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Lobo men have reasons for optimism now and for future

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

On the night the Lobos learned more help is on the way for the future, one of the four seniors on this year’s still-struggling roster again tried to make a statement that this season ain’t over yet.

Saturday the Lobos lost 65-62 at home to New Mexico State, but they also received a verbal commitment from 6-foot-10 forward/center Isaiah Maurice, who is playing at South Plains College in Texas after having spent the previous two seasons (one as a redshirt freshman) at the Big 12’s Kansas State .

Maurice made his commitment public on Sunday night with an Instagram post that said “Cheers to new beginnings” and had a photo of him in a Lobos jersey with “Welcome to New Mexico” on the photo.

The sophomore is averaging 12.1 points at South Plains College and shooting 73 percent from the field. He was dismissed from Kansas State in June for an unspecified team rules violation.

Maurice joins a three-man 2018 recruiting class and will be one of five newcomers to the roster next year counting two transfers sitting out this season per NCAA transfer rules. ( See more on Maurice’s Sunday night commitment here.)

Meanwhile, senior point guard Antino Jackson, the 6-foot graduate transfer from Akron who won’t get an opportunity to play with Maurice, continues to symbolize the slow, but steady, improvement several Lobos are making despite their 3-7 record.

“We’re coming together,” Jackson said after scoring a team-high 14 points. “It’s happening slow, but I feel like when it’s really time, and it really matters, it’s going to be there. We’re just being one, as a family. We’re putting it together, still.”

Lobos head coach Paul Weir said Jackson, who played off the ball when he scored 1,000 points in three seasons as a shooting guard at Akron, is still learning to be a point guard. But Jackson quickly has won over a once-skeptical Weir, who is coaching a graduate transfer for the first time.

“When he got here, I think he’ll tell you he had a lot of bad habits,” said Weir. “As a leader and on the court and off the court. I never knew you could change a senior the way he’s changed since he’s got here. He’s gone from one of my least favorite players to one of my favorites. His commitment to us, his commitment to being a better person and a better leader has been part of the reason why I think we’ve started to play better basketball here lately.”

In the past three games, Jackson is averaging 10.0 points, 2.3 3-pointers and 1.7 steals. That all has come after the Nov. 29 win over Evansville, during which Jackson, despite going scoreless, dished out 10 assists.

“I came from school where I was probably one of the main (players) in the offense,” Jackson said. “I had plays run for me. But now, my biggest thing is just being a team player. Whatever we need on any given night. Our motto is ‘Run, share and play.’ If other people are shooting the ball, or however the game is going, I just try to affect the game the best way I can.”

Jackson also pointed to the continued growth of fellow newcomers like Jachai Simmons, who has played some of this best basketball of the season in the past week, and both freshmen Vladimir Pinchuk and Makuach Maluach as evidence that things are still in a building phase for the Lobos.

LOGWOOD: Weir said Sunday he still had no update on the current “personal leave” senior forward Sam Logwood, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, is on.

The Lobos are off until at least Tuesday. Weir said he might even extend that until Wednesday, though several players were in the practice facility Sunday morning on personal time working out and watching film.

After Saturday’s loss, Weir noted their continued energy has impressed him.

“There are very few teams that are 3-6 that practice the way we did (Friday) night and (play) the way we did today,” Weir said, after his team had dropped to 3-7. “Their commitment to me, their commitment to us – it’s humbling and I hope they’re going to get a reward for it.”