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Return to the 2006-07 Top 144 Preview

September 30th, 2006

By Joel Welser

Broadcast Basketball


New Mexico State Aggies


Overall Rank: #40

Conference Rank: #2 WAC


2005-06: 16-14, 10-6, 4th (t)

2005-06 postseason: none


New Mexico State Aggies LogosWith four starters returning and a group of four transfers that could field a quality team of their own, expectations are understandably high at New Mexico State.  With just one season at the helm, Coach Reggie Theus has appeared to turn the program around.  The big question is how long it will take to mix the returning players with the transfers.  If it takes too long, it might be too late for an at-large bid, but knocking off Nevada in the WAC is a legitimate possibility as well. 


Who’s Out: The lone starter not returning is Mike Mitchell.  The guard averaged 12.2 points and 2.6 assists during his senior campaign and his long range shooting will be missed.  Fellow guard Shaun Davis earned 14 starts and averaged over 30 minutes per game.  Despite the loss of a starter and the sixth man, the backcourt has enough weapons to recover.  Up front the Aggies will lose a little depth with the departures of Trevor Lawrence and Shon Caston.  Kevin Ford has transferred after his freshman campaign in which he scored 3.4 points and grabbed 3.8 rebounds per contest. 


Who’s In: Martin Iti will take over the center job.  The seven-footer started 27 games for a good Charlotte team two years ago and looks to put up bigger numbers for the Aggies.  Even if the scoring isn’t there, Iti will provide some quality defense and rebounding.  Justin Hawkins will battle for a starting gig at the small forward spot.  Hawkins spent two years at Utah and averaged 8.5 points and 4.2 rebounds during the 2004-2005 campaign.  Trei Steward, a 6-7 forward, spent two seasons at Northern Colorado.  He came out strong in his freshman campaign and averaged 4.5 points and 3.6 rebounds.  Steward’s sophomore season was hindered due to a shoulder injury.  The final transfer is Fred Peete from Kansas State.  Peete is a great scorer, a solid long range shooter and a tenacious defender.  If he’s not starting, the shooting guard will see plenty of minutes.  Junior college transfer Hatila Passos has the potential to be a starter up front.  The 6-9, 230 pound power forward was named the 2006 National Junior College Athletic Association National Tournament Most Valuable Player last year after leading Arkansas-Fort Smith to the national title.  The lone incoming freshman is Jonathan Gibson.  The 6-1 combo guard has the shooting touch and quickness to contribute as a freshman.


Who to Watch: Last year this team was all about Tyrone Nelson.  After being suspended for a few days over the summer, the 6-9 forward will return for his junior season at NMSU.  Nelson averaged team highs with 17.8 points and 8.7 boards last season.  With more weapons on the squad this year, Nelson won’t be asked to carry the team as much, yet he can if he needs to.  Fellow forward David Fisher started 22 games last year and may be relegated to the bench, despite averaging 8.8 points and 6.3 rebounds. 


Final Projection: The backcourt will be led by Elijah Ingram once again.  As a junior, Ingram earned second team All-WAC honors and averaged 13.4 points and 3.1 assists per game.  Ted Knauber returns after starting 28 games last season and is expected to provide a spark off the bench during his senior campaign.  For a team that finished fourth in the WAC a year ago, returns four starters and brings in such a talented group of transfers, NMSU will compete for the WAC title.  Nevada might be too much for them in the end, but NMSU is good enough to earn a trip to the NCAAs. 


Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA


Projected Starting Five:

Elijah Ingram, Senior, Guard, 13.4 points per game

Fred Peete, Junior, Guard, DNP last season

Justin Hawkins, Junior, Guard, DNP last season

Tyrone Nelson, Junior, Forward, 17.8 points per game

Martin Iti, Junior, Center, DNP last season

41 Wichita State » Complete List » 39 USC

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