By Dave Wagner, Freedom New Mexico
Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball coach Shawn Scanlan figured he’d get his almost all-new team ready for the upcoming season with a couple of tough tests — a scrimmage at defending NJCAA champion South Plains College, where Scanlan used to coach, and Division I Northern Arizona in Flagstaff in an exhibition game.
Both served the purpose — ENMU played well in spurts, but learned what it will take to compete in the Lone Star Conference.
“The initial challenge is to get everyone to understand the competitive level we’re about to face, how hard we have to play and how tough it is,” said Scanlan, beginning his ninth season at ENMU. “Both those experiences were good for us. We played people that could walk on us if we weren’t careful.”
Only sophomore forward Matt Churchman returns from last year’s 6-21 squad (0-12 LSC South). Scanlan leans heavily on junior colleges when recruiting and believes the Greyhounds have some talent in place if he and assistant coach Joe Griffin can get it to mesh.
Right now, junior guard Jimmy Marshall has missed time in preseason with a sprained foot, although Scanlan is hopeful he will be ready for Saturday’s opener at New Mexico Highlands. Junior forward DarSenio Carter is out with a back injury and probably won’t be ready until late December at the earliest.
Six-foot-8 sophomore Tommy York, who sat out last season with an injury, is among the candidates at an inside positions. Others are Churchman (3.6 ppg in 27 games last season), freshman Bill Squire of Hagerman and juco transfers Donovan Schultz, Dannon Wafer, Equs Darby and Carter.
Marshall, and transfers Justin Reynolds and Kelvin Franklin are contending at point guard, while Franklin, Darby and transfers Brandon Wilson, Aaron King, Jamaal Hadley and Gerald Brown are competing for wing spots.
Darby, who scored a team-best 11 points in the 82-60 loss at Northern Arizona, said it’s a matter of players meshing.
“I feel like we’ve got a lot of talent,” said Darby, a South Carolinian who transferred from Feather River Community College in California. “We’re a work in progress, but we should be a team to look out for.”
Darby said the transfers are adjusting to a more structured offense than they’re used to, as well as the different rotations in Scanlan’s defensive schemes.
“Where all of us came from, we’ve been one of the top players on our team,” Darby said. “We’re having to accept more of a role now.”
Scanlan knows it may take some time.
“When you have a team like this, you can’t expect all the pieces to fit (right away),” he said. “It’s going to take a while, I know that.
“We’re going to have to bank on high levels of effort early, and become more consistent as soon as we can.”
ENMU was picked to repeat its last-place finish in the South, something which Darby and Scanlan concede provides motivation.
“You couldn’t have a discussion about the top teams (in the South) without talking about Tarleton State and West Texas (A&M),” Scanlan said.
Behind them are Midwestern State and Angelo (State).
“We’ve got to break into that conversation. We’re not a part of that conversation right now.”