Despite a third straight District 4-5A title and a late-season playoff run, a lot of the Clovis’ Wildcats 2009-10 season could be described as chaotic.
This year, controlled chaos is the theme for a Wildcats offense with a top-heavy backcourt.
In fact, the less plays 10th-year Clovis coach J.D. Isler draws up, the better he feels the Wildcats will be in the hands of sophomore point guard John Dawson and shooting guards Lathan Lieb and D.J. Blackmon.
“I don’t feel we have a true post-up presence,” Isler said. “We’ll have to get our fast break going. I feel we’re set with Lathan on one side, D.J. on the other and John-John on the point.”
The Wildcats open their season Friday against Portales at Rock Staubus Gymnasium.
The 6-foot-1 Dawson, who Isler said is drawing some Division-I interest, said playing Class 5A varsity was a huge jump from middle school last season.
“It was a big, big change,” Dawson said. “Everyone’s fast, everyone can jump just as high and everyone shoots just as good as you. I think I can handle the pressure better than I did last year.”
And last season gave the Wildcats plenty of pressure to work with. Short version, Isler was suspended and later fired last season for accusations he recruited Lieb from Dora — allegations both have denied. But a drawn-out legal battle saw a federal judge reinstate Isler and establish the basis for a possible lawsuit against the district. He agreed to drop potential litigation when the district allowed him to serve out his contract, which runs through this season.
That was the backdrop of a season that was challenging enough on the hardwood, with games against Arizona 3A champ Estrella Foothills, Arizona 5A II champ Phoenix North, New Mexico 4A champion Roswell and runnerup Espanola Valley.
This year’s schedule is that tough or tougher, Isler feels. January opponents include Amarillo High, Lubbock Christian, Sandia and Eldorado at home and Highland, Cleveland and Lubbock Coronado on the road. That’s before a Feb. 1 road test at Class 3A title favorite Lovington and the District 4-5A opener Feb. 4 at Hobbs.
Lieb, meanwhile, went through his own torture last year, sitting out until February while his eligibility was challenged. When he finally did make his Clovis debut, it was short; he tore the ACL in his right knee, overshadowing a 10-point night.
“This is my last year, and it’s made me work that much harder,” said Lieb, who was cleared for athletic activity in August. “It pushed me, having the season we had last year.”
Isler said the push will have to be there all year, because the seeding committee never stops watching, looking for reasons to leapfrog Clovis over other squads, or vice versa.
“We’re going to have to do what we usually do; hit the ground running,” Isler said. “Even early losses hurt you come seeding time.”
No. Name Ht. Yr. Pos.
2 John Dawson 6-1 So. G
4 Drew Cole 6-4 So. G
10 Trevor Jones 6-0 Sr. G
12 Craig Cook 6-2 Sr. F
20 Tucker Martin 6-2 Sr. G
22 Matt Woodbury 6-5 Jr. F
24 D.J. Blackmon 6-2 So. G
30 Quran Wiggins 6-1 Sr. F
32 Lincoln Nora 6-5 Sr. F
33 Lathan Lieb 6-3 Sr. G
34 Marshall Winn 6-4 So. F
44 Dijon Ford 6-3 So. F
Head coach: J.D. Isler (10th year, 183-67). Assistant coaches: Scott Robinson, Vernon Dobbs, Corey Pickett.
3 — Portales, 7 p.m.; 7 — Plainview, 7 p.m.; 9-11 — at Capital City tournament, Santa Fe, TBA; 13 — Dumas, 7 p.m.; 17 — at Onate, 7 p.m.; 18 — at Alamogordo, 2:30 p.m.; 21 — at Rio Rancho, 7 p.m.; 28-30 — Southwest Dairy Farmers Classic, TBA.
4 — Amarillo High, 7 p.m.; 7 — Eldorado, 7 p.m.; 8 — Sandia, 7 p.m.; 14 — at Highland, 7 p.m.; 15 — at Rio Rancho Cleveland, 6:30 p.m.; 18 — Lubbock Christian, 7 p.m.; 22 — Roswell Goddard, 7 p.m.; 25 — at Artesia, 7 p.m.
1 — at Lovington, 7 p.m.; 4 — at Hobbs, 7 p.m.-x; 8 — Carlsbad, 7 p.m.-x; 11 — Roswell High, 7 p.m.; 15 — at Carlsbad, 7 p.m.-x; 18 — Hobbs, 7 p.m.-x.
All Times MST. x-Denotes District 4-5A games.
Clovis boys fast facts
Last season: 15-11, lost to Valley in Class 5A quarterfinals.
Top returners: Sr. G Lathan Lieb, 6-3; So. G John Dawson, 6-1; So. G D.J. Blackmon, Sr. F Craig Cook, Sr. F Lincoln Nora.
Promising newcomer: Senior G Trevor Jones. Coach J.D. Isler said he expects big senior years from Nora and Jones, who can play anywhere on the floor and provides solid defense.
Key losses: Forwards Logan Turnbow and Marcus Slocum (graduation), point guard Devin Crockett (left team).
Notable non-district games: Dec. 9 vs. Volcano Vista, Capital City Tournament opener; Jan. 4 vs. Amarillo High; Jan. 14-15 at Highland and Cleveland; Jan. 18 vs. Lubbock Christian; Feb. 1 at Lovington.
District 4-5A games: At Hobbs Feb. 4, vs. Carlsbad Feb. 8, at Carlsbad Feb. 15, vs. Hobbs Feb. 18.