As another high school basketball season commenced Monday, there is a conclusion to be reached that had never entered my brain before any other year:
The individual star power in New Mexico — in fact, the majority of the star power — lies not with the boys but with the girls.
In August, I wrote about an incoming freshman at Highland, Cailee Crawford, who already has a Division I offer from Clemson and even has Connecticut inquiring about her. This is not an insignificant thing.
During the course of my reporting on Cailee, I was chasing down her club coach for some background, but he was traveling. A week later, he got back to me, which led me to an even more astonishing discovery — another Albuquerque girl, another incoming freshman who has, not one, but five Division I scholarship offers.
This would be combo guard Viané Cumber of Sandia, who’s got offers from New Mexico, Arizona State, Clemson, New Mexico State and San Diego State.
Sometimes, this is how the dots are connected as we seek out interesting or newsworthy subjects.
And today, the names of Crawford and Cumber, who figure to be intertwined in this town for the next four seasons, will lead to many other names. More on them directly.
She is 14. She is 5-9½ and the younger sister of former Sandia standout and University of New Mexico men’s walk-on Adam Cumber. She is a Sandia neighborhood kid, who hails from a basketball — and church-going — family. Viané (vee-a-NAY) is how she pronounces her first name, although hardly anybody uses it. Everyone calls her “V.”
Cumber’s offer from Arizona State is unique. ASU saw her in a team camp, then invited her back a few days later to an elite individual camp.
“I felt honored,” Cumber said. “When I went back, I was a little nervous.”
Cumber said Arizona State told her that they had never before offered a scholarship to someone so young.
UNM coach Mike Bradbury offered Cumber in the middle of July. UNM, Clemson and SDSU all offered the same week, in fact, after Cumber returned from a club tournament in Atlanta.
New Mexico State offered after the others. Tulane, Oregon, Auburn, Maryland, Pepperdine, Indiana and Villanova are among the other schools also looking closely at Cumber.
“Obviously, you feel honored that all your hard work is paying off, but you have to have the mindset of, you gotta keep focused on what your goals are,” Cumber said in a recent interview with the Journal.
Cumber in June tried out for the U16 Olympic team in Colorado Springs. There were five cuts, and she made it through four of them. Speaking practically, that probably does more to raise her national profile than even those five D-I offers.
“You get exposed to a whole new world,” she said, “and not just basketball. It’s about being a good person in general.”
While there will be pressures for her at Sandia, Cumber appears nonplussed by all of this. Her brother — whose nickname is “Q” — has been a stabilizing force in her life, and someone Viané greatly admires.
“He’s set the bar really high,” Cumber said. “He’s always willing to push me past my limits.”
Added Sandia coach Lee Kettig, “She’s incredibly grounded because of the messages she gets from home. She’s able to keep it in perspective because of her home life.”
A loaded field
The skeptics will point out, perhaps with merit — although does it really matter? — that there are more opportunities for New Mexico girls to advance to D-I basketball than there are for the boys. I wouldn’t argue with this, since New Mexico rarely produces boys capable of playing Division I.
What sets this upcoming season apart is the quantity, and quality, of the players in the pool. Girls who have drawn D-I interest. Girls who have been extended D-I offers. Girls who have made their verbal commitments to D-I programs.
Any list, naturally, starts with Cibola’s Amaya Brown, who is expected to sign with Florida State — this, after being pursued by quality programs from one end of this country to the other.
Brown’s cousin, Hobbs senior guard Amaya Lewis — their fathers were once teammates at New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs — has offers from New Mexico State, Florida A&M and Weber State. LSU is also interested but has not offered, said Lewis’ mother Lisa.
Oñate senior Jayden Perez has committed to San Diego State, although she is expected to miss most, if not all, of her senior season after suffering a serious knee injury in June. UNM and St. Mary’s were among the other schools that had extended a scholarship offer.
Las Cruces High guard Sarah Abney has given her verbal commitment to Sacramento State. Rio Rancho senior guard Camryn Hawkins has verbally committed to UT-Arlington. Highland has two other players, the Crespin sisters, Esperanza, a 6-foot senior forward, and Natazanya, a 5-10 senior guard, who just last week verbally committed to D-I Hampton (Va.)
Even among the younger ranks, Sandia’s Cumber and Highland’s Crawford are hardly the only stellar recruits out there.
La Cueva’s dynamic sophomore, guard Kaya Ingram, plays on the same club team as Crawford and Cumber. She, too, has an offer from Clemson — actually, Clemson offered Ingram before it offered either of the other two — and the speedy, 5-foot-6 Ingram surely will find herself juggling other offers soon enough. Carlsbad scoring guard Carsyn Boswell, who is about to start her junior season, is another of the state’s premier players that could eventually sign a D-I scholarship.
Add them up, and that’s about a dozen girls (that we know of) who are on their way to Division I, sooner or later.
That’s serious girl power.
“It’s amazing,” Cumber said as she pondered that list, “to see that in New Mexico, we’re doing good.”