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College Preview | Top 144 Previews | More Interviews

By Shawn Siegel

August 17th, 2006


New Mexico Head Coach Ritchie McKay


After exploding to a 26-7 record in 2004-05, New Mexico kept the winning ways going last year, finishing 17-13 despite the departure of star Danny Granger.  Now, after losing a handful of important seniors and relying on transfers and junior college prospects, Ritchie McKay will have another interesting challenge to get the Lobos back into the NCAA Tournament.




Shawn Siegel (CHN): How will you deal with the losses of three long-time senior contributors?


Ritchie McKay (RM):  Our seniors will be very difficult to replace.  It has been well documented that David Chiotti, Mark Walters, Jeff Hart were my first four-year seniors.  They did a great deal for the development of our program, but with their departure comes opportunity and I expect JR Giddens and Tony Danridge to capitalize on their opportunity.



CHN: What do you expect the strengths and weaknesses of this year’s team to be?

RM: I'm really excited about this year's team.  Our strength will be in our versatility and the fact that we have one and half NBA players in JR Giddens and Aaron Johnson.  I really think the key to our success will be our ability to develop chemistry in a timely fashion.  Our weaknesses - we don't return many starters, however, we do have experience.  I am very optimistic about the coming season.



CHN: Which of your guys stands out as being leaders on and off the court?


RM:  Our program is a little different than most, especially this year.  We don't have one particular leader, but we do have a group that leads by committee.  JR Giddens, Daniel Farris, Aaron Johnson work tremendously hard in the weight room and on their individual development, but there are others.  Chad Toppert, Ramon Martinez, and Derek Oestreicher have been very hard working.



CHN: What should we expect out of the incoming players. Who will make the biggest impact?

RM:  Our junior college transfers will probably make the biggest impact on our team both (A) out of necessity and (B) out of experience and confidence.  Jamaal Smith a JUCO All American at Indian Hills CC might be the best point guard in the league.  Jeffrey Henfield a 6'6" forward from northeast Nebraska whose strength is in his versatile game.  The biggest surprise has been in Ramon Martinez an unheralded freshman from El Paso Montwood High School.



CHN: Talk about which coaches really helped you reach the level of success you’re at today? Do you still keep in touch with them?

RM:  There have been many coaches that have had an impact on my career.  My college coach, Claude Terry.  Former coaches, Jim Molinari, Bob Bender, and Dale Layer had a big hand in developing my passion for coaching.  More recently, Dick Bennett, John Belein and Kelvin Sampson have had a lot to do with shaping my current philosophy.


Realistically, what should we expect out of the Panthers this season?


RM:  Our goals for the coming season are to make it to the NCAA Tournament and to advance.


CHN: Thanks coach.  Good luck.


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