New Mexico State hoops

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Should Sim stay or go?

There was some chatter about Sim Bhullar and the NBA recently on Twitter. I never thought that Bhullar would be at New Mexico State for four years and you couldn't blame him for getting feedback this offseason before the April 27 deadline for underclassmen to declare. You couldn't blame Bhullar for putting his name in to get feedback from NBA people and withdraw before the June 16 deadline if he doesn't hire an agent, 10 days before the NBA Draft.

I think we will see Bhullar in uniform for at least one more year, but just for fun, here are three reasons Bhullar should go pro and three reasons he should stay for another year, all of which are fairly obvious but it's the offseason

Sim Bhullar should go pro because:

Market value:
Bhullar could be the first NBA player of Indian decent, which could very well lead a team to take a second round flyer on him or wait until after the draft if he signs an agent, where he would have more ability to pick and choose the team to try to sign with as an undrafted free agent, such as his hometown club in Toronto. The possibility for endorsements and being the face of basketball to that population has to be very attractive for a NBA franchise. In theory, if Bhullar were to stick on a NBA roster, his salary off the court could be greater than his NBA salary.

Further development:
There is only so much a college staff can develop a player due to time constraints and fewer coaches, trainers, nutritionists compared to a NBA staff. Bhullar has enlisted the help this offseason of former NBA coach and trainer John Lucas in Houston.




Everyone can point to a lack of conditioning as a flaw in Bhullar's game, but I think he could improve on the offensive end as well. His defensive presence alone though should give him a good look, but NBA coaching could make the process go faster.

Window:
A common comparison, although a stretch in my opinion is former Houston Rocket center Yao Ming, who is compared to Bhullar because of his size (7-6) and the fact that Yao got the NBA into China. But from a basketball standpoint, the two couldn't be further apart in my opinion. Yao was in a professional organization for years before coming to the NBA, where he was also the top pick in the 2002 NBA Draft. But, as could happen with Bhullar, Yao's window in America was nine great, if  not injury filled seasons. You look at Sim, who had foot injuries his redshirt season and last year, and you could not blame him for turning pro sooner rather than later.

Three reasons Sim should stay:

One more year:
That sentiment is common among Aggies fans since the Aggies have a strong group coming back next year. But from Bhullar simply being ready to be drafted, his stock would certainly improve with one more year under his belt. As of Tuesday, DraftExpress did not list Bhullar among its Top 100 prospects. He was listed as the No. 75 sophomore by the website. NBADraft.net did not list Bhullar among its Top 100. Bhullar was not listed among its Top 50 sophomores nor the honorable mention. I don't know how much stock to put into these lists, and I'm sure if Bhullar put his name in, he would gain momentum as his name got out there, but other than his size, it seems that Bhullar remains an unknown outside of college hoops junkies.

Bhullar brothers:
Sim and Tanveer Bhullar have played together at the high school level. I don't think the prospect of playing with his younger brother next season would sway a decision to stay if he were leaning that way. But it would certainly make it easier for their family to follow their careers for 2014.

National profile:
New Mexico State nearly pulled off a first round upset and Bhullar was a big reason why, playing very well on that stage. I think the Aggies could improve their overall seeding next year. Sports Illustrated already did a piece on Sim and Tanveer Bhullar, and the two brothers would certainly put the Aggies in more of a national spotlight next season, perhaps enhancing each brother's profile in the professional ranks.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

NMSU Postseason individual awards

I wanted to do this earlier, but various offseason issues (Marvin Menzies coaching rumors, KC Ross Miller) took some time to chase.

Let me know what you think...


MVP: Sim Bhullar
 Daniel Mullings is the WAC MVP and is the Aggies most talented player. But I think the Aggies most important, most valuable player this year was Sim Bhullar. The Aggies are built inside-out. NMSU shot 37.1 percent from 3-point range this season, the school's highest percentage since 2010, another team that nearly pulled a first round upset. The reason the Aggies got those open looks were either in transition or kick outs from drivers sometimes, but more often from a post player. Bhullar finished the season with 1.4 assists per game, which was tied for 14th among NCAA centers and not far behind No. 1, which was three per game. He has a knack for finding Mullings slashing to the basket, and he was also extremely effective starting that transition play often with an outlet pass.
 San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher said he didn't double Bhullar in the tournament game because of his passing ability. On the defensive end, Bhullar's value shouldn't be understated. NMSU is a defensive/rebounding team. Even though Mullings and Eldridge are very good perimeter defenders, 7-foot-5 is tough for players to finish over if they are able to get into the paint.
NMSU was an ordinary 3-2 without Bhullar in the lineup this year. He wasn't involved in the Aggies game plan last year against St. Louis. He was involved early and often against SDSU with 14 points and seven rebounds. He took up the majority of the publicity around the team in Spokane and he takes up the majority of opposing coaches game planning against the Aggies, making him my MVP for the 2013-14 season.

