ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Everyone’s a Lobo in Walnut, Calif., this week.
Math classes at Mount San Antonio College are getting the day off Thursday as their professor flies to Salt Lake City to watch the No. 10 New Mexico Lobos (29-5) play the Harvard Crimson (19-9) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“I don’t cancel class very often – that’s why I don’t get to go to many games in the regular season,” said Debbie Williams, mother of UNM junior guard Kendall Williams. “But when the (NCAA Tournament) started, my dean said I could have Thursday off. My kids wanted to know why I was going to be gone, and I told them about Kendall. So now everyone’s excited. There’s a lot of Lobo fans in Southern California right now.”
The Lobos’ extended family – team parents, friends and family – are scrambling this week, trying to navigate between life at home and the Madness that is March in college basketball.
Debbie Williams will be able to make the Salt Lake City trip from her home in Southern California; others, including sophomore point guard Hugh Greenwood’s parents, won’t be able to watch the game in person. The Greenwoods spent the past month in the United States but had to fly home to Australia after the Mountain West tournament last week in Las Vegas, Nev.
Don’t worry, Hugh. There is someone who thinks they’ll be back sooner rather than later.
“I think they said they’re going to fly back when we make the Final Four,” Sherika Brown, mother of UNM junior guard Tony Snell, said.
Yes, “when” they make the Final Four.
You see, in the eyes of a proud mom, there is no question about how far these Lobos will be going in the Big Dance.
“I really think they will go far, all the way to the Final Four,” said Gail Fenton, mother of senior guard Jamal Fenton. “And if they get that far, why stop?”
While Jamal Fenton’s mother says she’s mostly been using Facebook to remind any family member, friend or neighbor in her hometown of Houston about how the Lobos are now ranked No. 10 and going to make some noise in the NCAA Tournament, Brown did her part getting the word out across the nation this past weekend when CBS Sports showed her on more than one occasion in the stands of the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas wearing her good-luck Lobos hat and holding up a sign that read: “Tony Snell Silent Assassin.”
Brown, a student herself at Albuquerque’s Central New Mexico Community College who drove to Utah on Tuesday, says her quiet little Tony isn’t keeping to himself anymore. Snell had a coming-out party in Las Vegas that saw him crowned Mountain West tournament Most Valuable Player after sinking big shot after big shot in both the tournament semifinal win over San Diego State and the nationally broadcast championship game win over UNLV.
“This time around, the gleam in his eye is different,” Brown said, referring to times in the past when Snell may have followed a few big games with less productive ones. “I feel like he’s in a better position to help this team this time around. This is different this time.”
Brown, who braids her son’s hair once a week, said she can tell from talking with Snell all season that this team is even closer and more confident than a year ago when they went into the NCAA Tournament.
She’s not the only one.
“I think the boys have a better sense about the tournament then they did last year and probably didn’t reach the level they had hoped to get to,” Debbie Williams said. “I think that has left them hungry to make it deeper into the tournament this year.”
“I don’t think they’re afraid of anybody this year,” Debbie Williams said. “That’s what I’m noticing about them. I really think they have a sense about themselves that they can beat anybody in the tournament.”
That confidence, the moms say, seems to be born from a genuine sense of family inside the Lobos locker room.
“This team doesn’t care who gets hot; they just know somebody is going to get hot when they need it,” Brown said. “They love each other. They really do have a brotherly bond.”
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal