ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Texas high school standout Jarion Henry says he is planning an official recruiting visit to New Mexico next week and is strongly considering signing with the Lobo men’s basketball program this spring.
“I’m very impressed by New Mexico, and I’m looking forward to the trip,” the 6-foot-8 Henry told the Journal on Tuesday. “I hope to come out there next Friday (April 8).”
Henry (first name is pronounced Jerry-on) says the only other official visit he has scheduled is at Georgetown the following week, and “right now it’s between those two schools. But I’m definitely planning to sign this spring.”
While the Lobos’ 2010-11 season ended last week in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament, things are already heating up for the future. The six-week spring signing period begins on April 13, and the number of scholarships the Lobos will have available is still unclear.
With the loss of senior Dairese Gary, the Lobos have 11 scholarship players on their roster and signed one (Dominique Dunning of Corona, Calif.) in the fall. That leaves one spot to fill, and Australian stand out point guard Hugh Greenwood gave a verbal commitment to sign with UNM next month.
Chier Ajou, a 7-2 native of Sudan who played for Culver (Ind.) Military Academy this season, had verbally committed to UNM to sign last fall and again this spring.
Ajou, however, told the Journal on Tuesday that he may not be academically eligible for college next season, and may try to get reclassified and join UNM in 2012-13 as a freshman.
“I’m not looking at any other schools. I’ve already committed to New Mexico,” he said. “That’s where I will sign.”
He said he might sign this spring or wait until next fall, if he does get reclassified.
Abdel Nader, a native of Egypt who had committed to sign at UNM last fall but didn’t and committed to instead sign in the spring, de-committed during the season. The 6-7 forward had a sensational season at Niles North High (Skokie, Ill.) near Chicago, but decided to keep his collegiate options open.
Atlanta high school player Dominique McKoy has also expressed interest in UNM and is being recruited as a possible spring signee.
While the Lobos have just one scholarship to fill, that could change with possible transfers or the health of forward Emmanuel Negedu.
Negedu played in the team’s first 10 games this past season, but he was forced to sit the rest of season because of a heart condition. Negedu, who was a sophomore, suffered cardiac arrest as a freshman at Tennessee in September 2009 and had surgery in which he received a defibrillator.
Last spring, Tennessee officials did not clear him to play again, nor did Indiana officials, where he tried to transfer.
UNM doctors did clear Negedu for this season, but shut him down after 10 games because of improper readings from his defibrillator.
Earlier this month, UNM coach Steve Alford said doctors would update Negedu’s status at the end of March. But on Monday, Alford said “I’m just waiting (for the doctors) and I hope to hear something in two or three weeks on his status.”
If Negedu cannot play, he could still remain on scholarship and continue his education without counting against the Lobos’ basketball scholarship limit. Kem Nweke recently did so after a series of knee surgeries prevented him competing.
Henry, who is originally from Long Beach, Calif., moved to Dallas last year and helped Kimball High to the 4A Texas state title this season as a senior. He averaged 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists a game and ESPN.com ranks him as the 34th best small forward in the country.
He says he is a very active inside player who dribbles well and loves to crash the boards.
“I’m looking for a school where I can play right away,” he said. “But not to just play, somewhere where I can put a team on my back and be a factor right away.”
NEXT FOR NEAL: With Georgia Tech’s hiring of Brian Gregory as its new coach, will UNM assistant Craig Neal apply elsewhere?
Last week Neal said he had been contacted by “at least four other schools” about head coaching vacancies, but had not interviewed for any other jobs and “I don’t plan to.”
Neal hasn’t returned phone or text messages from the Journal since Gregory was hired.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Neal, a Georgia Tech alum, was disappointed he didn’t get the job for which he’d interviewed but on Monday said: “Brian’s a good coach and a good guy. I’m happy for Tech. I love my school.”
Capsule – See Mark Smith’s blog for more on Jarion Henry, Craig Neal and coaching rumors at ABQJournal.com/sports
Photo Credit – JOURNAL File
Cutline – The status of UNM’s Emmanuel Negedu (left, shown with teammate Demetrius Walker earlier this season) is up in the air for 2011-12.