Most improved player: Tshilidzi Nephawe
I thought Tshilidzi Nephawe was disappointing last season. How does a 6-10 athletic freak not average more than 5 rebounds and less than a block playing in the WAC? He really used the time off from the injury to his advantage, posting career highs in points 11.2 ppg, rebounds 7.8 per game and blocks with 1.4 per game. Perhaps the numbers were a result of hard work, but there also seemed to be a better understanding of the game on both ends of the court. He looked for open teammates when he was doubled instead of forcing a shot. When it was one on one, he displayed more of an offensive game and the ability to finish with both hands around the rim. On defense, he fouled out four times, compared to seven times his sophomore season. Nephawe did turn the ball over 73 times, so that number needs to come down, but his improvement from his sophomore season to this season was impressive.

6th man: Kevin Aronis
I had to find a way to get Kevin Aronis a mention, even though fellow senior Renaldo Dixon also had a very good senior year and both seniors played very well in their final game.
But Aronis was nearly automatic and had one of the better seasons shooting the ball in recent years. Aronis shot 43.7 percent from 3 point range this season, shooting 48.9 percent in WAC play. His 43.7 percent ranks 8th all time at NMSU behind Gordo Castillo (44.8 percent in 2008-09) but Aronis had 96 more attempts this season. Aronis and Castillo tied for seventh on the career 3 point field goal percentage at 40.7 percent and Aronis 80 made 3s ranked fifth all time for a season at NMSU. But Aronis also made some huge shots this year, not bigger than his 3 against San Diego State to send the game into OT.

Most disappointing: Point guard play
It looked like early in the season that KC Ross-Miller had turned the corner, but as the season went on KCRM lost confidence and then lost control, ultimately leaving the program.
The Aggies are formidable 2-5 but the point guard spot is an obvious weak spot. Perhaps the late season minutes from Ian Baker can carry into his freshman season, but Daniel Mullings ended the season as the team's starting point guard.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

ESPN Tweets KC Ross-Miller transferring

ESPN reported late tonight that KC Ross-Miller was transferring from New Mexico State. Not only that but Jeff Goodman said he will be eligible to play next year.

I actually reached out to Ross-Miller earlier in the day, but he declined to comment on rumors. I couldn't get ahold of head coach Marvin Menzies or AD McKinley Boston. Hopefully I can follow up on Monday.

Ross-Miller could transfer and play right away if he were to graduate. As you are aware, Ross-Miller's last game was against Utah Valley, where he threw the ball at UVU guard Holton Hunsaker. Aggies players and UVU students were involved in an altercation shortly after.

Ross-Miller came to NMSU from New Orleans. He verballed to Kentucky as a 15 year old. He showed signs of improvement in his junior year and probably won the Aggies a couple games this season against Hawaii and UTEP. But his play tailed off, and perhaps he was frustrated at the end of the season, but that's just speculation.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Menzies says not interested in Wash. St. job, but he could leave without penalty of buyout

Marvin Menzies has been linked to head coaching jobs elsewhere the past three seasons.
Most recently, Menzies was listed in a Spokesman-Review Journal article as one of three possible candidates for the vacant Washington State job.
If Menzies were to leave New Mexico State for WSU or anywhere else, he is free to do so without the penalty of a buyout clause as long as he leaves after July 1.
Menzies said Tuesday there had been no conversations regarding Washington State or any other school at this point.
“Right now I’m 100 percent coming back,” Menzies said. “I don’t know why I wouldn’t. I have three more years.”
Menzies and the school agreed to a three-year contract extension in July of 2012. His current deal runs through the 2017 season.
The extension included a section that required a buyout equal to his $286,110 base salary should Menzies leave Las Cruces before July 1 of this year. The contract also included a retention bonus of $30,303.04 that Menzies collected on Oct. 15 of each year through the contract.
“We created extra value for (Menzies) and expected him to also support the program for the time he is here,” NMSU athletics director McKinley Boston said.
Menzies contract also called for the head coach to alert Boston if there was “such opportunity or interest before any discussions or interviews, other than initial contacts.”
Boston said Monday Menzies had not informed him of any potential interviews with Washington State. Washington State was the coordinating school at the West Region in Spokane, Wash., last week, where the Aggies nearly upset San Diego State in the NCAA Tournament.
“My goal is to grow New Mexico State on build on what we have established and take it to the next level,” Menzies said.
Menzies has reached the NCAA Tournament four times in his seven seasons at NMSU, including the past three years. Last week’s loss capped a 26-10 season that resulted in approximately $140,303 of bonuses for the season that included meeting academic and performance standards, as well as meeting media obligations.
Washington State fired Ken Bone, who started for $650,000 in 2009-10 before moving up to $850,000 last season. Washington State athletics director Bill Moos said a hire will be made within the next two weeks.
Menzies interviewed for the Colorado State job two years ago and he was linked to the Texas Tech opening last offseason.
After compiling a 152-89 at NMSU in seven seasons, Menzies will likely remain a candidate for schools with a vacancy.
“I think that with his market value, there will always be people who will give him a hard look,” Boston said.

Friday, March 21, 2014

San Diego State: Three keys unlocked

What does it mean if you do all the things you should do and you still lose? It means San Diego State is a pretty good team.

