For the first time since a Jan. 3 game in Boise, Idaho, the University of New Mexico men’s basketball team is expecting a full complement of 10 available scholarship players on Wednesday night when it hosts the Utah State Aggies.
“I’m anxious to get out at full strength for the first time in awhile against somebody and kind of see how it goes,” said first-year Lobos coach Paul Weir.
Over the past 10 games the team has played, six Lobo players have missed for various reasons a total of 20 individual games (Sam Logwood seven games, Troy Simons five, Vladimir Pinchuk three, Jachai Simmons three, Joe Furstinger one and Antino Jackson one).
In that 10-game stretch without the full complement of 10 players (that doesn’t count scholarship transfers JaQuan Lyel and Vance Jackson or redshirting Connor MacDougall), UNM won five of the first six games. But UNM then lost three of the last four games as team chemistry has looked shaky at best with players shuffling in and out of the rotation with more regularity.
“I think anybody could make the case that the on-court chemistry is a work in progress,” said Weir, acknowledging some of the disjointed play has been a direct result of players missing time for suspensions he chose to mete out.
“… The on-court chemistry might be a reflection a little bit of those decisions. If I had to do them all over again, I would still do them.”
While Weir doesn’t regret his suspension decisions, he does acknowledge he reflects on his handling of situations.
When Simons was suspended by the Mountain West after being ejected from the Jan. 3 game at Boise State, his second ejection of the season, Weir extended the suspension to a total of five games as Simons worked off the court on addressing some anger management issues.
When senior forward Joe Furstinger was suspended by the league last week by the league for an unsportmanlike hard foul attempt on Boise State’s Marcus Dickinson, Weir said the one-game suspension was the same he had planned to issue.
The discrepancy was one some fans questioned.
“I reflect on a lot of things,” Weir said. “Trying to become the best coach that I can be — I’m far from a finished portrait here — if I had to do it all over again, I probably would have suspended Troy after New Mexico State (the other team Simons was ejected against this season). That was probably my error in judgment. I didn’t (do it). I tried to continue to mentor and work with him and talk with him to work with the things that were going on and I didn’t. They festered and eventually got worse and eventually probably made me probably do something a little over dramatic compared to what I could have done at the beginning.”
In the case of Furstinger, whose absence in Saturday’s loss at Air Force was very apparent as his shot-blocking ability at the rim was sorely missed, Weir said the matter was very different from that of Simons or other players he has suspended this season for other reasons.
“It’s apples and oranges to an extent,” Weir said. “I felt Joe’s immediate response to me (after the Boise State game) and in general was appropriate and what I wanted to hear. Very similar to what I went through previously with Antino (suspended one game for a violation of team policy prior to the Jan. 31 loss at Utah State).”
Whatever the reasons for their time away (Pinchuk missed three games with a concussion and Simmons three games on bereavement leave after the death of his father), Weir is excited, and a little curious, what his team will look like Wednesday and over the regular season’s home stretch.