ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Craig Neal wanted more exposure for the Lobos men’s basketball program in his first year as head coach.
Now, it looks like the Lobos will be howling on national television in October.
While no binding agreement has been finalized, the Journal has learned ESPNU is working out a deal to broadcast live from the Pit the University of New Mexico basketball team’s Oct. 18 Lobo Howl as part of its college basketball preseason coverage.
The Lobo Howl, the annual public practice event that often features a dunk contest, 3-point contest and light scrimmage held in the Pit for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams, is expected to have live coverage on ESPNU and ESPN3.
For several seasons ESPNU has sent broadcast crews to the annual preseason workouts of several Top 25 programs for live coverage. Last year ESPNU had coverage from seven programs, including the Big Blue Madness event of then defending national champion Kentucky Wildcats, who are this season’s preseason favorites. The Wildcats are expected to be among the teams covered this season by ESPNU.
Whether the Lobo Howl event will be free to the public as it has been in the past, when it was often held around Halloween, is unclear.
NEWCOMERS: The latest additions to the Lobos basketball team were working out in full force Tuesday during NCAA-allowed individual instruction periods.
Teams are not allowed until later this month to start full team practices, but can do so in small groups broken up by positions.
Junior college transfer guard Deshawn Delaney and 7-foot-1 freshman center Obij Aget, both of whom arrived in Albuquerque the week prior to classes starting at UNM, are both working out with the Lobos.
Delaney spent his summer on a crash course to finish classes at Vincennes Junior
College in Indiana. He passed all those classes and is cleared to play for UNM.
Aget, originally from the Sudan, who sat last year out with an ACL tear before enrolling in college after prep school in Indiana, is also a full participant with the Lobos now that the NCAA Clearinghouse last week cleared him to play. He has a large brace on his right leg, but ran and jumped with no hesitation at Tuesday’s workouts.
BAIRSTOW BACK:After an offseason of impressive play in international events for his native Australia, senior Cameron Bairstow is back with his team but wasn’t a full participant in drills with his fellow post players Tuesday.
That is because the 6-foot-9 power forward is still recovering from a minor hand surgery from Aug. 19 that kept him in his home country a few days longer than anticipated.
As it turns out, Bairstow played all last season and throughout the summer with some minor discomfort in his left hand.
The surgery, which isn’t expected to cut into any playing time this season, was to relieve some pressure caused by extra tissue in the hand pressing against some nerves, according to UNM Trainer Nate Burney.
Neal said Bairstow could be participating fully in drills if it were during the season, but after his full load of work throughout the summer there is no rush to get him back now.
FIERY COACH: Neal was a little bit hands off during individual instruction, letting assistant coaches lead the drills, but did hop up and get involved when he saw something that he didn’t like.
When one player wasn’t exactly going full speed during a shooting drill, Neal reminded everyone who was in charge what he expects from his players.
“I’m not going to coach effort,” Neal barked. “We’ve got 13 guys (on scholarship) – 14 with Chris (Perez, a walk-on player). If you don’t give effort, the next guy will. I will not coach effort this year.”
CULLEN NEAL: Cullen Neal, Craig Neal’s son and UNM’s incoming freshman guard who had an emergency appendectomy on the team’s August trip to Australia, was back on the court Tuesday in a practice uniform for the first time since that surgery.
The 6-foot-4 Eldorado High graduate, who dropped to 158 pounds from about 180 after his 11 days in a Sydney, Australia, hospital, said Tuesday he is back to about 170 pounds.
The younger Neal worked out on his own Tuesday while fellow guards were going
through drills together on the court. It is unclear when Cullen Neal will be allowed to return to full contact drills with his teammates.