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Highlands women going through ‘a reboot’

Jordyn Lewis was a first-team all-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference performer last year and will be counted on to lead New Mexico Highlands this season. (Courtesy of NMHU)

Coming off a rugged 4-24 season in which the team was outscored by an average of 20 points per game, the New Mexico Highlands University womens basketball team was due for some changes.

Indeed, coach Joseph Anders swept the Cowgirls’ slate virtually clean as just two players return from last season.

“It’s kind of a kind of reboot in terms of the program,” Andes said.

That means that NMHU will be relying heavily on returning starters Jordyn Lewis (5 foot, 8 inches, Jr., G) who averaged 14.5 points a year ago, and Brianna Stewart (5-10, Jr., G), who averaged 7.3 points and is injured

“Jordyn Lewis showed her mettle last year and she really has done a great job for us in being a stop-gap, knock-down shooter,” Anders said. “That is something I utilize throughout the years.”

Lewis was a first-team all-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference player and among the league leaders in several categories.

Of the seven newcomers, six are freshmen, but that doesn’t concern Anders

“I’ve got a really great group of young women who represent the brand and New Mexico True in an extremely positive way,” he said. “I’m not one that dwells on our youth. We are basketball players and we’ve been playing this game all of our lives, so we’re not going to treat ourselves like freshmen. We’re going to go out and leave it on the floor.”

Knowing this was going to be a season with plenty of newcomers, Anders put tremendous emphasis on recruiting last season.

“I have kids that I was able to go out and eyeball, and recruit properly,” he said. “That’s been our nemesis, not having the ability to get out and recruit the kinds of young people who are going to give you the best opportunity for success.”

Anders also focused entirely on New Mexico players. One of his biggest coups was recruiting West Mesa grad Maiah Rivas (5-7, Fr., PG), who was the Class 5A Albuquerque metro player when she led the Mustangs to the state championship last season.

“She’s the consummate point guard,” Anders said. “She can score and she has incredible vision on the floor. She’s fun to watch and she makes others better.

And Desiree Forster (5-7, Fr., G) out of Cleveland High School was the 5A defensive player of the year.

“She’s the hardest working young lady I’ve had in the program,” Andes said. “She gives it her all and she always guards the best player on the other team. She’s not afraid to go out and compete.”

Ashley Antone (5-11, Fr., F) is another All-State athlete who is growing into her role.

“She’s an incredible tweener,” Anders said. “She can go anywhere, inside or outside. She has a deft touch from 3-point range.”

With the wealth of young talent, now it becomes a matter of making it all gel, he said.

“It’s exciting that we have so many young ones, and I really, really enjoy being around them in terms of the work ethic and the way they compete,” Anders said.