The Eastern New Mexico University Greyhound and Zia basketball teams began practice Wednesday afternoon, and both teams had an extra bounce in their steps and a chip on their shoulders.
Both teams were picked to finish last in the Lone Star Conference South division preseason poll — and both coaches are doing their best to use it to their advantage.
“Nobody wants to be picked last,” Greyhound head basketball coach Shawn Scanlan said. “Don’t let anybody kid you about that. Nobody wants to be picked last because there’s no respect. They showed no respect for our team.”
“Let’s prove them wrong,” Zia head basketball coach Linden Weese said. “Until we do prove them wrong, they’re going to continue to (look at us that way). The ball is in our court. It’s up to us to see what we can do.”
The Zias and Hounds combined for just two Lone Star Conference victories last season — something that has to change, if ENMU basketball wants to turn heads and change minds.
“It’s easily a great source of motivation,” Scanlan said. “It’s posted on our bulletin board in our locker room. They’re going to be so motivated to change that. They want to surprise people. They want to be the dark horse, the ones that come out of nowhere. And we can do that.”
After Wednesday’s first practice, Scanlan and his fresh crop of Greyhounds know they have a lot of work to do.
“We’re literally in the process of teaching people how to do drills for the first time. So there’s a lot of teaching and a lot of stoppages,” Scanlan said. “There’s not a real consistent pattern of activity right now.”
The ENMU men have only two players returning from last season, sophomore center Tommy York and forward Matt Churchman. So Scanlan doesn’t have a valuable returning core group of players.
“When you have that returning core group — they can help you teach. They can help you get through things. They can help you demonstrate,” Scanlan said.
The Zias are also young, with a roster loaded with sophomores and freshmen.
“This is the first day we’ve had all 15 of them together. Hopefully we’re physically ready to go,” Weese said. “We better be ready to go, because we’ve got a scrimmage coming up pretty quick.”
The Zias travel to Hobbs for scrimmage action against New Mexico Junior College on Oct. 23, while the Greyhounds scrimmage South Plains College in Levelland, Texas on Oct. 30.