State colleges: Men's basketball outlook - Albuquerque Journal

State colleges: Men’s basketball outlook

As a basketball coach and Cubs fan, Craig Snow has not had his attention divided in October very often.

But these are promising times for the coach of the New Mexico Highlands Cowboys.

The rise of Chicago’s baseball club has been documented, but there appears to be good tidings ahead for NMHU as well.

The Cowboys were picked fourth in a preseason poll in the highly regarded, 15-team RMAC.

They return 6-foot-10 Marlon Johnson (15 points, 9.4 rebounds a game) and 6-5 Ron Lawton (13.4 ppg, 47 steals), two seniors named to the league’s preseason team.

Also back is 6-4 senior James Healy, a Cibola grad. He started 28 games last season.

“We’re going to count on those three guys a lot,” Snow said. “They’ll have to take on a leadership role.”

Added to the mix is 6-3 guard Chris Clark, a transfer from Moberly (Mo.) Community College. Clark scored 20 points in the NJCAA championship game last season.

Valley grad Joe Anaya, a starter at guard as a freshman, and Australian Atem Bior, a physical forward, rejoin the fun after redshirting last year.

“(Anaya) has gotten a lot stronger,” Snow said. “He’s shooting the ball more consistently.”

Also look for 6-2 senior Kieren Woods, a transfer from Chicago State, where he averaged 15.5 points a game last year.

Snow said his team is guard heavy and he is not opposed to using three point guards at the same time.

But everything will run through Johnson, who will spend more time at center than forward.

“My philosophy is to get good players, then figure it out when they’re here,” Snow said.

The Cowboys open Nov. 4 at UNLV, which Snow said will be fun. But he also will be trying to get a better sense of his team.

“We’ll get a chance to see how certain players respond to being under the lights, playing against good competition,” he said.

WNMU: The Mustangs turned their program over to Matt Enriquez, once a sharp-shooting Western New Mexico guard and a member of the school’s Hall of Fame.

Enriquez, who was an assistant with the men’s program for 11 seasons, took over the women’s team in the middle of last season on an interim basis. Whereas he was asked to guide the women’s team, he had to apply for the men’s job.

“I felt it was more earned than given,” he said of the men’s position.

Western, 1-26 last year, will compete in the Lone Star Conference for the first time. It was picked to finish last in the 10-team league in a preseason poll.

“I’m trying to bring in good kids, not just talented kids,” Enriquez said. “I want kids who succeed in the classroom and are productive in the community.

The Mustangs return sophomore guard Willie McCray of Clovis. He led WNMU in scoring (11.0 ppg) as a true freshman last season. Also back are 6-5 senior Emery Range (9.9 ppg) and 6-3 sophomore Jordan Enriquez (the coach’s brother who averaged 7.5 ppg).

“He’s very talented,” Matt said of Jordan. “And I’m not saying that because he’s my brother. If he can’t get it done, he knows he won’t be on the floor.”

Newcomers include 6-8 junior Latrell Spivey, a transfer from Glendale (Ariz.) CC, sharp-shooter CJ Vanbeekum of Phoenix and Mexico’s Eddie Giron, who played on an AAU team out of El Paso that was coached by Enriquez’s high school coach.

Also watch for 6-5 freshman Tyshaun Copper, a freshman out of Brooklyn (N.Y) Collegiate Prep School, where he averaged 12 points and 13 rebounds a game. He was coached by former Mustang and Enriquez teammate Malcom Conner.

“He’s a high-energy kid,” the coach said. “He’ll be our workhorse.”

WNMU opens its season Wednesday against New Mexico in Albuquerque.

“The Pit is like no other arena in the country,” Enriquez said.

ENMU: The Greyhounds also have a new coach — Tres Segler, who is exuberant about being in Portales.

He arrives after serving five years as an assistant at Midwestern State (Texas), a Lone Star basketball power. He also had a stint as a grad assistant for Rick Barnes at Texas. While Midwestern is picked to win the Lone Star, ENMU was selected eighth in the preseason poll. Segler relishes the challenge.

“I have a lot of respect for Eastern New Mexico,” Segler said. “I knew that while they were down the last couple of years, they’re a formidable team. They have a beautiful arena with a lot of history. I knew I could recruit the kind of kids here who believe in my vision.”

Segler has brought in a number of transfers, including 6-8 Chris Lewis of Philadelphia and Lamar JC, 6-3 Marquise Harris of Watts, Calif. and El Camino College, 6-3 Joe Clarke and 6-7 Shawn Shelton from Dean College in Connecticut, 6-0 Cornell Neal from Central Oklahoma and 6-3 Larmarquis Thompson, the South Coast Conference Player of the Year last season while at Mt. SAC.

Chris Wyms, a 6-2 senior guard, averaged 12.2 points a game last year for ENMU.

“We’re a gritty, grimy team,” Segler said. “We want to guard you, get up in you.”

The Greyhounds, whose offense sets up with ball screen motion, open Friday at UNM.

“I’m so hyped,” Segler said. “I’ve never been to the Pit before. I’ve been to Phog Allen, Madison Square Garden, UCLA, Oklahoma State. But never the Pit. I hope my kids will love it. I hope they don’t get intimidated by the environment.”

Segler is a big fan of Lobos assistant Terrence Rencher, a former star player at Texas.

“Terrence Rencher is one of my heroes,” he said. “I have so much respect for the Lobos.”

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