Men’s and women’s team on the rise

Javier Cortez, Sports Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






The UTEP men and women’s basketball team have something in common; both are on the rise with rosters comprised of talented underclassmen and strong returning veterans.

Last season saw both teams take a step back. Coming off one of their best seasons in program history, the women’s team went 12-16 after losing their five best players. They were competitive, but not good enough to be a threat in conference play.

The women lost five games by five points or less. They struggled rebounding and shooting the ball from the field, free throw line, and 3-point line, but they once thing they never lost was their ability to compete.

“If you don’t compete you get beat,” said women’s head coach Keitha Adams. “We want a good brand of basketball that El Pasoans and UTEP will be proud of. It’s about team ball, it’s not about an individual it’s about a group being together.”

The root of Adams and her 2013-14 Miners was great team basketball, but this season highlights the return of key individuals; three to be exact. Senior guard Cameasha Turner is coming off her best season in the Orange and Blue, as she led the team in points, rebounds, and steals.

Turner was rewarded for her stellar play by being elected to the Preseason All C-USA team. Starting forward Chrishauna Parker is back after leading the 2013-14 squad in offensive rebounds, before missing the 2014-15 season with multiple concussions.

Last is the return of Jenzel Nash, who sat out last season after having a child. Nash was named C-USA Sixth Player of the Year for the 2013-14 season. Her scoring off the bench was pivotal to the Miners deep run in the women’s NIT in 2014.

The return of talent and experience from last season has given the women’s team high expectations for this year.

“Coming off last year’s season, we understand that we have to stay together,” Turner said. “Our expectations are always to win conference and get to the big dance (NCAA tournament).”

Despite a lackluster offense last year, the emphasis in preseason practices has been on defense, defense and more defense.

“We’ve been working on our defense,” Adams said. “Really having the sense of urgency to guard the basketball, sprinting back in transition, communication, and obviously finish with rebounding.”

Last season’s team was in stark contrast to the product that Keitha Adams puts out on a year-to-year basis. This year’s team looks to wash away their deficiencies from last season. They want to be more physical and rebound the ball.

“We want to do a good job of rebounding,” Adams said. Right now, we are not a very physical team.We got to get more aggressive and more physical.

Even her players cited the emphasis being on rebounding.

“That’s always big,” Turner said. “If we don’t rebound, we run. Playing good defense and rebounding the ball puts icing on the cake.

The women’s team has plenty of kinks to work out, but a more physical brand of basketball can be expected for this season.

Albeit a slighter step back in comparison to the women, the men won 22 games and made an NIT appearance. Nevertheless, their season failed to meet their expectations of winning the conference title and getting to the NCAA Championship Tournament.

The men come into this season with an even younger group than the women; nearly half of the roster is comprised of freshmen. El Paso has already been given a sample of what to expect this season with their public intersquad scrimmage on Oct. 24 and their first exhibition game last Saturday.

If the two games showed anything, it is that they are loaded at the guard position. Transfers Dominic Artis and Lee Moore showed off their scoring prowess and will likely start once the men open with regular season play.

But it does not stop there, Earvin Morris and Omega Harris showed last season that they could beat teams from outside and finish at the rim, while freshmen Trey Touchet and Josh McSwiggan are interesting prospects.

The men’s team finally seems to have depth at the guard position, which is what they need to be competitive.

“We’re hopeful that our guards are going to be good players,” said head coach Tim Floyd. “All college teams have to have them. For this team, given what we lost a year ago, to really be a very competitive team we’re going to have to have exceptional guard play from some of our newcomers.”

The abundance of depth at the guard position does come with a price though. The men’s team is very thin in the frontcourt. Senior center Hooper Vint is the lone veteran up front, while junior center Matt Willms will be used sparingly this season because of a chronic foot problem.

Freshmen Brodricks Jones, Paul Thomas, Christian Romine and Terry Winn round out the big men who will see the floor this season. The lack of depth and inexperience upfront has proved costly so far through both exhibition games.

The Miners screen-and-roll defense and rim protection were both below average, which is a drastic change from last year’s team. Floyd echoed his concerns with his young team after the Orange and White scrimmage two weeks ago.

“I was concerned with a lot of things,” Floyd said on Oct. 24. “We saw something’s that resembled what we are trying to do, but most of it did not. We’ll go back, practice and try to improve. When you watch the scrimmage it doesn’t look like there is much teaching going on, but we are trying, we really are.”

Although talented, the men’s team has a lot of work to do before they can cash in on their guard-centric roster.

The men’s team opens their regular season against Loyola on Nov. 14 at the Don Haskins Center. The women’s team will be in action this Saturday, Nov. 7, against St. Mary’s in their only exhibition game of the season before opening their regular season against Houston Baptist on Nov.15. Both games are at the Don Haskins Center.

Javier Cortez may be reached at [email protected]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email