PORTALES — Players on this year’s Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball roster range from point guards playing shooting guard (and vice versa) to forwards playing center.
They also come from as far as California and as close as Portales.
Whether new or experienced, small or big, these Zias are bound together with one common purpose — to surprise the rest of the Lone Star Conference, and maybe some others in the process.
“I think we’re going to surprise some people,” second-year Zias coach Dan Buzard said. “If we stay injury-free from here on out, it’s going to be tough to beat us.”
Eastern opens its season today at Colorado-Colorado Springs, followed by a pair of road tournaments the next two weekends. All told, ENMU play its first seven games on the road before hosting West Texas A&M in a Lone Star Conference South Division matchup on Dec. 16.
The Zias return a sizable nucleus from last year’s squad — most notably senior center Jereena Bosket, junior guard Laci Lee and sophomore forward Elizabeth Richards.
The performance of these players and some new additions will determine whether or not Eastern improves on its 7-20 record (4-10 South) last season, Buzard’s first as head coach. He thinks the team will be more efficient as he’s got a better idea of when and where to play people, and he credits a new approach to whatever success the team will have.
“I think we have players that really want to win,” Buzard said, “and really want to do what it takes to win.”
The main inside threats will likely be the 6-foot Bosket and 6-foot-1 Loren Scarlet, but Buzard admits that his team will be undersized when he pulls either junior Nicole Taute (5-foot-8) or Hereford freshman Mika Robertson (5-foot-9) off the bench.
ENMU will have to overcome the loss to season-ending injuries of 5-foot-10 junior Tia Doss and 6-5 freshman Brittnay Rogers. Another freshman, 6-1 Shani Rasco of Muleshoe, decided not to play because of diabetes.
“We’re pretty shallow in the post as far as people,” said Buzard, who was optimistic that Scarlet, Taute and Robertson would be able to post serviceable numbers thanks to their hustle.
It’s a different situation for the backcourt, as the Zias have several new candidates for the open point guard position. The experience levels range from Division-I (sophomore Kristi McGuire, UT-Pan American) to junior college (Casey Rodriguez, College of San Mateo).
Rodriguez, a 5-foot-6 junior, is away from her home in South San Francisco for the first time. While she said the academic and social transition hasn’t been too difficult, the adjustment to Texas-New Mexico basketball is a different story.
“It’s a little bit more intense here,” Rodriguez said. “They get after it. It’s good for me because I have to step up from the JC level.
“It’s been better than I thought it would be. The players make it really enjoyable.”
The opening at point guard was created when Buzard opted to move Lee to the shooting guard position. Meanwhile, the 5-foot-11 Richards will be expected to play a variety of positions throughout the season.