Zias’ coach taking measured approach to job

CNJ staff

PORTALES — Linden Weese is going slowly in his new job as Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball coach.

The longtime assistant to Marsha Sharp at Texas Tech admits he’s still trying to sort things out a bit at the Division II and Lone Star Conference level.

“I think we’ve had a good spring,” said Weese, who has signed two players to national letters of intent so far and is hoping to add at least one more. “I just didn’t want to panic and rush into anything.

“I just like the kids we have here now. The chemistry has been good, and I think these two kids will add to that.”

Players signed by the Zias so far are Portales High grad Roni Gomez and Ashley Davis, a 5-foot-9 guard forward from Hirschi High School in Wichita Falls, Texas. Weese said he is hoping to add an inside presence to help replace the loss to graduation of All-South forward Tiana Bryant, the Zias’ scoring and rebounding leader last year.

Gomez, who played at PHS for her mother, Brenda Gomez, has spent the last two years on the junior college level — first at Garden City (Kan.) and last season at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas.

Davis averaged around 16 points, four rebounds and five assists last season at Hirschi, and was a captain for the Lady Huskies for all four seasons.

“She’s got a chance to be a dandy,” Weese said of Davis. “Roni brings so much through her experience at the juco level.

“The thing I think is neat about these kids is they’re coaches’ daughters. They understand what it takes to win, and how to win.”

ENMU went 11-17 (3-11 LSC South) a year ago. The Zias lost five players to season-ending injuries, including three after they got off to a 6-1 start.

Four of the players — Elizabeth Richards, Riikka Lehtonen, Rochelle Vance and Brittany Gillespie — sustained knee injuries, while guard Erika Cook broke a hand in a game against Texas Woman’s in February. Weese said all are doing well except for Gillespie, injured in a late-season game against Angelo State, who had to have a second surgery on May 16 and may not be ready to start the season.

Richards, Lehtonen and Vance all went down in a two-week period early in the season, and the impact was felt almost immediately. Weese said he’s looking forward to having them back.

“Those are definitely going to be three key components to what we want to do,” he said.

The Zias open the 2006-07 campaign against Oklahoma Panhandle State at Goodwell. ENMU’s home opener is three nights later against New Mexico Highlands.