The Aggies were busy in the last two weeks of the college basketball regular signing period.
New Mexico State had three players sign scholarship agreements, with Bakersfield, Calif., high school player Braxton Huggins signing a national letter of intent on the final day of the signing period on May 21.
“It’s unreal,” Huggins said. “I never thought that I would be signing to a Division I school. New Mexico State reminded me of home. There are not that many distractions. I can just focus on school and basketball. They said I would have a chance to play but it depended on how hard I work and how it goes in practice.”
Five NMSU players from last season’s NCAA Tournament team left the program for various reasons, and the status of former Oñate star Terrel de Rouen is still unclear moving forward. Sim Bhullar left the Aggies after two years to pursue a professional career and seniors Renaldo Dixon and Kevin Aronis finished their eligibility. Point guard K.C. Ross-Miller (Auburn) and Matej Buovac (Sacred Heart) each transferred.
Huggins, a 6-foot-3 guard, as well as 6-foot-1 Toronto, Ontario point guard Rashawn Browne and 6-foot-8 New Orleans, La., native Harold Givens joined the Aggies during the regular signing period between April 16 and May 21.
The latest three additions join Matt Taylor, Jaylyn Pennie, Jonathan Wilkins and Pascal Siakam, who were all on campus last season, as well as Tanveer Bhullar, Sim Bhullar’s younger brother to reload the NMSU roster.
Of the three latest additions, Huggins has the best opportunity to earn a roster spot for 2014-15 season as a player who is already qualified academically. Browne and Givens are already in Las Cruces set to begin the first summer session on Tuesday. Browne said he came to NMSU with the intention of redshirting this year as the Aggies roster already has two sophomore point guards in Ian Baker and Travon Landry. Givens is an intriguing prospect who committed to Florida International in 2013.
Huggins was the prep Player of the Year in Bakersfield last year after averaging 32 points per game and shooting 36 percent from 3-point range for Mira Monte High. Aggies fans can compare Huggins to current Aggies senior DK Eldridge in size and athletic ability. Huggins cleared 6-feet, 9-inches in the high jump of a track meet this season.
“I play quick with a lot of energy and like to get up and down the court,” Huggins said.
Although higher level schools showed interest throughout the past two years, Huggins ended up going with NMSU over Texas-Pan American and Bakersfield.
Mira Monte coach Scott Smith said schools would offer Huggins but go with another recruit and pull the scholarship offer.
“I just wanted to go somewhere at the end of the day where I was comfortable and New Mexico State gave me a chance to make that a reality,” Huggins said.
Huggins said the Aggies entered the picture in the past month and Huggins and Smith made a visit to Las Cruces a week ago.
“I want to be a part of a winning program and go earn my minutes and work hard,” Huggins said.
Huggins will likely enroll in the second summer session, but Givens and Browne are currently roommates on campus.
Browne played at Bill Crothers Secondary School in Toronto and played for Grassroots Elite, the same AAU program that produced Dixon and former Aggie guard Christian Kabongo.
Browne said NMSU assistant Paul Weir first reached out last summer at an AAU event in Las Vegas. Browne said he had played with Taylor and Tevoun Jackson, the younger brother of NMSU senior Daniel Mullings.
“I knew some of them personally and knew of others who were from my City so I knew it was the place for me,” Browne said. “There is not a lot of NCAA basketball in Canada, but I saw some games. I like the offense, but players get a chance to do their thing in the offense.”
Browne and Givens committed to NSMU without making a visit to Las Cruces. Brown said he had received interest from a number of small schools including Appalachian State, Florida Gulf Coast and Colgate.
“New Mexico State was the most competitive team and successful team that was recruiting me,” Browne said. “That helped in my decision.”
Givens has played different levels of basketball in Georgia, North Carolina and most recently Florida at Faith Baptist Christian, a prep school in Florida, making qualifying a challenge. He committed to Florida International with offers from Louisiana Tech and Murray State after receiving interest from high-major schools early on. Givens averaged 22 points, eight rebounds and five blocks per game at Faith Baptist, he said.
“The competition level was great,” Givens said. “We were playing against schools from California and all over. It was a different experience but it helped me grow as a player.”
Givens moved from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina for the Atlanta area. Givens said grades contributed to de-committing from FIU, but if he is cleared at NMSU, he provides length on the wing at 6-foot-8, who has a game similar to former Aggie Bandja Sy.
“My strengths are my athletic ability,” said Givens, who said his vertical leap has been measured at 46 inches. “My shooting is good but I’m in the gym every day working on shooting, ball handling and awareness.”
Minutes will be hard to come by on the wing behind seniors Mullings (Last year’s Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year) and Eldridge, but whatever production NMSU gets from it’s group of newcomers will be important next season and moving forward.