By Dave Wagner
CMI sports writer
Don’t look now, but basketball season is just around the corner at Eastern New Mexico University.
The Greyhounds and Zias are slated to begin official practices today at Greyhound Arena, the men going at 2:30 p.m. and the women, under first-year coach Joshua Prock, around 6 p.m.
Both teams have exhibition games slated for Nov. 2 — the men at the University of New Mexico, the women at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix — before opening the season the following weekend.
The men’s squad, which went 12-15 overall and 9-9 in the Lone Star Conference a year ago, will have a similar look to last season under fifth-year coach Andrew Helton. The Greyhounds return 10 players, plus senior point guard Devone Davis, who played two years ago and was a redshirt in 2012-13.
“We were basically in the middle of the pack last year, but we return a lot of guys,” Helton said. “You need some continuity (at this level) to do the things you want to do.”
The Greyhounds open the regular season against Missouri Southern in a game set for 6 p.m. on Nov. 9 at Las Vegas, Nev. The home opener is a week later against University of the Southwest.
Helton said he was pleased the 26-game schedule includes 11 home games, plus five neutral-site games.
Prock, who came to ENMU from Howard Payne University, will have eight players back from last year’s squad under Leslie Wilson. In addition, he’s added five players — including three of local interest in junior transfer Tori Tucker of Floyd, redshirt freshman transfer Cassidy Doherty of Melrose and freshman Cara Barnard of Melrose.
The Zias, who were 7-22 last season and 6-14 in the LSC, have no seniors on the roster, but Prock said the talent isn’t bad.
“We have really good kids here,” he said. “They’re hard-working kids with great attitudes, and they’ve bought into what we’re trying to do.”
Prock, a 1996 Clovis High graduate who went 108-31 in five seasons at Howard Payne, said he thinks his players are ready to get started.
“Going in, this team’s in better shape than any team I’ve ever coached.”
The Zias open the season in a four-team classic on Nov. 8-9 at Alamosa, Colo., facing host Adams State and Colorado-State-Pueblo. Their first home game isn’t until Nov. 25 against Western New Mexico.