ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Some have yet to participate in their first official team practice for the University of New Mexico Lobos, but they’re already putting in work.
Incoming basketball recruits Joe Furstinger and Adam Cumber, freshmen, and juniors J.J. Nganga and Tim Jacobs were among 10 current Lobos, and several past Lobos, taking part this week in helping run the Craig “Noodles” Neal individual skills camp at the Rudy Davalos Center.
“Some of these guys (Lobo players) are getting in here at 7 a.m. to get a lift in or working out before the camp and classes,” Neal said. “It’s starting up, already.”
Summer classes at UNM started Monday, and most of the Lobo men’s basketball team is already on campus. Newcomers Jordan Goodman (junior college), Xavier Adams (incoming freshman), Elijah Brown (transfer from Butler who will sit out this season) and Tohi Smith-Milner (a freshman from New Zealand who still has much work ahead before he is cleared to play as an international player) have not yet arrived in Albuquerque. Senior-to-be Hugh Greenwood is home in Australia playing for the Boomers national team.
This week’s sold-out individual skills camp of 350 kids – ranging from first- through 12th-graders – has been filling the Davalos Center this week, preceding this weekend’s sold-out two-day shooting camp (240 kids signed up). That all precedes the June 12-15 elite team camp, which will feature 53 high school-aged teams from around the country.
The current and former Lobo players working the camp are allowed by the NCAA to get paid hourly wages for their participation – including for the first time this year, any incoming freshman.
Lobo players were not made available to talk with the media Wednesday.
Neal said all players new to the area are being held out of running or basketball drills until they’ve been in Albuquerque at least a week to acclimate to the elevation. Lifting weights is allowed for all.
LOCAL LOBO: It was announced earlier this week that Cumber, a 6-foot-3 guard from Sandia High, will be a walk-on for the Lobos. He joins Tim Jacobs, a former Oñate Knight guard who played the past two seasons at Cochise College in Arizona, as the Lobos’ two walk-ons this season.
“I liked him when I would see him playing against Cullen (Neal, Craig’s son and former Eldorado High star) when they were younger, and I really like his parents and the type of kid he is,” Craig Neal said. “We want local kids in the program when we can. We might redshirt him this year, but he can play. He and Tim both are going to help us get better.”
SPECIAL VISITORS: A year ago, Dane Kuiper, the 6-foot-7 shooting guard from Tempe (Ariz.) Corona Del Sol, took an unofficial recruiting visit to UNM during the summer and decided to give his verbal commitment to the program. He became at the time the first Class of 2015 recruit committed to the program.
This weekend, the Lobos are hopeful the campus and the facilities leave a similar impression on Kuiper’s Arizona Power AAU teammate, Class of 2016 prospect Mitchel Lightfoot, a 6-10 center from Tucson’s Ironwood Ridge High. Kuiper will be with Lightfoot on the visit this weekend.
MORE VISITORS: Tim Williams, a 6-8 transfer from Samford University (Birmingham, Ala.) who was the 2013 Southern Conference Freshman of the Year, will be making a recruiting visit to UNM in two weeks. Simmons averaged 17.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game this past season for the Bulldogs.
Should all the newcomers of the 2014 recruiting class in fact enroll by August, the Lobos would not have an open scholarship to offer Simmons. There is a possibility, however, that Smith-Milner, currently playing for the New Zealand national team, could have to wait a year to gain eligibility by the NCAA Clearinghouse to enroll at UNM for the coming season. It is common for international players to often face delays in gaining clearance to play while the NCAA approves their high school coursework.
Should that happen with Smith-Milner, he would be expected to join the Lobos 2015 recruiting class.