To whom much is given, much is expected.
The Clovis Wildcats are No. 1 in Class 5A, and they expect themselves to earn such praise.
“To be honest, we expect to be up there with the type of program we have,” senior post Matt Woodbury said. “I know every player enjoys having that bullseye. You’d rather have (that pressure) than not have it.”
The Wildcats are young, no doubt — Woodbury is one of just three seniors, and the only one who saw varsity time last year. But whether with seniors, juniors or sophomores, the squad that opens the season on Friday in Portales has talent by the boatload.
You want backcourt? Throw in junior guards John Dawson and D.J. Blackmon, who already have two varsity seasons under their belt, then give them lightning-quick sophomore Kamal Cass and junior Jonathan Johnson.
Looking for strength upfront? There’s Woodbury, up to 6-foot-5, 230 pounds this season, to go with size and length from juniors Dijon Ford, Marshall Winn and Drew Cole.
First-year Wildcats coach Matt King knew that J.D. Isler, who left Clovis after 10 seasons to take over at McMurry University, left him with plenty of talent. But King said they’ll also need toughness on defense and the boards to have a shot at Clovis’ first title since 1979.
“We have pieces to work with,” said King, a former La Cueva and Volcano Vista assistant who went 7-21 in his only season of a rebuilding job last year at Los Alamos. “But pieces are pieces if they don’t come together. The joy of it is putting them together. That will be the challenge for us as players and coaches.”
The Wildcats will open the season with six games on the road. Following Portales, they visit Plainview, play three in the Capital City Tournament in Santa Fe and travel to Dumas.
Eastern New Mexico University’s squads, playing neutral-site Lone Star Conference games against Angelo State on Dec. 15, will actually be home teams at The Rock one day before the Wildcats host Onate on Dec. 16.
When King first arrived in Clovis, he stressed his four core values for a program — integrity, humility, improvement and toughness.
Each practice runs that way, from a demand teammates on the sidelines clap for those on the court to an insistence that state championships are won in a team’s halfcourt defense.
During a drill on the press, King noted that the pressure defense is frenetic, but it’s never disorganized.
“Offensively, we may do different things in a season or over different seasons,” King said. “We’ll consistently play hard defense and rebound.”
Cole, a 6-foot-6, 170-pound swingman who showed good outside touch as a sophomore, said his first goal is to be a better defender.
With the practices the Wildcats are running, Cole thinks the games might be the easier part of the season.
“We’ve pushed hard every practice, we’ve worked hard every day,” Cole said.
The Wildcats’ strength may be in its juniors and sophomore, but King said the seniors are expected to be the leaders as well.
“Seniors have a hunger,” King said. “This is their last chance. We expect a lot out of them, and they expect a lot out of themselves.”
No. Name Ht. Yr. Pos.
2 John Dawson 6-2 Jr. G
3 Kamal Cass 5-10 So. G
4 Drew Cole 6-6 Jr. G
10 Jonathan Johnson 5-10 Jr. G
12 Diego Romero 5-9 Sr. G
14 Andrew Anaya 5-10 Jr. G
20 Dijon Ford 6-3 Jr. F
22 Matt Woodbury 6-5 Sr. F
24 D.J. Blackmon 6-2 Jr. G
30 Marshall Winn 6-5 Jr. F
32 Mikey Chavez 5-9 Sr. G
33 Aaron Steward 6-1 Sr. F
40 Traivon Sopila 6-1 So. F
44 Dustin Smith 6-3 Jr. F
Head coach: Matt King (1st year, 0-0). Assistant coaches: Randy McBroom, Casey Pack, Corey Pickett, Scott Robinson, Scott Schumpert.
2 — at Portales, 7 p.m.; 6 — at Plainview, 6 p.m.; 8-10 — Capital City tournament at Santa Fe; 13 — at Dumas, 6 p.m.; 16 — Onate, 7 p.m.; 20 — Rio Rancho, 7 p.m.; 27-29 — Southwest Dairy Farmers Classic.
3 — at Amarillo High, 6 p.m.; 6 — at Sandia, 7 p.m.; 7 — at Eldorado, 7 p.m.; 13 — Highland, 7 p.m.; 14 — Rio Rancho Cleveland, 7 p.m.; 21 — at Roswell Goddard, 78 p.m.; 27 — at Espanola Valley, 7 p.m.
3 — Hobbs, 7 p.m.-x; 7 — at Carlsbad, 7 p.m.-x; 10 — at Roswell High, 7 p.m.; 14 — Carlsbad, 7 p.m.-x; 17 — at Hobbs, 7 p.m.-x.
All Times MST. x-Denotes District 4-5A games.