When the Wildcat basketball season ended last year at The Pit, there were big questions about where the 2009-10 squad would get its points from.
There’s still no definite answer with the Wildcats, but veteran coach J.D. Isler is hopeful that’s a good thing.
New faces, whether by transfer or earlier-than-normal promotion to varsity, populate a Clovis team that hopes to pull a few surprises and join Class 5A’s elite.
Jaye Crockett, Clovis’ No. 2 all-time scorer, is now at Texas Tech, and in his place come Marcus Slocum and Lathan Lieb, a pair of 6-foot-3 players who led their previous squads to the state semifinals last year.
“I think we’ve jelled pretty well,” said senior Logan Turnbow, a lanky 6-foot-8 senior post. “We’ve all been playing together since August, except for a few guys who were in football.”
“I think our shooting is pretty good, and our guard penetration is really good.”
Slocum, who played the last two seasons for Portales, should be a tough rebounder, while Lieb will bring the inside-outside game that got him recognition at Dora High School. Also coming in from Texas is 5-foot-9 Deven Crockett, a quick guard who is Jaye Crockett’s younger brother.
“They really fit in with our style of play,” Isler said. “It would be different if we were bringing in guys who didn’t.”
They’ll join a roster that include holdovers Landyn Snipes and Alex Flores at guard and Kyler Brewer-Hill and Turnbow in the post.
“We don’t have a go-to-guy like (Jaye) Crockett, but in some ways I do like our depth,” Isler said. “They’re not going to be able to key on one guy and give us fits. Even the two ninth-graders we’re going to suit up (guards John Dawson and D.J. Blackmon), they’re going to contribute.”
Isler said Lieb thrives on competition, but the guard has insisted that the team belongs to returning seniors such as Turnbow and he’s happy to be there for the ride.
“I like it a lot,” Lieb said of his move to Clovis. “I’m glad I did it.”
The Wildcats will play a heavy road schedule early in the season. Starting with Friday’s game at Portales, the Wildcats will have four games in eight days, with only Monday’s contest against Canyon Randall at home.
The schedule flips in late December. Starting with its Dec. 22 game against Rio Rancho, Clovis only has one road game in the next month — a Jan. 2 game against Bushland, sandwiched between the annual Southwest Dairy Farmers Classic and the much-anticipated New Mexico-Arizona challenge.
The Challenge, set for Jan. 8-9 at Rock Staubus Gymnasium, features the Wildcats and defending 4A champion Roswell, and Arizona’s Class 5A-Division II and Class 3A champions.
“It’s an honor to be invited, and even better you host it,” Isler said. “It’s going to be great basketball for our fans.”
Phoenix North, Isler said, features numerous Division-I prospects, including Arizona-bound Daniel Bejarano as it moves up to 5A-Division I.
“They’re top 20 in the nation. You have to get pumped up for that.”
“Of course they’re going to be favored,” Lieb said. “What do we have to lose? We’ll get recognition if we beat that school.”
Estrella Foothill, the defending Class 3A champion, have Corey Hawkins, a 6-foot-3 guard who has committed to Arizona State. Hawkins is the son of former NBA All-Star Hersey Hawkins.
The Wildcats will also expect a packed house Feb. 5, when they host Hobbs to open District 4-5A play.
No. Player Height/Class
2 John Dawson 6-0/Fr.
3 Alex Flores 5-9/Sr.
4 Jonathan Langan 5-10/Sr.
10 Lathan Lieb 6-3/Jr.
12 Craig Cook 6-2/Jr.
14 Tucker Martin 6-2/Jr.
20 Landyn Snipes 6-1/Sr.
22 Marcus Slocum 6-3/Sr.
24 D.J. Blackmon 6-1/Fr.
30 Kyler Brewer-Hill 6-2/Sr.
32 Lincoln Nora 6-5/Jr.
33 Logan Turnbow 6-8/Sr.
34 Deven Crockett 5-9/Jr.
2008-09 record: 20-10
Coach: J.D. Isler, ninth season. Assistants: Scott Robinson, Drew Hatley, Corey Pickett, Wes Weems.
Home games in bold
December — 4, Portales, 7:30 p.m.; 7, Canyon, 7 p.m.; 8, Dumas, 6:30 p.m., 11, Cibola, 7 p.m.; 14, Canyon Randall, 7 p.m.; 18, Plainview, 6:30 p.m., 22, Rio Rancho, 7 p.m.; 28-30, Southwest Dairy Farmer’s Classic, TBD.
January — 2, Bushland, 1:30 p.m.; 8-9, New Mexico/Arizona Challenge, TBD; 15, Highland, 7 p.m.; 15, Rio Rancho Cleveland, 7 p.m.; 22, Espanola, 7 p.m.; Goddard, 7 p.m.; 26, Artesia, 7 p.m.; 29, Los Lunas, 7 p.m.
Februrary — 5, Hobbs*, 7 p.m.; 9, Carlsbad*, 7 p.m.; 12, Roswell, 7 p.m.; 16, Carlsbad*, 7 p.m.; 19, Hobbs*, 7 p.m. 25-27, District 4-5A Playoffs, TBD.
March — 6, Class 5A playoffs, first round, TBD; 10-13, State Tournament, Albuquerque, TBD.