Hounds confident despite early struggles


November 24, 2019

Kevin Wilson

ENMU coach Tres Segler goes over a drill as Darius Sawyer listens Friday afternoon. It was the final practice before the Greyhounds began Lone Star Conference play at West Texas A&M.

PORTALES — Whether crouching, down on one knee, demonstrating a play, or calling his players into a circle, Eastern New Mexico men’s basketball head coach Tres Segler was animated during Thursday afternoon’s practice at Greyhound Arena.

There was plenty of reason for Segler to be animated. It’s the early days of basketball season, time for anyone involved with any team to be excited. As of Thursday, Segler’s Greyhounds were less than a week removed from a highly-competitive game against Division I Texas-El Paso, former college of Tim Hardaway Sr.

And Segler was generally excited about the mixture he had on his roster — floor-runners, dominant posts, shooters, rebounders, good players, good people.

So although the Hounds were 0-2 heading into Saturday’s Lone Star Conference opener at West Texas A&M, Segler was pumped about his team’s chances this season. He thinks the players are long on talent, long on potential. And they’re adaptable.

“I think the best thing about this group is I have a lot of versatile players that can do a multitude of things,” Segler said after Thursday’s practice. “As long as we stay humble we can be very versatile as a team.”

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’re coming together,” junior guard Devin Pullum (6’2”, 180 lbs), last season’s leading scorer, said after the practice. “We’re a family, we’ll figure it out.”

“So far I feel like we have a great group of guys who work hard and want to win more than anything,” junior guard Ibn Zaid (6’1”, 185) said Thursday.

“We’ve got a lot of good pieces here, a lot of good players who work hard,” senior guard Isaiah Murphy (6’5”, 190) said after the practice. “We’ve got a lot of guys who like each other; I didn’t feel that last year. We have a lot more chemistry. We just have to put the pieces together.”

Regarding the UTEP game, it was close to a victory for the Greyhounds. Normally a loss is a loss is a loss, but losing just 71-57 to a big-time Division I program — in a game the Hounds’ trailed by just seven at one point — was kind of a win for Eastern. First of all, it was exhibition so it didn’t count against ENMU’s record. But it was that competitiveness that seemed so promising, that fight and persistence against a team that just three days earlier had beaten New Mexico State by 15. And New Mexico State played in March Madness, the Division I tournament, last season. So, the Greyhounds played it closer against UTEP than a team that went dancing eight months ago.

Segler gave Eastern assistant coach Andre Shaw much of the credit for the Greyhounds’ performance in El Paso.

“Coach Shaw had the scout,” Segler noted, “and he had us prepared for what they were going to do.”

With Shaw’s scouting, Segler’s coaching, and the players implementing both, the Greyhounds learned a lot about themselves.

“I think we learned, honestly, we could play with anybody,” Pullum said. “Also, that we have to play high intensity on defense to be in games.”

“Ah man, it’s always good playing competition like that,” Murphy said. “I feel like if we play at our highest potential, we can play with anyone in the country.”

“We can compete with the best of them,” Zaid said. “It was obviously a Division I school. We’re barely scratching the surface of where we can be.”

Where exactly that is will be determined in the coming months. The Greyhounds have a tougher road than in past years because with Heartland Conference teams merging into the LSC, there’s better competition, more of it, showing varied defenses, varied offenses.

“We’re going to need that versatility,” Segler said. “That’s the beautiful thing; I feel like we have the guys that can make those versatile plays.”

So far Segler has been going with Zaid at point guard, Pullum at shooting guard, Murphy at small forward, junior Yosnier Cobas (6’7”, 215) at power forward and junior Marvin Mapaga (6’7”, 220) at the five.

Segler calls Murphy “a monster at the three”, and says of Kobas, “He’s a bulldog at the four position. He’s one of the best post finishers we have. He’s always a mismatch.” And Segler says Mapaga is “very powerful, very athletic. He’s got no ego. He’s humble, he’s coachable.”

Among the Eastern bench is guard/forward Jose Serrano (6’7”, 220), a junior from Barinas, Venezuela by way of Southwestern College in Chula Vista, California. “Venezuela didn’t want him to leave,” said Segler, who added that Serrano had pro offers to stay in his native country.

Rounding out Eastern’s roster is junior guard Brandon Meadows (6’3”, 170), junior guard Garrick Sherrod (5’10”, 160), senior guard Mangistu Jongkor (6’4”, 190), senior guard/forward Darius Sawyer (6’5”, 195), freshman guard Nicolas Matheus (6’4”, 195), senior forward Malachi Haines (6’6”, 195), junior guard Tanner Carter (6’2”, 185), senior forward Deng Kuany (6’7”, 220) and junior forward Mathew Mazique (6’6”, 190).

Despite their slow start, the Greyhounds are more than optimistic, they’re confident, self-assured by the talent and cohesiveness they know is there. Eastern is coming off a fourth-place LSC finish last season, which was already a step forward, and expects to take more steps this winter.

“That was progress for us,” Segler said, “but we weren’t satisfied by that. We want to be in contention to win the conference. With the conference expanding, that challenge has grown exponentially. But it’s still within our reach.”

“If we are able to put it together, if every single player is willing to buy into what we’re doing, we can win the conference championship, and even make a run at the NCAA Tournament,” Murphy said. “I feel like this team is that good.”

Kevin Wilson

Jose Serrano launches a 3-pointer during Friday afternoon's practice at Greyhound Arena.


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