ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico men’s basketball senior guard Jamal Fenton has been suspended for the first three regular season games of the year for committing a minor NCAA rule violation regarding an impermissible benefit he accepted, according to university officials.
Editor’s note: See video of Alford on the Fenton suspension at bottom of page.
He will still play in Wednesday’s exhibition game against Victory University from Memphis and in Monday’s exhibition against New Mexico Highlands.
Neither UNM officials, nor the NCAA has clarified exactly what Fenton did or when he did it. Head coach Steve Alford did confirm the violation did not involve a university employee.
UNM appealed the suspension, but learned over the weekend the appeal was denied.
Alford said Monday afternoon he would not talk specifically about what Fenton did, but made it clear he felt the NCAA’s punishment was too harsh.
“Jamal knows he made a mistake,” Alford said. “It’s a minor violation. I guess I don’t want to talk about it for two reasons. … I don’t want to talk about it because I don’t want to hurt the kid because I think he made a mistake but I’m not in favor of what it warrants, either. To keep me out of trouble and keep the university out of trouble, I just assume not comment any further on it, but I’m not very happy with him losing three games.”
Fenton was not made available to media on Monday afternoon.
Fenton can still travel with the team, practice and participate in both exhibition games, but he will be held out of the team’s Nov. 12 regular season opener against Davidson and the first two games of the Nov. 16-19 Paradise Jam tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Fenton can play in the final game of the tournament on Nov. 19.
“It does affect our rotation,” Alford said of the impact on the team the suspension will have. “He’s a senior that is going to be asked to do an awful lot this year. … It is what it is. I’m not real happy about it.”
Fenton is the Lobos’ top guard off the bench. The 5-9 guard from Houston averaged 6.5 points and 2.4 assists per game during the 2011-12 season.
INJURY UPDATE: Sophomore center Alex Kirk will miss Wednesday’s exhibition game after spraining his left ankle during a scrimmage on Saturday in the Pit, but should resume full participation later this week.
It is an injury the team feels much better about today than when Kirk initially tumbled to the Pit floor, rolling around grabbing the ankle.
“It was scary,” Alford said. “You don’t want anybody going down. We would feel that way about any of our players, obviously, but we know we’re thin up front. We have been for five years. We thought we’d be a little bit deeper there this year and it didn’t happen that way so we’ve got to be fortunate.”
Junior Tony Snell has an injured shooting hand that required ice after Saturday’s scrimmage, but he isn’t expected to miss any practice or game action. Neither is junior guard Kendall Williams who left Saturday’s scrimmage for a few minutes with a left leg injury after teammate Cam Bairstow, a 6-foot-9, 250-pound forward, fell on Williams going for a rebound.
“That’s why we say when Cam falls, guys try and get out of the way,” Alford said. “That’s not one of the guys you want falling on you.”
Freshman forward Nick Banyard was held out of Saturday’s scrimmage with a concussion suffered when he banged heads with a teammate last week in practice. He is expected to return to action in time for Wednesday’s game.
ROAD TRIP: The Lobos took their show on the road Monday with an open practice and autograph session at Laguna Acoma High School. The open practice off campus has been an annual tradition for UNM under Alford.