Reece White was back in Rio Rancho last week.
The former Cleveland High School football and track standout was among the guest speakers at the Sandoval County Lobo Club’s annual coaches luncheon.
Held at the Inn at Rio Rancho, local Lobo Club President Norm Burns said attendance was about 150, well up from 113 at 2012′s luncheon.
After hearing from the Lee DeLeon, an associate athletic director at UNM, about the “Drive to 5,000 (members)”and athletics vice president Tim Cass, the women’s tennis and men’s golf coaches spoke, as did linebackers coach Kevin Cosgrove from the football team, and — possibly the one under the most scrutiny — new men’s basketball coach Craig Neal.
After all, you never see the tennis complex stands full, or University Stadium full, nor the Championship Course amuck with golf fans. It’s Neal’s new domain, The Pit, that gets filled night after night.
Neal gave a rundown on his incoming team and updated fans on two members of last year’s team, Alex Kirk and Kendall Williams, who are trying out for the U.S. national team. Cameron Bairstow has made the Australian national team, he added.
All of the coaches told of their athletes’ success in the classrooms, as did Neal. The men’s basketball season was one one of just two Lobo programs that ended in utter disappointment.
The Lobos, said Neal, “have a very good team coming back” with “very high expectations.”
Oh, sure, Cosgrove noted, the football team’s four victories were more than the teams in the three previous seasons managed — combined, but even though the football team lost its final five games, the frustrating finish didn’t come in the postseason, as the men’s hoops and baseball teams had done.
“Unfinished business,” Neal said, is the slogan for his 2013-14 team. And baseball coach Ray Birmingham may want to use that one, too. After all, the Lobos on the hardwood and diamond each saw their seasons end with losses to Ivy League teams: Harvard and Columbia, respectively.
White, a key member of the Storm’s 2011 state championship football team, said he’ll be at a new position this fall.
“It’s all been a part of just trying to find the right position for me,” White said. “I moved to (defensive back) for a little bit at the end of the (2012) year, but I talked to coach (Bob) Davie and I talked to tight ends coach (Derek) Wareheim and they think that tight end will be the position for me.
“I just have to put on a little weight. I have the speed, I have the route-running,” he said. “I played wide receiver in high school. I’ve got the routes down and all that.”
White said he’ll be doing a lot more blocking than in the past and, “I might have to put my hand down in the dirt a few times, so I’ll have to work on my footwork and upper-body strength and all-around strength — and my weight needs to go up.”
The Lobos open the 2013 season on Saturday, Aug. 31, against visiting Texas-San Antonio.
White says he can’t wait.
“It’s really turned around well. There’s a lot of chemistry in the locker room and guys are gaining trust,” he said. “We have a lot of trust in our coaches and a lot of trust in each other, so it’s a really good thing in the locker room.”
Lobo lowdown: The Sandoval County Lobo Club’s fourth annual Lobo Greats Golf Tournament will be held Saturday, Aug. 3, at Paa Ko Ridge Golf Course. The entry fee is $125; the event tees off in a 1 p.m. shotgun start. Entries are due by July 27; call 925-5014 or visit unmloboclub.com to register. Threesomes will be teamed up with former Lobo “greats,” players or coaches, and there will be lunch, prizes, snacks and door prizes.