didn’t play very good interior defense in the second half, but we found a way to win,” said Montoya, who hit 6-of-9 field goals (including 4-of-6 from 3-point range) and converted all six free throws against the Grizzlies.
His only down side so far is the fact that he has 11 turnovers in two games.
“I think I’ve done good,” Montoya said. “I’ve just tried to thread the ball into places where it can’t go. The people we’ve played are so quick, and before you know it the ball’s going the other way.”
ENMU coach Shawn Scanlan called Montoya’s outing at ASC “a quality performance,” adding that he was one of several who stepped up in the clutch.
“First of all, Jolen’s tough and he’s really competitive,” Scanlan said. “But he can also hit some big shots for us, as he showed Saturday night.
“He just needs to do a little better job of taking care of the ball.”
With difficult games against Fort Hays State and possibly Washburn looming this weekend, the win over Adams provided a needed boost.
“It was (a good win) from the standpoint of this group figuring out how to come back from adverse circumstances,” Scanlan said. “It did show a little bit of character.”