Transfers bolster Zias’ depth

Freedom New Mexico: Clarence Plank ENMU sophomore guard Sorrell Huntington works on 3-point shooting from the three-point line during a recent practice at Greyhound Arena. Huntington, who is also a member of the ENMU rodeo team, started in nine of the 22 games she played for the Zias last season.

By Clarence Plank

PORTALES — The Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball team is seeking its first winning season in four years.

The Zias already face a challenge with senior guard Tori Northcutt of Clovis possibly out for the season with an ACL tear suffered during a scrimmage at New Mexico State on Oct. 30.

Coach Linden Weese said the toughest challenge facing the Zias is believing they can win.

“(We’ve been) in that situation where we haven’t won enough games where they think they can (win),” Weese said. “I think they’re good enough athletes and players, but they need to start believing in themselves a little more.”

Weese plans to move players around with Northcutt out.

ENMU (8-19, 3-9 Lone Star Conference South last season) managed to retain its starters from last season, and has added new players into the mix with some junior college transfers.

Among the newcomers is 5-foot-7 sophomore guard Tara Johnson, a Portales High grad who has transferred from Lubbock Christian. Others, all transfers from Texas jucos, are 5-10 junior forward Precious Herrin (Jacksonville College), 5-6 junior guard Kiara Tate (McClennan C.C.) and 6-1 sophomore point guard Kayla McCray (Ranger College).

“I think all four of them add some size and athleticism to the team,” Weese said. “I think Precious is going to add presence to our inside play, and Kiara and Tara are going to help us on the perimeter with our guard play.”

West Texas A&M was picked to win the South in the preseason poll, while ENMU was tabbed for eighth place. Northeastern State was the favorite in the North Division poll.

“Tarleton State has a lot of players returning from an NCAA tournament team from last year,” Weese said of the South race. “We’ll have to see because some teams have lost players to graduation.”

Senior forward Cat Clay said junior guard Karen Grant is coming back from a knee injury and has improved a lot over the summer.

“We have been underdogs since I’ve been here,” Clay said. “The Lone Star Conference is the toughest Division II conference to be in which is a big challenge for us. WT has been ranked national and so has Abilene Christian before. They are really good teams. I feel we are more mature. I think we have grown as a team and we are mentally better.”

The Zias host Lubbock Christian in a 6 p.m. exhibition game today at Greyhound Arena. The regular-season opener is at 7 p.m. Saturday against defending NCAA Division II runnerup Fort Lewis at Durango, Colo.