New Mexico State Aggies
Overall Rank: #77
Conference Rank: #2 WAC
2007-08: 21-14, 12-4, 1st
2007-08 postseason: none
New Mexico State was a part of that four way tie for the WAC championship last year. The conference as a whole had a horrible, horrible season and the Aggies suffered because of that. Even with a 21 win season, Coach Marvin Menzies’ squad was left out of the postseason. NMSU has some rebuilding to do, but there is more than enough talent to win the conference again and push for a postseason berth.
Six players averaged double-digits in the scoring column and two of them are returning. That is a decent group to work around, but there are some big losses as well. Justin Hawkins averaged 18.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per contest during his senior year. When the Aggies needed some points, it was Hawkins who took the shot. Point guard Fred Peete was not the most efficient point guard around, but he was a good scorer who did a decent job controlling the flow of the game. Center Hatila Passos is the other departed player who averaged over ten points per game. But for the frontcourt the concerns go well beyond the absence of Passos. Martin Iti also started quite a few games in the post and will be missed. Paris Carter, DeAngelo Jones, JayDee Luster, Trei Steward and Londale Theus did not see too much playing time last season and will not be suiting up for the Aggies this season. The late transfer of Herb Pope is a big problem. The forward only played in 16 games last year and he could have been the star of the team.
There are not many returning players left to fill the void left by Peete and the big guys, so the newcomers will have to pull their weight. At the point it will be up to incoming freshmen Terrance Joyner and Johnny Higgins. Joyner is a true point guard and has the speed and athleticism to create shots for his teammates. Higgins is a combo guard who can certainly help Joyner run the point, but will be more effective off the ball where he can use his strength to get to the basket. There will be a big battle for playing time at the power forward and center spots. On the offensive side of the floor Troy Gillenwater is a match-up nightmare for the opposition. The 6-8 forward has a great mid-range game and can effectively put the ball on the floor and get to the basket. His size also allows him to be successful in the paint, but the redshirt freshman needs to find his role defensively at some point. Robert Lumpkins, who redshirted last year after spending one season at Kilgore College in Texas, will add some depth at the small forward spot. The true big guys are Abdoulaye N’doye, Chris Gabriel and Hamidu Rahman. All three are pushing seven-feet, but also are considered projects and will need some time to adjust to the level of play in the WAC.
Who to Watch:
Jonathan Gibson and Jahmar Young are capable scorers ready to take over some of the production left behind by Hawkins. Gibson is the outside shooter of the bunch and Young had a solid freshman campaign averaging 10.3 points per game. Unless the team wants to play small, which is definitely a logical possibility due to the lack of experienced big men, Young will find himself coming in off the bench. Getting Wendell McKines back might not make up for losing Pope, but the 6-6 forward had a decent freshman campaign and will do some scoring around the basket and plenty of rebounding.
New Mexico State is going to sport a very young team; however, there is plenty of talent. If Chris Cole, a junior point guard, can secure more playing time at the point, it would at least give the freshmen some time to develop under a more experienced player. But sooner or later, probably sooner, Joyner will be running the show and has to create for his teammates and get everybody involved. If the newcomers can hold their own and last year’s great recruiting class continues to improve, the Aggies will be competing for another conference title.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Terrance Joyner, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Jonathan Gibson, Junior, Guard, 12.2 points per game
Jahmar Young, Sophomore, Guard, 10.3 points per game
Wendell McKines, Sophomore, Forward, 6.4 points per game
Troy Gillenwater, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season