New Mexico State hoops

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Road trip

This next week we will learn a lot about the Aggies. Up to this point their schedule has been perfect for their team, playing a couple of teams at home who they were more talented than and blowing them out and a confidence builder at USC. But even though the Kansas game is the marquee game on the schedule, I think the games the Aggies will get the most from are Long Beach and North Texas, both teams that should match up with the Aggies better than Pepperdine or UC Riverside. The North Texas game is what I'm looking forward to. For obvious reasons the Aggies will be fired up for that game but it will also be their third game on the road in six straight days on the road as the team left on Wednesday and will not return to Las Cruces until Sunday so fatigue, maybe mental more than physical could be an issue and North Texas is good. The have some solid big men and are led by their guards which seem to be their most experienced group. If they come home 2-1 on the trip I will be very impressed and if they happen to be 3-0, I will have to re evaluate my preseason expectations for the team early on.

Also, one thing that Coach Menzies talked about was he compared the three games to what they could see in the WAC. Hear me out. He compared going to Kansas like going to Nevada or Utah State, hostile environments with good teams, and the other two as going to middle of the road WAC schools like Boise or Fresno, where the fans show up and make it tough on the visitors. The man is all about getting ready for WAC play.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Attendance

Aggies players and head coach Marvin Menzies all talked about attendance figures in the first two games of the season. I'm writing a little story on it for Monday's paper, but I wanted to see what the general feeling from you is. Are you disappointed in the attendance? I wouldn't say Menzies or the players are, but they certainly notice when the crowd doesn't show up, more so because of the energy that it gives them than anything else. Even last year, I remember Justin Hawkins making a couple pleas for fans to show up on more of a regular basis. This is only my second year seeing Aggie home games but from my understanding, the atmosphere isn't what it was even prior to the Theus era.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Women's hoops at UTEP

With last season's success came a contract extension for the head coach and higher expectations surrounding the women's team. There is certainly frustration surrounding the team's loss last Sunday but a win at UTEP, even though the Miners are still trying to figure things out, is what the Aggies need. A loss could hurt this group that is still searching for leadership and identity.

Coming into the season, I thought the team's strengths was its guards, and from reading Teddy Feinberg's story today, it sounds like Darin Spence is going to head in that direction. I thought that Fresno State was kind of ahead of the curve last year with their up and down style of play, playing small and creating mismatches and the Aggies were one of the few teams that could adjust to that type of style so we will see how it pans out, but in order to do so, they need to develop a Sherell Neal type of player who rebounds and can defend the post. Freshman Tabytha Wampler could be that person and it would be interesting to see how Erica Sanchez responds.

Both teams are well coached so I'm sure both games will be competitive.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Menzies conversation

I listened to the Aggies/USC game on the radio and the same things stood out to me that you probably noticed. I spoke to Coach Menzies after the game about what he thought.

I asked him about the bench, which had a good outing. Robert Lumpkins hit a couple 3s, Wendell McKines had seven boards in limited action due to foul trouble and Gordo Castillo had a couple steals and hit a three.

"Both of those guys (Castillo and Lumpkins) gave us good minutes in that atmosphere. Robert hadn't played any minutes in that kind of intense atmosphere maybe in his life and he responded."

What stood out for Menzies the most it seemed was that his young players played young at critical times. He said his players acted surprised when they were trapped and that they took ill advised shots and went to the wrong spots at ties in the half court. I was looking at the play by play sheet, and there was one stretch where they were down 57-51 with 8:09 left but they didnt score again until the 4:54 mark. They turned it over on their next two possessions, Gibson missed a 3, followed by another turnover and another missed 3 from Young.

"All of our mistakes were tiny mistakes where guys would get caught looking at the ball instead of moving and realizing that the first option is going to be there everytime. It's just a matter of maturing and being more patient."


Menzies also knows his team needs to do a better job rebounding (USC 50-35 on the boards), but said USC was more athletic than they looked on film. He added that he was encouraged that the halftiime deficit was only 10 considering USC was 10 of 16 from the foul line in the first half. USC was 26 of 36 from the line for the game while NMSU had 18 attempts at the foul line.

