Friday, August 30, 2013

NMSU 2013-14 schedule: Nov. 23 Game 7 at UTEP

The Aggies play the Miners eight days after NMSU's home opener in Las Cruces.

Something to watch: It's been tough going for the Aggies in the Don Haskins Center the past two seasons. The Aggies led the Miners in El Paso for much of the game but two turnovers in the last minute and Chris Washburn, who left UTEP this offseason, got an offensive rebound that looked like an over the back on Nephawe that went the other way. Washburn made two free throws to seal the win. I think it could be a similar grind it out game and give the Aggies another chance to hold on to a lead and close out a game. This was also the first game Daniel Mullings played last year with his jaw wired shut.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Chili Nephawe and Terrel de Rouen

NMSU coach Marvin Menzies said center Chili Nephawe will be ready to go when the Aggies open practice in about a month.

Nephawe sat out last year after nine games with a thumb injury. He underwent another surgery in the offseason, but he was recently cleared.

"Having someone in the program with (Nephawe's) experience is a huge addition," Menzies said. "For the bigs, it creates a lot more competition at the position."

I asked Menzies if Nephawe's return meant that Tanveer Bhullar may redshirt.

"We don't make those decisions on who may or may not redshirt until early November," Menzies said.

Terrel de Rouen also underwent surgery on his foot in the offseason.

"Physically he has a little ways to go right now and wouldn't be able to go full in practice," Menzies said.

Whether or not to redshirt the younger Bhullar is an interesting question. If Nephawe is healthy, the Aggies certainly don't need another center because Renaldo Dixon proved more than capable of playing the position, especially in the WAC.

But adding Tanveer Bhullar to the roster also is very intriguing, especially if Nephawe shows the ability to play the power forward position as well. Menzies has said in the past that he doesn't think Bhullar will be around for four years, but say he picks up near where he left off last year and decides to enter the Draft. At that size, the window for a productive pro career is probably shorter than your average player. I wonder if the possibility of playing with his brother for at least one year factors into the decision to get Tanveer on the court this season?

Do they need the younger Bhullar this year? It would certainly make the Aggies a big draw nationally as the year goes on.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

NMSU 2013-14 schedule: Nov. 20 Game 5 vs. Northern Colorado

Last season: Northern Colorado was 13-18 and 10-10 in the Big Sky, lost in Big Sky semis.

Key returners: Derrick Barden, 6-5 first team Big Sky led league with 9.1 rebounds per game to go with 13.5 ppg; Senior guard Tate Unruh hit three 3-pointers per game and shot 43 percent from long range for 13.5 ppg as UNC shot 38 percent from 3-point range last year.

Something to watch: Northern Colorado hasn't done much for the past couple years after beating NMSU in the 2011 BracketBuster game in Las Cruces during the school's only NCAA Tournament run. NMSU beat the Bears in Greeley to open the next season.  But it sounds like they have been building for this season with four seniors and expect to be better this year, although there is only two players listed who are 6-8 or bigger. They didn't have any seniors last year and they have some size with 6-9 senior center Connor Osborne, whose 28 blocks last year set a single season record, which Sim Bhullar also did in Las Cruces with 85 blocks.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Jaylyn Pennie and additional roster info

I have read and heard a lot about Canadian wing Jaylyn Pennie the past year but never got the impression that the 6-7 Pennie would actually make it to campus. Pennie could fill the athletic void left by Bandja Sy at one point at NMSU, a long athletic player on the wing.

And then I spoke with him. Pennie said he will be on campus on Aug. 20 for the upcoming year but redshirt the 2013-14 season.

"I have been talking to NMSU for probably the last year and committed to them at the end of my last high school season," Pennie said.

Pennie had several schools interested in him, such as Marshall, Miami, George Washington and Iowa. But after graduating from Christian Faith Center Academy in 2012, Pennie said he had to re-take the ACT again to qualify. Pennie is looking forward to sitting out this season, he said.

"I think it's good so I can get used to the college atmosphere, get stronger and work on the things I need to," he said. "I'm pretty good at attacking the basket and I'm athletic. I need to clean up my handle and get to where I am making the jump shot more consistently."

