If he couldn’t find a player — preferably one with size — who could step in and contribute immediately, the first year Lobos men’s basketball coach planned to keep the scholarship open heading into the coming season.
Friday, that changed.
Thanks to a late change of heart about playing college basketball instead of turning pro, 6-foot-9 German forward Vladimir Pinchuk on Friday accepted a scholarship offer from Weir to play this coming season for the University of New Mexico. That is the 13th, and final, scholarship the Lobos have for the 2017-18 season.
Pinchuk, an 18-year-old from Hagen, Germany, played this past season for the NBBL’s Phoenix Hagen Juniors club and was called up for 16 games to play for EN Baskets Schwelm, a Pro-B professional team in Germany.
“He’s a big guy who is very skilled and has a very good feel for the game,” said Jonathan Givony, founder of NBA draft website DraftExpress.com, which was recently bought out by ESPN.
“He plays very hard. Very polished kid. He has some potential to be a very good player. It might take him a year to get used to the speed of the college game, but he has the potential to be very good there.”
Weir is not yet able to comment on Pinchuk’s commitment as his paperwork has not yet been filed.
Per NCAA rules, as long as Pinchuk did not receive payment while playing for the professional club, his eligibility will not be affected.
An email to Pinchuk and his father was not returned Friday.
Two sources told the Journal that Pinchuk was not heavily recruited as he planned to turn professional much of the past year. In late May, he changed his mind, took the NCAA-required placement tests and was only cleared in the past two weeks, when Weir began recruiting him.
Givony, who frequently does international scouting, posted on Twitter a highlight video of Pinchuk from the February’s ADIDAS Next Generation Tournament in Spain. In that, Pinchuk, playing on loan for Bayern Munich, averaged 15 points and 7.3 rebounds in four games. He scored 25 points, including 11-for-12 at the free throw line, in a loss to Real Madrid in that event.
6'9 German 2017 big man Vladimir Pinchuk committed to Paul Weir at New Mexico. Skilled, smart, competitive PF/C. Excelled at the ANGT Coin. pic.twitter.com/Cyo30IBSdP
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) August 11, 2017
Givony said Pinchuk is strong in the paint, but has shown a skill-set to develop into a solid outside shooter.
In 16 professional games for Schweml, Pinchuk averaged six points and four rebounds while shooting 53.8 percent in 15.4 minutes per game. For the Phoenix Hagen juniors club, he averaged 10 points, five rebounds and 20 minutes per game.
He plans to be in Albuquerque in the next couple weeks as classes start Aug. 21.
NEW MEXICO KID: One player Weir was allowed to talk about on Friday was Matt Vail Jr., the first walk-on the Lobos have added to this season’s roster.
Vail, a 6-foot guard from Grants and a member of the Navajo Nation, holds the Grants High School career scoring record and averaged 25 points, five assists, five rebounds and 4.5 steals per game for the Pirates, according to a UNM news release.
“Matt fits the mold of players we’ve been adding to the roster who can shoot from 3 and play in a fast- paced game,” Weir said in that release. “We are excited to not only add a player of this profile but an in-state young man as well.”