Young Zias prepare for ‘roller-coaster ride’

By Dave Wagner, Freedom New Mexico

With a 17-player roster that includes 12 freshmen, second-year Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball coach Linden Weese is prepared for some ups and downs.

“We’re young and inexperienced,” Weese said. “It may be a little bit of a roller-coaster ride for a while.”

That said, Weese is convinced the Zias are on the right track as they head into their 2007-08 opener tonight against host Fort Lewis at Durango, Colo., the first night of a three-day, three-team round-robin.

ENMU (14-12, 5-9 Lone Star Conference South last season) has more the look of a junior college team with regards to age and overall experience. Still, the Zias handled themselves reasonably well in exhibition losses to Division I New Mexico (98-66) and to Lubbock Christian (86-62).

“You need to play good people in the exhibitions,” Weese said. “They can point out your weaknesses; now it’s important to see if we can fix them.

“I’ve been most pleased with the effort, from one through 17. We’ve just got to do a better job of decision-making.”

That, of course, figures to come with experience.

Weese said this week he hadn’t settled on a lineup. The players with the most returning experience are 5-foot-11 sophomore guard-forward Megan Kabrick, a Portales High grad who started all 26 games last season, and 5-7 junior guard Lindsey Wood.

Another PHS grad, junior guard Erika Cook, is back in action after breaking a finger in a late-season game in 2005-06 and then missing all of last season with a knee injury.

Among the freshmen Weese has been impressed with so far are 6-foot post Clarissa Krum of Los Lunas, 5-7 guard Patricia Malouff of Aztec and 5-8 point guard Tori Northcutt of Clovis. Malouff had 17 points — all in the second half — at LCU, shooting 4-of-6 from 3-point range.

“Most of us have played against each other (in high school), or with each other in all-star games or in AAU during the summer,”
Northcutt said. “We’ve played pretty hard (in the exhibitions), and we’ve worked pretty well together.”

The Zias don’t have a dominating presence inside at this point, and thus will rely on 3-pointers. They pumped up 56 treys during the two exhibitions, hitting 18 of them.

Weese said the team has to improve on defense and do a better job of taking care of the ball — the Zias had 49 turnovers in the exhibitions.

“If our post kids can get used to the physical play on the block, I think that’ll help us,” he said.

The Zias came in seventh in the eight-team South in the preseason poll.

“I still think we can finish in the top four (to make the LSC postseason tournament),” Weese said. “I may be pipe-dreaming, but I believe in these kids if they can just get it figured out.”

Northcutt believes the team has the potential to do some good things.

“Since the beginning of offseason (workouts), I can tell we’ve improved,” she said. “I think we’re all looking to come out with a winning season.”