Pennie, 20, played two years at Christian Faith and was in Ajax, Ontario before that. Pennie played with Kaza Keane and MiKyle McIntosh from Illinois State.

Pennie said he is familiar with current Canadian Aggies Daniel Mullings and Sim Bhullar and like other Canadians, Pennie moved to the US to increase the level of competition he went up against.

The number of players who were or are sitting out was starting to pile up. At one point it looked like 6-7 power forward from Texas Kyle Wilson will not be coming to NMSU afterall. He told me instead he will play at Blinn Junior College this  year in Texas.

Jim Coleman will likely attend and also sit out and Matt Taylor will redshirt. As far as the point guard position, the Aggies are hoping Ian Baker will be ready to go and cleared at some point but likely won't be able to practice with the team until he is, probably by the second semester.

In the meantime, it should be KC Ross Miller and freshman Travon Landry at the point guard position.

Point guard Terrel de Rouen (foot), Daniel Mullings (knee) and Chili Nephawe (wrist) all underwent surgery in the offseason. Mullings and Nephawe should be ready for practice in September but it's unclear that de Rouen could miss more time and possibly sit out another year due to injury.

Friday, August 16, 2013

NMSU 2013-14 schedule: Nov. 15 Game 4 vs. UTEP

Last season: 18-14, 10-6, lost to Southern Miss in C-USA semis

Key returner (s): Julian Washburn led Miners with 12.2 ppg and was the team's best defender, but shot 19 percent from 3-point range; McKenzie Moore scored 8.6 ppg once he became eligible will take over at PG; John Bohannon has had an up and down career, but he's a 6-11 senior who averaged 10 points, six rebounds and two blocks last year

Something to watch: It's NMSU's home opener and I would say last year's UTEP game at the Pan Am was the best regular season atmosphere I can remember in the six years I've covered the team. It's an important game for the Aggies for that same reason.
Regarding UTEP, does it seem like it's taken longer than expected for Tim Floyd to make his impact?
"I think it's taken a little longer after he ended up with eight seniors his first year here," said Bill Knight, the longtime UTEP writer for the El Paso Times. "He has the classes a little more staggered now. They will play up tempo if it's there. Last year they tried to run a little more but they didn't have anyone who could score. Defense won them games last year. It's something that Floyd always wants to be a staple. It was probably a strength last year and I'm sure it will be again."
Knight believes that UTEP will be better offensively, if for no other reason than the players are a year older as the Miners have five of the top seven scorers returning with Washburn, Bohannon, Moore, Cedrick Lang and CJ Cooper. Knight said Floyd is also high on redshirt freshmen Vince Hunter (6-7 post from Detroit) and Matt Willms, a 7-foot-1 center from Canada who grew up playing hockey.
The reality is that UTEP will be better than last year, even without highly touted freshman Isaac Hamilton, who was one of three recruits Floyd lost for one reason or another.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

NMSU 2013-14 schedule: Nov. 11 Game 3 @ Hawaii

Game 3
@ Hawaii

Last season: 17-15, 10-8 (Lost first round Big West to Irvine; Lost CIT first round to Air Force)

Key returner (s): Christian Standhardinger, 6-8 sr. PF, senior guard Brandon Spearman 

Something to watch: This will be the Aggies best test in Hawaii, playing a true road game early on against a solid Hawaii team. Gib Arnold and Marvin Menzies are familiar with each other from Hawaii's WAC days and former San Jose State guard Keith Shamburger joins the team after sitting out last year. It's also a matchup of two very good rebounding teams. Hawaii ranked 25th in the country last year in rebounding margin.
"Something that Gib was trying to focus on this year is shoring up the guard rotation," said Brian McInnis, Hawaii beat writer for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.  "They tried to beat teams on the glass last year. They were a very good rebounding team and when they won, that was usually why. They talked about trying to push it in transition more because they think they are deeper in the guard position."
Hawaii is not as deep in the frontcourt however, but undersized Nebraska transfer Christian Standhardinger (6-8, 15 ppg, 8 rpg 32 starts) and 6-8 sophomore Isaac Fotu (10 ppg, 6 rpg, Big West Freshman of the Year) are active in the paint. 
McKinnis said freshman wing Michael Thomas and JC guard Garrett Nevels are two newcomers who could contribute.