Herrin providing boost as Zias look to hit stride

Freedom New Mexico: Clarence Plank Junior guard Kiara Tate tries to box out sophomore guard Nikki Ingram during ENMU women’s basketball practice on Friday at Greyhound Arena. The Zias host New Mexico Highlands at 4 p.m. today.

Dave Wagner

PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball coach Linden Weese was looking for a forward-type player with some all-around skills during the offseason.

Thanks to a reference from another coach, he landed Precious Herrin.

The 5-foot-10 junior from Shreveport, La., transferred to ENMU in the fall from Jacksonville (Texas) College. She’s given the Zias (0-2) an immediate boost, although it’s yet to show up in the win column.

Herrin has averaged 17 points and eight rebounds through two games, lopsided road losses against Division I Texas-El Paso and defending NCAA Division II national runnerup Fort Lewis. The Zias hope to break through today with a 4 p.m. tipoff against New Mexico Highlands (2-2) at Greyhound Arena.

ENMU’s men (2-2) face Lubbock Christian (5-0) in the first half of the twin bill at 2 p.m.

Weese never saw Herrin play until she came for a visit last spring. He said she immediately bonded with fellow transfers Kayla McCray and Kiara Tate and decided to come to ENMU.

“I knew when she came in and I saw her work out, she was going to be a presence on the block,” Weese said. “She can really score, and she’s a good rebounder and good defender.”

Herrin said she was glad to get the opportunity out of junior college.

“I’ve been doing OK, but I always feel like I can get better to help the team,” she said. “Coach Weese has really helped my skills.”

She said “Precious” is actually a nickname. Her real name is Chuntarria Shankeon Herrin.

“I get ‘Precious’ from my daddy,” she said. “He used to call me his ‘precious little star’ when I was a baby, and it just kind of stuck with me.”

The Zias were hurt with the loss to a season-ending knee injury of point guard Tori Northcutt in preseason. Weese said Tate has stepped in and done reasonably well, but now she’s questionable for today’s game after twisting an ankle in practice earlier this week.

Realizing the calibre of the first two opponents, Weese said the Zias have the ability to turn things around.

“I told (the players) the other day, ‘I think we’ve got a chance to win the next four,’” he said, referring to home-and-home games against Highlands and Lone Star Conference home crossovers next weekend against Southwestern Oklahoma and Cameron. “I might have to back off that a little if Tate’s down. We’ll just see how it goes.”

Lubbock Christian (5-0) at ENMU (2-2)
2 p.m. today, Greyhound Arena
Last outing:
NAIA member LCU opened Sooner Athletic Conference play on Monday, beating previously undefeated Wayland Baptist 72-63 at Lubbock. The Greyhounds have been idle since dropping an 80-76 decision to Colorado-Colorado Springs a week ago at Durango, Colo.
Last meeting: ENMU beat the Chaparrals 69-54 at Lubbock last November. LCU was 4-0 coming into that contest.
Of note: LCU has duplicated a 5-0 start from two years ago. If they win today, the Chaps will open 6-0 for the first time since winning their first nine in the 2000-01 campaign. … LCU is shooting 54 percent from the field for the season and has been above 50 percent in each of its five games. … The Chaps are averaging 91.2 ppg while holding opponents to 65.4. Five players, including 6-foot-9 senior post Russ Permenter (10.4 ppg) off the bench, are averaging in double figures, led by 6-7 senior F Kenny Hewitt (18.0). The fifth starter, 6-0 junior G Rashad Sample, averages 9.6 ppg. … Melrose native John Copeland is 442-408 in 29-plus seasons as LCU’s head coach. He entered the season No. 22 among active NAIA coaches in career wins. … ENMU, outscoring its opponents by about a point per game so far, has five players averaging in double figures, led by 6-7 junior F Max Carrier (18.0 ppg). Carrier also leads the team in rebounding at eight per contest.

New Mexico Highlands (2-2) at ENMU (0-2)
4 p.m. today, Greyhound Arena
Last outing:
The Cowgirls split four games on a trip to Alaska last week, losing twice to No. 13 Alaska-Anchorage (81-43 and 73-39) and beating Alaska-Fairbanks twice (90-84 in double overtime and 55-50). ENMU lost a week ago at Division I Texas-El Paso 79-48.
Last meeting: The teams split in 2009-10, each winning on the other’s floor. Highlands beat the Zias 89-85 in the season opener at Greyhound Arena, while ENMU returned the favor 85-76 in late December at Las Vegas, N.M.
Of note: The teams meet again on Monday at Las Vegas. … Whitley Coca, a 5-5 sophomore point guard from Cimarron, leads the Cowgirls at 11.8 ppg, followed by senior F Briana Gholston (11.3). …