Team chemistry

Early on, it seems that this team has a better chemistry than last year. That could be because there were so may off the court issues early on and the team never really recovered from it. I think some of it could also be because there was such a maturity gap in last year's team from five seniors to freshmen. There was really nothing in between except Jonathan Gibson, who was a sophomore and Paris Carter, who didn't complete the season on the team.From the moments I've been around this group, they seem pretty loose and they look forward to games like tonight against USC or Kansas.

Anyway, I asked Coach Menzies about it following Saturday's game against Riverside and here is what he said.

"One thing that I was happy about was toward the end of the game when we had a significant lead, and we had guys that were OK not going back in and hungry for more minutes. That wouldn't have happened last year. Guys even mentioned that, 'No we have a big one Tuesday coach, I'm good.' That's a good change of pace so hopefully we will keep that going."


I also asked him about picking up his first win this year in comparison to winning his first last year.

"Last year was a lot more emotional for me just because it was first game, Division I. There was a lot more at stake and when it came down to it, you can never replay your first one. Outside of that, once the ball went up, it was pretty much the same. Leading up to the game was more emotional."

Just a couple interesting quotes that didn't find their way into stories this week.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

USC game

Great opening day effort from the Aggies. I hate to look too far ahead given the player movement the last couple of years, but you have to give it to Menzies early bringing in guys like Troy Gillenwater and Wendell McKines. Hamidu Rahman even looks to be a solid center as he continues to mature.

Here is a link to a column I wrote on the Aggies upcoming season. I don't want to spoil it for you but I don't choose them to go undefeated and to the Final Four, but check it out if you have time.

Also, here is the AP story from USC's game on Saturday.
As you may know, there are some ties to California on the Aggies roster with Gibson and Gillenwater, but I will have something on that in Tuesday's paper.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Taj Gibson scored 17 points, including six straight in a decisive second-half run, and No. 18 Southern California defeated UC Irvine 78-55 Saturday to win its first season opener in four years.
DeMar DeRozan added 14 points in his college debut as the Trojans’ highly touted replacement for top scorer O.J. Mayo, who was a first-round NBA draft pick after one season.
Dwight Lewis had 18 points and Daniel Hackett 10 for USC, which lost openers to Cal State Northridge and South Carolina, both in overtime, and Mercer in coach Tim Floyd’s first three seasons.
Darren Moore scored 16 points for the Anteaters. They kept it close throughout the first half, when they led by two points and shot 41 percent from the floor. Brett Lauer added 12 points and Zac Atkinson 10.
But the Trojans asserted themselves offensively to open the second half, while also stepping up their defense.
Leading by six at halftime, USC opened with a 23-7 run to take a 58-36 lead that was never threatened. Gibson scored eight, including two dunks and a basket off his own rebound, while Lewis had five and DeRozan four.
In the final minutes, freshman Percy Miller, better known as hip-hop star Lil’ Romeo, came off the bench and grabbed one rebound.
Just like Mayo, DeRozan arrives as a newcomer with the ability to immediately make an impact on the program. The McDonald’s All-American forward averaged 29.2 points as a senior at nearby Compton High. He cracked the starting lineup Saturday, going 6-of-11 from the floor, making both his free throws and grabbing three rebounds.
Along with Mayo, the Trojans lost their No. 2 scorer, Davon Jefferson, who wasn’t selected in the NBA draft. The team is coming off a 21-12 season in which it lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The Anteaters were 18-16 last season, losing three of their top scorers to graduation. They fell to 1-5 against the Trojans and haven’t beaten a Pac-10 school since 2005.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Joyner

Terrance Joyner was not granted initial eligibility by the NCAA. The earliest he could conceivably play is Dec. 14 against UTEP, following fall semester finals so the Aggies will be a bit short handed for their first 7 games at the very least.

I got an email from Fred Hawthorne, who coached Jonathan Gibson during the Say No Classic in L.A. over the summer. Apparently Gibson and UC Riverside guard Sean Cunningham were teammates over the summer so that could be interesting to watch on Saturday afternoon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Signing

As you may know, the NMSU men's team doesn't have any scholarships to fill during the signing period that runs from Nov. 12-19. The NMSU women are expected to sign three post players that they have received verbal committments from over the past three months so keep an eye out for that in the SN.

