Zias’ new coach optimistic

Dave Wagner

First-year Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball coach Lindsey Wilson is settling into her new position.

Wilson, who played in the Lone Star Conference at Southeastern Oklahoma (2002-03) and Central Oklahoma (2003-06), expects to inherit nine players from last year’s Zias squad under Linden Weese. She said she has verbal committments from two incoming freshmen for next year, and is hoping to add another guard and post.

ENMU (5-21, 3-11 LSC South last season) has had just one winning record in the last seven campaigns, but Wilson is confident she can turn it around.

“I think it starts with kids understanding that things have to change,” she said. “They have to get better on their own this summer.”

Among the returnees is senior point guard Tori Northcutt of Clovis, who missed the entire campaign after injuring her knee in a preseason scrimmage.

With the departure from the LSC of five Oklahoma schools, including Southeastern and UCO, the “streamlined” women’s LSC will feature 11 teams with a 20-game, double-round-robin schedule. The Zias, with six out-of-conference tilts, open the season Nov. 12 against Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., and play their home opener three nights later against Oklahoma Panhandle State.

“It’s an exciting challenge to see what we can do,” Wilson said.

Men sign three players — ENMU men’s coach Andrew Helton released the names of three California junior college transfers on Monday who have signed letters-of-intent for next season in 6-foot-8 forwards Maurice McKee (San Bernadino Valley) and Greg McFarland (Citrus College), and 6-2 point guard Devone Davis (Southwestern College).

All will be juniors, and Helton said on Monday he expects them to jump in and help from the get-go. “They were brought in to play,” he said.

The Hounds (13-14, 8-6 LSC South in 2010-11) expect nine players back from last season, including four of their top five scorers.

“We’re excited about (that),” said Helton, entering his third season. “Our recruiting class will help us fill some needs as far as defense, rebounding and point guard play.”

Among the Hounds’ non-conference games is a Dec. 19 date at Long Beach State, one that Helton said he scheduled in part to allow his half-dozen southern California players a chance to play a game near home. He’s hoping to add another Division I regular-season contest against a regional opponent.

While they registered their first winning record in South play since 2004 last year, early struggles kept the Hounds from their first overall winning record since that season.

“We’ve got to get off to a better start in ’11-12,” Helton said. “That falls on our coaches, players, everybody.”