I said on Twitter that this is the best game I've covered since I started covering New Mexico State, but the Aggies were eliminated for the third straight year.  Even better than the 2010 team, which lost to Michigan State in the same building. This Aggies team had the same talent on the court and a game plan to match, much better than last year's group.

If there was a stat you could single out, it could be free throws. NMSU was 7-10 in the second half, but everything else was so even, it's really the one disparity. SDSU was 21 of 27 (77.8 percent) and NMSU finished 12 of 20 (60 percent)

Ball security: NMSU had 13 turnovers, led by Daniel Mullings, who had seven. Mullings had seven total in the past five games. But the San Diego State press didn't bother the Aggies as I had expected. If NMSU would. NMSU actually scored more points off SDSU turnovers (17) than the Aztecs did (12).

Play through Sim Bhullar: Steve Fisher opted not to double Bhullar, and the Aggies took advantage, at least in the second half when the Aggies shot 51 percent. Steve Fisher said if he had to do it over again, he would have tried to double team Bhullar more often in the post. He didn't because he was afraid of Bhullar's ability to pass the basketball out of the double team and find shooters like Kevin Aronis.

Connect from long distance: Kevin Aronis was fantastic, hitting the biggest 3 pointer of his two year career to get NMSU into overtime. Yet Aronis was only one of two players to make a three, going 4-11. Renaldo Dixon made the other. I have to come clean here, I didn't think Aronis would have space to operate against the Aztecs. Winston Shepard had five inches on Aronis and was guarding Aronis. But the senior shooter found gaps in the halfcourt, and made his open looks in transition

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Aggies notes: Sim Bhullar and under rated Aggies

Sim Bhullar had four shots last year in a 20-point NCAA Tournament loss. Bhullar didn't get his first touch until there were fewer than 10 minutes left in the first half. Let's see if the Aggies learned from that, and if Bhullar will be more aggressive the second time in the NCAA Tournament.

"Last year was an experience thing for me," Bhullar said. "I guess I kind of let the atmosphere get to me, the level of the game. This year I'm going to go in more calm and treat it like it's another game. Hopefully I can go out there and stay focused and try and get the goal of winning the game."

It will be interesting to see if Daniel Mullings or DK Eldridge draw San Diego State point guard Xavier Thames. Either way, it's a team effort as the Aztecs try to free him off ball screen after ball screen in the halfcourt.

"He's a great player," Mullings said. "I watched a lot of film on him so far and I know that he likes to utilize a lot of ball screens over and over and in each possession. So just being able to guard that and just get over ball screens and not making any mistakes, that's going to be key for us because we know that he's a big part of their offense and he's an important guy to them."

Two first-year players who have been instrumental in the Agies 26 win season are JC transfer DK Eldridge and freshman Ian Baker, whose confidence has grown in the past two weeks.

"It's only been a short time that (Baker) has been playing on the college level, even though he's a freshman, it's only been half of a season for a freshman," NMSU coach Marvin Menzies said. "So to see him play as efficient as he has right now is really impressive. He's got great moxie about him for a young kid.

"DK on the other hand, is a little bit more mature coming in as a Junior College transfer. Just like Kevin, the other JC player, they fit a niche of specific need that we had when we lost our seniors," Menzies said. "He came in, competed for the position, earned the starting spot, and has never turned back."

Doug Gottlieb talks Sim Bhullar, Aggies/Aztecs

"I've never met a person who doesn't like Marvin Menzies," said College basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb, who will call Thursday's New Mexico State/San Diego State Round of 64 match up on TruTV.

Gottlieb provided another link between Menzies and San Diego State since Menzies helped get Gottlieb's brother, Gregg, hired on Fisher's staff, where he spent eight years before taking a job at Cal in 2007. Menzies was at SDSU from 1999-03.

"He was in my brothers wedding. He got my brother the job. Steve Fisher offered the job to somebody else. Marv went into Fisher's office and said, 'You need to hire this guy. Aerick was my brother's recruit. I have a great affinity of what they are trying to do."

On Sim Bhullar
"I think he's gotten better. I think he's a very good passer. I think that's a very underrated skill. Obviously he's massive. If he gets an angle, he's going to score. They do some pretty good things to hide some of his foot speed issues. How they defend ball screens, they let him sink. They do some unique things defensively so he doesn't have to come out on the floor. He helps them with pressure, feeding him the ball, people come to him and he feeds other people. They don't just have him rim run and demand the basketball. They have him do some different things."

Bhullar's future
"For him to play (in the NBA) you have to be able to defend the ball screen. Post defense, you can't just lay behind  a guy and try to push him out. I think he posts up well, he steps out of the double team well. He has soft hands. Those are things you can't teach."

NMSU vs. San Diego State
"They have two good post defenders. Skyler Spencer is a very good shot blocker (2.5 blocks per game). Traditionally they play behind guys. Some they double, some thy don't. They will probably play behind (Bhullar), but if he's really good at it, he can back them in and catch the ball and lay the ball up. I think initially they play behind him and see how it goes. I don't think they double team because he is such a good passer. But I think they will try to pressure them. Maybe that is where they miss KC."