By Kevin Wilson
Matt Carpenter used to step on the Greyhound Arena floor as part of an annual tradition called the Eastern Plains Athletic Conference basketball tournament.
Now he steps on the court as part of a daily routine called practice. It’s one of many transitions the Dora native and Eastern New Mexico University freshman is making.
Carpenter last played on the Greyhound court in January when he and his Dora teammates were winning the EPAC tournament, midway through a 23-game winning streak and a Class 1A state championship season. He’ll take the court again on Saturday, as the Greyhounds face the New Mexico All-Stars in a 7 p.m. exhibition game. The 6-foot-2, 197-pound forward is looking ahead to the opportunity and the challenge.
“Then, it was a championship and now, it’s a new beginning,” Carpenter said. “I’ve always loved playing on this court because I always loved the crowds.
“Every time I step on this court, it brings back memories.”
Greyhound basketball has already given him memories, and new experiences. Before all is said and done, Carpenter will likely be a guard and he’ll be a quicker, slimmed-down player — he said he has already lost 12 pounds with the conditioning program.
Greyhound coach Shawn Scanlan is adamant that what happens over the next four seasons is largely up to Carpenter, but his attitude and approach have made him a great fit so far.
“First of all, he wants to play,” said Scanlan. “He looks like he enjoys playing. You want guys that want to play and enjoy playing.”
Scanlan had several opportunities to watch Carpenter play over the years. In addition to EPAC, Dora is an annual participant in ENMU’s summer team camps. Also, Shawn’s wife Kristin is a teacher at Dora High School. Scanlan arguably could have had more knowledge of Carpenter unintentionally that he has for players that he recruits from across the country.
Scanlan admits that several area players want to be a Greyhound, but they’re usually “here one day, gone the next.”
What makes Carpenter different, Scanlan said, is that he knows the difference between wanting to be on the team and putting in the commitment to make it happen — and then some.
“Matt’s not the athlete that most of these guys are. He has to do more,” Scanlan said. “He has to fight … just to stay even.
“When he does things, you have a great deal of admiration because you know what he’s going through.”
Carpenter seems to understand it as well, though early indications are that the former Coyote isn’t overwhelmed. If he is, he’s working too hard to know it.
“(Scanlan) makes you work and he doesn’t take less than 110 percent,” Carpenter said. “If you don’t give 110 percent, you probably should be doing something else.”