By Dave Wagner
If a preseason exhibition means anything, the Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball team is ready for the regular campaign to start.
That happens when the Greyhounds (12-15, 9-9 Lone Star Conference last season) face Missouri Southern at 6 p.m. (MST) today in the last of five games in the two-day, D-II Tip Off Classic at the Doolittle Community Center in Las Vegas, N.M.
The Hounds lost at New Mexico 87-68 on Saturday, but kept the 20th-ranked Lobos within sight much of the game. Of note, ENMU had just six turnovers in the game compared to 13 assists.
“I think we played OK,” fifth-year ENMU men’s coach Andrew Helton said. “I think (UNM coach Craig) Neal would probably say the same thing (about his team). We both felt like we could’ve played better, but neither one of us played terrible.”
ENMU returns 10 players with significant experience from last year’s squad, and also picks up senior guard Devone Davis, who missed the 2012-13 season due to the eligibility issues surrounding the athletic programs last year. Davis will sit out tonight’s game due to an NCAA paperwork issue dating to the 2011-12 season.
Still, he gives the Hounds depth at point guard. ENMU has plenty of depth in general in the backcourt, with seniors Rodney Blackmon (17.4 ppg, 5.0 apg last season), Rafael Love 14.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and Jordan Romero (7.4 ppg) leading the way.
Another senior guard, Kyle Lantz, averaged 6.3 ppg and shot just under 50 percent from the 3-point line (24-of-49) last season. Davis can also play an off-guard position.
Mike Randle, a junior college transfer at midyear last year, should give the Hounds depth at the point behind Blackmon and Davis.
“I think we’re going to be very good this year,” said Randle, who last played at Paris (Texas) College in 2011-12. “I’m ready to get on the court. I feel I’ve got to come off the bench and do my part and fit in with everyone else.”
Helton is happy with the depth at the point guard position.
”It’s the most important position on the floor, and we have a number of guys who can play it,” he said.
Other key players returning for ENMU include senior forward D.J. Hardwell (7.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg), sophomore forward Lawrence Domingo (7.4 ppg) and 6-8 senior center Phil Henry (4.8 ppg). Helton said the team has added inside depth in 6-foot-5 senior forward Cornelius Cammock, a transfer from Abilene Christian who averaged 7.7 points and 4.5 rebounds for the Wildcats a year ago.
“They picked up sixth (in the preseason poll), but I feel like we’re better than that,” Randle said. “I think we have the team to be No. 1 at the end of the day.”
The Hounds will ride nine seniors into their bid to improve on a projected sixth-place finish in the eight-team league.
“Our seniors have to play well for us,” Helton said. “It’s important they have good years. We’ve had seniors before who have had better years as juniors.”
The Hounds, who were outsized at UNM and lost the rebound battle to the Lobos 52-26, will be a little smaller than most of the teams the play.
“We have to be physical and play great defense,” Helton said. “We’ve got to do things we can do with the guys we have.”
Missouri Southern, 13-15 overall and 7-11 in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association last season, is led by senior guard Marquis Addison, who averaged a team-best 17.4 ppg last season. Others back are junior guards Cameron Cornelius and Lane Barlow, senior forward Jordan Talbert and sophomore forward Greg Renfro.
ENMU beat the Lions 81-61 in November last year in a weekend classic hosted by West Texas A&M. The Lions, who faced St. Mary’s on Friday in the Tip Off Classic, lost to Missouri State 93-80 and at Arkansas 99-82 in preseason exhibitions.
No. Name Pos. Ht. Yr.
1 Rodney Blackmon G 6-0 Sr.
2 Johari Templin F 6-4 Sr.
3 Dylan Houlihan G 5-11 Jr.
4 Rafael Love G 6-4 Sr.
5 Devone Davis G 6-1 Sr.
10 Kyle Lantz G 6-1 Sr.
11 D.J. Hardwell F 6-5 Sr.
12 Mike Randle G 6-0 Jr.
20 Travis Garcia G 5-10 Fr.
22 Jordan Romero G 6-1 Sr.
23 Deyton De La Cerda G 5-10 So.
24 Cornelius Cammock F 6-5 Sr.
30 Lawrence Domingo F 6-4 So.
32 Phil Henry C 6-8 Sr.
34 Mike Torrez F 6-7 Fr.
40 Ramon Soliz F 6-2 Fr.
Head coach: Andrew Helton (5th year, 49-59). Assistant coach: Stott Carter. Grad assistant: Jimmie Marshall. Student assistant: Rawley Stallard.
9 — vs. Missouri Southern at Las Vegas, Nev.; 16 — University of the Southwest, 7 p.m.; 19 — at Lubbock Christian, 6 p.m.; 26 — vs. Lubbock Christian at Clovis H.S., 7 p.m.; 29-30 — West Texas A&M Thanksgiving Classic at Canyon, Texas (29 vs. Pittsburg State, 1:30 p.m.; 30 vs. Southwestern Oklahoma, 1:30 p.m.).
7 — Northern New Mexico, 5 p.m.; 14 — vs. Henderson State at Lawton, Okla.; 18 — at Azuza Pacific, 8:30 p.m.
1-2 — South Dakota Mines tournament at Rapid City, S.D. (1 vs. South Dakota Mines, 5 p.m.; 2 vs. Johnson & Wales, 3 p.m.); 8 — Cameron, 7:30 p.m.-x; 11 — at Midwestern State, 5 p.m.-x; 15 — at Texas A&M-Kingsville, 11 a.m.-x; 18 — Angelo State, 4 p.m.-x; 22 — Texas A&M-Commerce, 7:30 p.m.-x; 25 — at Tarleton State, 6 p.m.-x; 30 — South Dakota Mines, 7:30 p.m.
1 — at West Texas A&M, 3 p.m.-x; 5 — Texas A&M-Kingsville, 7:30 p.m.-x; 8 — at Angelo State, 3 p.m.-x; 12 — at Cameron, 7 p.m.-x; 15 — Midwestern State, 6 p.m.-x; 19 — at Texas A&M-Commerce, 6:30 p.m.-x; 22 — Tarleton State, 7 p.m.-x.
1 — West Texas A&M, 7:30 p.m.-x.
All times Mountain. x—Denotes Lone Star Conference games.