New Mexico State Basketball Preview: #75
Overall Rank: #75
Conference Rank: #3 Western Athletic Conference
2008-09: 17-15, 9-7
2008-09 postseason: none
Coach: Marvin Menzies (38-29 at New Mexico State, 38-29 overall)
New Mexico State was a young team during Coach Marvin Menzies’ first year as the team’s head coach. The result was an inconsistent season that showed some promise at times. With all eight players back who earned at least one start last year, there is certainly reason to believe this group will be much better than they were last year. This is still a young team and the best is yet to come, but the Aggies should be battling with the best teams in the Western Athletic Conference.
Key Losses: G Terrance Joyner
With so much talent returning, there is not much need for this group of newcomers to make an impact. However, all the bases are covered in case of an emergency. Da’shawn Gomez is a decent combo guard who can fill in at the point or play off the ball. Tyrone Watson redshirted last year and will battle for minutes at the small forward spot. B.J. West may be the most important newcomer. The 6-9 big man will need a little time to develop his game, but the frontcourt is a little thin and he may be pressed into action early.
Jonathan Gibson might be the leader of the team, especially since he is the only senior who sees any significant playing time, but Jahmar Young is the new star. Gibson is a fine outside shooter who became more aggressive getting to the basket last year. The end result was a 14.1 point per game average. But Young outdid Gibson in just about every statistical category. At 6-5, Young has the size to drive to the basket more effectively and he also connected on an impressive 42.1 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. Young, who is just a junior, even dished out 3.2 assists, grabbed 4.0 rebounds and tallied 1.4 steals last year. Those two will see a majority of the minutes on the wing, but Gordo Castillo is an experienced player who is capable of giving those two a rest.
Wendell McKines averaged 12.1 points and 10.0 rebounds last year, but he will miss the first semester. The 6-6 junior should step right back into the starting role once he is eligible and NMSU expects him to be dominating on the glass and stretch out the defense with his outside shooting ability. Fortunately for the Aggies, Troy Gillenwater has a very similar game to McKines. He is a quality scorer inside and out, but he will have to hit the glass harder while McKines is out. The same can be said for center Hamidu Rahman. The seven-footer had a very promising freshman campaign, averaing 6.8 points and 4.6 rebounds. With a year of experience under his belt, Rahman should be able to add more offense to his already impressive defense.
Who to Watch:
Heading into the 2008-2009 campaign, NMSU knew they had some talented players. But the team ended up winning some big games and finishing with a winning record thanks to Hernst Laroche. As a freshman, Laroche dished out 4.3 assists and only turned the ball over 1.8 times per game. He rarely looked to shoot, but he is certainly capable of hitting the outside shot. But, yet again, the Aggies will not need Laroche to score. They need him to dictate tempo and find Young and Gibson beyond the arc or McKines, Gillenwater and Rahman under the basket.
Barring a rash of sophomore slumps, this is a team that should be able to compete with anybody in the WAC. Consistency will be their main issue, but those concerns should be over now that everybody has been in the system for a year. If everything goes perfect, New Mexico State will be knocking on the NCAA’s door, but anything less than a trip to the NIT should be considered a disappointment.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Hernst Laroche, Sophomore, Guard, 5.8 points per game
Jonathan Gibson, Senior, Guard, 14.1 points per game
Jahmar Young, Junior, Guard, 17.9 points per game
Troy Gillenwater, Sophomore, Forward, 12.1 points per game
Hamidu Rahman, Sophomore, Center, 6.8 points per game
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