Earlier this month, Vance Jackson said he shared the vision new University of New Mexico head coach Paul Weir has for the future of Lobo basketball.
Monday, Vance Jackson announced he wanted to be a part of that future.
The 6-foot-8 freshman forward announced he will transfer from the University of Connecticut to join the Lobos.
“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson said June 8 when making a recruiting visit in Albuquerque. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”
It was a connection that wasn’t matched on any of his other recruiting visits in the past two months to Power Conference programs Washington, Rutgers and TCU or to Mountain West rival San Diego State, each of which offered him a scholarship.
Jackson started 21 games for UConn this past season, averaging 26.9 minutes, 8.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game while hitting 39.7 percent of his 3-pointers.
Monday, Jackson expanded on his decision, telling the Journal his picking UNM had everything to do with the relationships he felt he quickly forged with Lobo coaches, players and even fans.
“I like the coach a lot,” Jackson said. “I felt like I had a good relationship with him. He’s a young coach and I felt like he was easy to talk to.
“But I also want to play somewhere where the fans are passionate. They have one of the best fanbases there in the Pit. They’re usually a top 20 fanbase nationally and that was important.”
Jackson actually signed with the Lobos late Sunday and announced the decision publicly on Monday, first telling ESPN.
While the recruitment was a group effort by the UNM coaching staff, assistant Marc Hsu spearheaded the effort. Weir is actually out of the country helping coach the Canadian Junior National Team at the world championships.
Jackson, who was a consensus top 100 recruit in the Class of 2016 out of Prolific Prep Academy in Napa, Calif., is the fifth recruit to sign on to play for the Lobos since Weir was hired in April. He will have to sit out the coming 2017-18 season per NCAA transfer rules and then have three seasons of playing eligibility remaining.
UNM has had plenty of transition in the coaching staff and roster this offseason and still has three open scholarships for the coming 2017-18 season.
And while Jackson said he’d like to be part of the rebuilding of the program, he’s also not planning on being patient with the turnaround.
“Definitely,” Jackson said when asked if he was excited about being a part of the rebuilding process, “but I want to win, too. I want to go and help the team win right away.”
Jackson’s versatility — an ability to run, pass, dribble and shoot from long range — intrigued the Lobos coaching staff.
“I can play any position,” Jackson said June 8, adding he thinks of himself as a big guard as opposed to a forward. “I can shoot the ball. I feel like I’m a mismatch nightmare for a lot of defenders who want to guard me. And I just want to win, too.”
Jackson joins four other players who have committed to play for the Lobos, including:
• Antino Jackson, point guard, Akron
• Chris McNeal, point guard, Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College
• Jachai Simmons, forward, Midland (Texas) College
• Troy Simons, guard, Polk State College (Florida)
Both Simmons and McNeal enrolled in summer classes earlier this month. Antino Jackson and Simons have summer coursework to complete first at their previous schools.
Vance Jackson will arrive on campus in time to enroll in the July summer session.
ADDING STRENGTH: UNM announced Monday the hiring of strength and conditioning coach Tyler Stuart to join the men’s basketball team. Stuart replaces, Glenn Cain who will work with the Rutgers women’s basketball team.
Stuart comes from Florida where he worked for the past five years with multiple sports, primarily women’s basketball.
“This is as exciting an acquisition for me since I arrived in Albuquerque,” said Weir in a release sent out by UNM. “Tyler’s commitment to excellence is perfect for our program as we build the foundation. His background at Florida with pressing and fast-paced teams make him a terrific fit for training our style of play. His abilities to push young men beyond the norm will be pivotal to our success.”
Stuart has also worked at Appalachian State and Clemson, where he graduated in 2007 and earned his master’s in 2011.
Last year at Florida, he worked with Bill Ferrara, who was hired in the spring as an assistant coach on the Lobo women’s basketball team.