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Seniors hope to lead ENMU turnaround

Staff Writer

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PORTALES — The Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball team hasn’t had a winning season since 2006-07 and had just six wins overall a year ago, but that hasn’t stopped senior post Jasmine Johnson from expecting great things from her team this season.

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ENMU senior guard Tori Tucker, shown in a game against Tarleton State last season, is hoping to help lead the Zias to their first winning record in eight years. Tucker, a Floyd High grad and one of two seniors on the roster, led the team in scoring and rebounding last season.

“I want to bring a national title to Portales,” Johnson said.

The Zias begin their season Nov. 14-15 with two games at the Colorado School of Mines tournament.

Johnson, a biology major from DeSoto, Texas, has been with the Zias for four years. She’s seen multiple coaching changes as well as players come in and out of the program, but she believes in second-year coach Joshua Prock, who has shown a belief in her.

“It was a hard transition when I came in as a freshman,” said Johnson, who averaged 10 points and 5.6 rebounds per game last season. “People don’t expect much from you. To come in then get a few starts my second year and then become a regular starter last year, it’s been a long road, but after a while it became easier.

“I started here with a coach that didn’t believe in what I was doing, and didn’t have that confidence in me, so I didn’t have that confidence in myself. Then I came into my junior year and to have coach Prock, who believed in me and what I was doing, helped my game. Last year was my best year here, and I want to build on that.”

The Zias’ only other senior is last year’s leading scorer and rebounder, Tori Tucker, who believes that she and Johnson can lead the team to a winning season.

“I hope that my mental toughness and work ethic has influenced the younger girls, not just in practice but in the film room and the weight room,” said Tucker, a Floyd graduate who averaged 11.5 ppg and 6.9 rpg last season.

The Zias were 6-20 overall and 4-12 in the Lone Star Conference in Prock’s first season, but he and assistant coach Jeff Caha are trying to bring a culture change in the program.

Prock thinks the Zias are on the right track.

“First and foremost, we’re trying to change the culture,” he said. “We aspire to be champions. Both Caha and I, the places we’ve been, we’ve won championships and that’s what we came here to do.

“Our girls have a better understanding of the system we run, and now we have a four-year group of girls who fit our system, so it’s getting better.”

According to Prock, a big part of that culture change lies within his seniors being leaders.

Prock knows he has a young team with three freshmen, two sophomores and six juniors, but he believes the two seniors can guide his team to success on and of the court.

“The best part about Johnson and Tucker is if you come watch us practice, they’re among the hardest workers, if not the two hardest workers and that sets a huge standard,” Prock said.

“The seniors are the captains and when they’re setting an example of how hard you want to play, it makes my job easier. Jasmine and Tori are two of the best examples of senior leadership you can have.”

Although Prock is focused on the future of the program, he does have his eyes on this season.

“It definitely starts at the Lone Star level and that’s one of our goals every year — to win a conference championship,” he said. “Once you get there, you move on to the national tournament and try to win a national title.

“Anything less and I think your setting your (standards) too low.”