There was certainly plenty of speculation after NMSU sophomores Renaldo Dixon and Christian Kabongo weren't part of Saturday's 81-65 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The school's official stance at this point is this:
“It was a personal coach’s decision,” Aggies head coach Marvin Menzies said during his post game radio interview. “We’re going to assess it going forward and that’s where we were tonight.”
I think it leaves it open to speculation at that point. There is a sense that the team will be better off without Kabongo. I tend to agree, at least from an offensive standpoint and chemistry wise. I also think the Aggies have players capable of stepping up. The Aggies had 13 assists on 26 makes on Saturday and played primarily through McKines, who was open early and often at the high post against a zone and left to make a pass to either wing, dump it down low or make a move on his own. I asked McKines in an earlier conversation if the team was working on things to get him the ball in spots on the floor where he wanted it.
After telling me that it's a better question for the head coach, McKines said, "I've noticed some plays where I can be successful but everything is still within the system. Whenever coach feels the need to call a particular set or play, he is going to do it. He's been doing a great job so far. It's our best preseason record we've had since I've been here. We are just looking to improve on everything."
Two things CK does well were defend and get to the foul line, where he is the best shooter at 82 percent. He is good at getting to the paint, but he has a team high 46 turnovers on the year. He is a big part of the offense in terms of touching the ball 28 percent of the plays while he's on the floor. McKines is second at 27 percent and Hamidu Rahman is third at 20 percent.
I think a key player here moving forward regardless of Kabongo is Hernst Laroche. Laroche is involved in 17 percent of the team's play when he's on the court and he's on the court a lot. Laroche showed flashes of what he's capable of on Saturday. Laroche had 15 points, 7 rebounds and fours assists with one turnover. He was 5-8 from the floor and seemed more aggressive getting to the basket.
"I'm a senior and it's my last year," Laroche said. "I know how it feels. I just take it a game at a time."
Daniel Mullings backed up Laroche at the point although Laroche played 35 minutes. Mullings was 3-10 but he hit both of his 3s for the Aggies, who were 7-16 from long range after 1-14 against UNM. Mullings had 11 points, one asst, three turnovers, two blocks and a steal.
"He did a good job," Laroche said. "He ran the team and got us into our offense. I think he is learning the position so that's good."