Here is a couple paragraphs from an AP story on Nevada's two signings.

Nevada basketball lands 2 big men recruits
RENO, Nev. (AP) — Nevada coach Mark Fox said Wednesday he has signed two big men as part of the early recruiting period to join the Wolf Pack in 2009-10 and shore up a shortage of front-line players.
Steven Bjornstad, a 6-foot-10, 215-pound center from Vancouver, Wash., and Devonte Elliott, a 6-foot-9, 210-pound forward from Paramount, Calif., signed the national letters of intent.
Fox also announced that Mark McLaughlin, a 6-foot-5 guard from Kenmore, Wash., has been cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center and next season will honor the letter of intent he signed last November to attend Nevada.
Bjornstad averaged 18.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game last season at Columbia River High School. He also shot 80 percent from the field and helped the Chieftains to a 21-7 overall record and the 3A Greater St. Helens League championship last year.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Comparison?

I don't think it means much because Western is so bad, but here is the story on their exhibition against the Lobos. Some of it sounds familiar don't you think. Alford and Menzies each has their hands full with young teams.

It sounds like from some of the bloggers on the previous post were looking back at the UNM/NMSU rivalry so here is some more fuel to that fire. Don't know much about the Lobos. They had a closed scrimmage with Arizona State and then the Western exhibition. They have some great returners though in Toppert, Roman Martinez (El Paso product) and Danridge back from the injury.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Starters tonight

Just a reminder that Wendell McKines will not play tonight for a "violation of team rules" due to academic responsibilities. It's apparent that Coach Menzies is holding his young team to a high standard of responsibility early on.

Looking ahead, I like Wendell's spark coming off the bench, with Troy Gillenwater starting at the power forward spot. Every team needs a guy to come off the bench with energy and Wendell does all of the little things. I think Gillenwater has the offensive edge over Wendell right now, and that should lead to the starting spot for the redshirt freshman. At any rate, Menzies told me Gillenwater will start tonight, along with Hernst Laroche, Jonathan Gibson, Jahmar Young and Hamidu Rahman.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Standouts

Jahmar Young and Jonathan Gibson showed that they will be as advertised so I'm not going to go too much into their performance. All I will say for those who were not in attendance is if they take better care of the ball on the perimeter early and Gibson logs as many minutes as J.Y. and it would have been a massacre. (By the way, Menzies said Gibson was slated to start, but apparently missed a team obligation earlier in the week so hence the limited playing time)

The two players that impressed me were Troy Gillenwater and Hamidu Rahman. I saw Justin Hawkins play on a couple of occasions as a junior and his entire senior season. Some people on the message board were asking if Gillenwater is better than Pope, but I think Hawkins is a better comparison and wanted to see what you thought. I'm not saying right now, but I wonder if Gillenwater as a freshman is comparable to Hawkins his first year. Both are long and I'm sure four years in the weight room and Troy will get stronger as he gets older. Troy may even be better than Hawk in the post because he seems to have a couple inches on Justin. Both can handle the ball, although Troy needs to improve there and Gillenwater seems to have a midrange jumper and a decent stroke from long range. Even the laid back and calm demeanor is similar. Just a thought, but I'll stop there because Gillenwater has a long way to go to become the player Justin was, but physically I saw a lot of similarities.

Hamidu Rahman may have gotten tired toward the latter stages, but he got up and down very well early, outrunning more athletic posts to the spot in the paint and finishing around the basket. He also seems like a good free throw shooter, as did Chris Gabriel, but the centers impressed me, but they still don't know where to throw the ball if they get doubled in the post, but Menzies said that will be addressed in practice this week.

Other notables, Hernst Laroche showed that he can get to the basket and create, but he was also solid on the defensive end. very quick. Wendell McKines will push for a school rebounding record if he puts up numbers like Friday over the next three years, 14 points, 11 boards. Also had four assists and three blocks and he knocked down a couple of jumpers. It was good to finally see the team in action.