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