New Mexico Basketball: Lobos Receive A Five Player roster Boost Over The Weekend
The roster is set in Albuquerque as Paul Weir fills all 13th roster spots and then some.
The Lobos were finally on the receiving end of some good news this weekend as plenty of new faces joined the program.
This offseason has been tough to teams all across the college basketball landscape. With a global pandemic initiating the offseason about a month earlier than normal, along with an unknown NBA Draft early entrant withdrawal date that was unclear most of the summer. You can top it all off with complete uncertainty on how to play college sports this fall and winter.
For now folks looking for updates like myself have to just sit back and be patient, let everyone figure out how to play football games before the flowers bloom come spring and hope May madness doesn’t become a trend. But being uncertain doesn’t mean you shouldn’t always be prepared and adapt to what’s thrown at you, right?
Well that seems to be just the attitude New Mexico head coach Paul Weir has as he ventures into his fourth season in charge of the Lobos. There has been plenty of roster movement in and out of the program since the team’s season ended in Las Vegas back in March.
But through it all, the coaching staff has managed to fill the roster’s thirteen total scholarship spots this past week while also checking off some other boxes in the process.
Early admission? Yes please
The first bit of news released on Friday was the addition of incoming freshman Isaiah Marin, who was originally slated to spend a year at Juco powerhouse South Plains College in Levelland, TX and join the team as a member of the 2021 class next year.
Well, recent events inside the New Mexico program have produced two unexpected roster openings ahead of the start of the fall semester in Albuquerque. One vacated by senior to be Zane Martin who as of yesterday opted for a return to the east coast and ultimately a return to his previous stomping grounds, Towson.
The other open scholarship was never fulfilled as planned, as 2021 commit JB White who was on track to graduate from high school early and enroll this fall was the victim of gun violence earlier this month in his hometown of Santa Fe, NM. His passing left the coaching staff and community broken, but also through the program into scramble mode to not be left with open roster sports in a pivotal year in Albuquerque.
They reacted quickly very late in the year to fill their those recently vacated scholarships. Players must be enrolled on the twelfth day of classes to be eligible to play that semester, so there is certainly no time to waste given UNM’s classes began on August 17th. The 6-5 guard from Phoenix, AZ attended the College Prep Academy in Sacramento California and joins a crowded backcourt but with little proven experience at the division-I level, anything can happen.
Sit-out year? No thank you
The next piece of news came on Saturday morning as sophomore guard Jeremiah Francis was awarded an immediate eligibility waiver by the NCAA. This essentially gave the Lobos a player who will compete for the starting point guard job this season from day-one.
Francis is a transfer from blue blood program North Carolina, and chose the Lobos over home state program Dayton back in May. The 6-0 210 pound point guard averaged 3.3 PPG, 1.6 APG & 1.3 RPG in just 16 games for the Tarheels last season.
Paul Weir has highly praised the young floor general who has been fighting to stay on the court the last couple of years due to knee injuries that have plagued him since high school. His ability to play immediately for the Lobos gives him an opportunity to showcase the skills that earned him a spot in Roy William’s rotation in the first place, however short that may have been.
Frontcourt depth? Check
The next surprise of the weekend for Lobos fans was the “commitment” of Juco big man Valdir Manuel. The 6-10 Angolan big man recently finished his sophomore year at Harcum College in Pennsylvania and is the 11th ranked Juco prospect by 247 sports. Although, at the time of that announcement by reputable college basketball reporter Adam Zagoria, the Albuquerque Journal could not confirm Manuel’s commitment from officials at New Mexico.
Since, Geoff Grammer of the Journal confirmed the addition of Valdir Manuel via Paul Weir’s virtual press conference Tuesday morning.
Manuel’s arrival in Albuquerque will take some of the pressure off of anxiously awaited freshman Bayron Matos who is expected to make big contributions in his first year on the court since enrolling at New Mexico early back in January. They are both joined in the frontcourt by Juco transfers Rodgerick Brown and Assane Ndiaye as well as local walk-on Jordan Arroyo.
Manuel is certainly a capable player, but New Mexico is the fifth school the big man has committed to since his time at The St. Patrick School back in 2018. For Lobo fans I hope the fifth time is the charm.
Another coaches son? Check
Although we have all known of the impending transfer of newly announced assistant coach Scott Padgett‘s son Logan since last month. The addition of the 6-7 sophomore forward was officially announced by the program on Friday.
Padgett played his freshman year under his father in the elder Padgett’s final year in charge at Samford University this past season. There he averaged 2.4 PPG & 3.3 RPG in 33 appearances with 8 starts.
The younger Padgett is expected to join the team as a walk-on and should be expected to take a redshirt year given his status as a division-I transfer, barring any sort of waiver from the NCAA.
Yearly local walk-on addition? Check
Head coach Paul Weir understands the draw of watching local players take the court inside the Pit for folks in Albuquerque. The Lobos have always had a program that recruited locals and played locals. But that longstanding history has been a bit inconsistent over the last five or six years.
Aside from junior post-Jordan Arroyo from nearby Atrisco Heritage Academy averaging around 6.7 MPG over 26 games in his young two year career, there hasn’t been the major impact of say an Alex Kirk (Los Alamos), Daniel Faris (Eldorado) or Chad Toppert (Albuquerque Academy) in almost six seasons.
You would have to look back to the 2015-2016 season to find any other significant minutes given to key role player Tim Jacobs (Las Cruces/Onate HS) with about 9.7 MPG while having a larger role in 2014-2015’s squad at 20.8 MPG.
Though each year we can only hope that locals are given an opportunity to dawn the cherry and silver for longer than a minute or two following some sort of exhibition blowout.
This year’s addition, Eloy Medina of Albuquerque’s West Mesa high school is set to join the program.
Medina averaged 20.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG and 1.5 APG during his senior year at West Mesa. Coach Weir praised the 6-3 guards shooting ability in Tuesday’s presser, calling Medina an “Elite Shooter” and that he will “help on the court”. Medina joins fellow former local prep standouts Arroyo and Clay Patterson (Rio Rancho) along with Daniel Headdings (Wasilla, AK) and Logan Padgett (Homewood, AL) as walk-ons for the 2020-2021 season.
Thirteen Scholarship players and some walk-ons for good measure? Check
After the rough 30 days, those inside this program have had, it was indeed a breath of fresh air to begin to receive some positive news again regarding the Lobos. Barring any more transfers going forward, coach Weir’s roster is now full at thirteen players.
With a little more clarity in regards to player personnel, Lobo fans can now sit back and anxiously take a part in the waiting game we are all involved in at the moment surrounding the 2020-2021 season. Stay Tuned.