|Dekabrien Eldridge signed with NMSU on Thursday. Photo by Hobbs News-Sun Clayton Jones
With the departure of Bandja Sy and Tyrone Watson, the New Mexico State basketball team doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of athletic ablility in the backcourt after Daniel Mullings.
The Aggies appear to have addressed that with their first signed commit for 2013 — New Mexico Junior College guard Dekabriean Eldridge, who signed at the school in Hobbs on Thursday, a day after committing.
“It’s (NMSU) is closer to my family so they can come watch me play,” said Eldridge, who attended Dallas Lincoln High and spent the past three years at NMJC. “It was a hard decision for me. Me being the person I am, I don’t want to make the other coaches mad who recruited me but I’m happy and my family is happy and that’s all that matters. NMSU is a good winning program that has been to the Dance the last couple years. I feel like I can help the program out doing what I’m capable of doing, which is playing defense.”
NMJC was 26-7 and played in the same conference as Howard, Odessa, South Plains and Midland. NMJC returned to the National Tournament with seven players who received Division I scholarships, including Desmond Lee, who was second in the conference in scoring at 20 points per game and signed to play at N.C. State. Eldridge didn’t put up huge numbers, averaging 11 points per game, shooting 35 percent from 3-point range.
“We work harder than any other JUCO, if you talk to other coaches of teams we played,” said Eldridge, commonly referred to as DK by coaches and teammates. “I will miss these guys. It was hard leaving them behind.”
Eldridge went to NMJC as a shooter and developed into a stopper on the wing who can hit the jump shot, get into the lane and finish at the rim.
He went on a visit to Northern Colorado and received interest from multiple schools such as Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Texas-Arlington and Texas State. Eldridge made a visit to Las Cruces in early April.
“He’s a shooting guard, very good defender that shot the 3 at a high percentage,” said NMJC coach James Miller, who was an assistant for three years at the school before taking the head job last year when Chris Tifft took a position on the Tulsa staff. “He’s a very good athlete, a very good on ball defender who was probably the best defender in our league this year.
“He had quite a bit of interest. He really enjoyed his visit to New Mexico State and liked the tradition of winning the last four or five years. He liked Coach (Paul) Weir who recruited him.”
Eldridge spent three years in Hobbs. He broke a bone in his hand his second year and had to redshirt.
“He has really grown and matured,” Miller said. “He is originally from Dallas and comes from a tough area. He is one of the favorite kids of the administration.”
Eldridge said he used the year off to his advantage.
“I became a better player and more mature,” he said. “Coming out of high school, I was very small physically. My mom didn’t want me to go to college close to home and thought that New Mexico Junior College was the best place for me at the time.”
A look at the NMJC roster reveals a roster that is as diverse as NMSU’s.
“We built the program back up from the bottom, won the region tournament and went to the national tournament and DK was a huge part of that and what he has done for our program can’t be measured,” Miller said. “He played against top competition and should be able to make the transition.”
“I think New Mexico State has done a great job,” Miller said. “New Mexico is a tricky place because there is not a large number of great players in our vicinity. They have the ability to recruit in untraditional places like Canada and overseas and in junior college. I’m selfishly excited because I will be able to see him play a couple times.”
CBS Sports has listed Eric Weary among those who have been released from his scholarship and senior BJ West is also believed to be leaving prior to his senior season. I hope to verify their status next week but lets assume they both move on, that would leave three open scholarships by my count. There are several names out there, that I’m aware of and I’m sure you have seen. There are surely more, as Marvin Menzies is currently in Spain.
Eldridge is the first player to sign, but Canadian Matt Taylor should also sign a LOI at some point. Ian Baker was also on campus in the second semester, unclear if he would be eligible at the beginning of the season.
Tanveer Bhullar — Brother of Sim Bhullar. Told me he is a 2014 player, but is still up in the air as to where exactly he will play next year.
Jim Coleman — Tularosa wing. Not sure he would be on the court next year anyway. Could come and sit out a year.
Jaylyn Pennie — He said on Twitter he’s a commit, but never got the impression it was legit. Still in the mix though.
Rene Esparza — El Paso wing pplayer, another guy I could see coming in and sitting for a year to get his academics in order.