Clovis senior Antiesha Brown put ink to paper and made a commitment to Texas Tech’s basketball team during volleyball season, in part so she didn’t have the question of college hanging over her head throughout the hoops season.
Brown admits it’s relaxing.
“But then again,” the 5-foot-10 post said, “you’re held to a higher standard.”
So, too, are the Clovis Wildcats. As Brown said she’ll feel some weight in proving she deserves Division I recognition nightly, she and her Clovis teammates will try to prove last year’s 24-5 campaign was no fluke.
“This year, there are pretty high expectations,” coach Jeff Reed said, “not only from people outside the program, but us.”
Following a season Reed figured would be a big question mark — his first season at the helm, coaching a team that went 12-17 in 2007-08 — the onus is on Clovis to make the step up to Class 5A contender.
“We have our core team returning,” said Brown, one of five returners from last year’s squad, which had a 15-game winning streak end in last year’s quarterfinals. “We have a lot of key players still. We’re definitely going to be held to a higher standard, and we definitely feel like we have a point to prove.”
The squad starts a road-heavy early schedule Thursday at the Gallup Invitational. The following weekend, it’s the Mel Otero Tournament in Rio Rancho. The next weekend, they’re at Lovington.
“It’s sort of nice,” Reed said. “We get to work out some kinks when pretty much nobody’s watching us. We get back for the holiday tournament and hopefully, we’ll be playing some good basketball.”
Home fans, in fact, won’t see Clovis until Dec. 28, when a Cats squad with seven games under their belt opens the Plateau Holiday Classic against Shiprock.
La Cueva and Cibola are also in the “Classic” bracket, so Reed figures the team will have its work cut out for them. Last season, the Cougars upset the third-seeded Wildcats behind tough defense from 6-foot-3 senior post Zalika Dyson.
“We just decided to come out,” junior guard Ashley Pierson said, “put that in the past and do good this year.”
But there were lessons to learn, like the importance of hitting free throws (17-of-34 in that loss) and taking advantage of transition opportunities.
This year, Brown said the key will be how well Clovis’ defense starts its offense.
“We’re just probably going to run (teams),” Brown said, “especially if they’ve got bigger girls.”
Reed said Pierson and Brown will key Clovis’ quick attack, and he’s confident the Cats will see good things out of Paige Gardner, the club’s only sophomore.
Now, the focus is on catching up, as district rival Hobbs, for instance, already has played four games this season.
“We’ve reached the limit of what we can do in practice,” Reed said. “It’s tough to tell where we’re at because we’ve only played each other.”