In October, before the UNM Lobos set out for their first road trip — a closed-to-the-public scrimmage against Northern Arizona University — Paul Weir handed out a questionnaire to his players.
Among the many questions, one was a bit of a logistical one for a team with more than a dozen trips to come in the season ahead.
“It was just asking them a plethora of questions,” Weir said. “One of them was who would you like to pick as your roommate for the road this year? I remember getting them all back and I gave them three choices. … Antino (Jackson) put Joe (Furstinger), Joe and Joe. And I didn’t even know. I remember telling the staff I didn’t even know Joe and Antino even knew each other.”
And that, in its own unassuming way, might just be the best way to sum up the legacy Joe Furstinger left on the Lobos as he, Jackson and four-year Lobo Sam Logwood prepare to play their final home games tonight against Fresno State in Dreamstyle Arena.
Through four years at UNM, often far away from the attention or adoration of fans, Furstinger was far more about being a good teammate and friend than grabbing headlines.
That’s not to say he doesn’t have plenty of personal memories, but he’s more interested in continuing to make more with this team than talk about his own.
In fact, the leap of faith taken by this season’s three Lobo seniors — Jackson, Furstinger and four-year Lobo Sam Logwood — to even be apart of this season might be what they’re remembered for most if the next eight days, or even the next few seasons, go as well as fans are starting the believe they can.
“The greatest thing about these guys in particular … was their persistence and their commitment through the struggle,” said Weir. “When we were 3-8, it was probably pretty easy to pack it in. We’ve seen a lot of other teams around our league or around the country and they packed it in. We had a lot of times we could have packed it in this year or they could have.
“And for a first-year guy (coaching the team) that they don’t necessarily have a ton of allegiance to and don’t even necessarily have to follow because they are halfway out the door, they did. They followed my lead and I’ll always be tremendously thankful to them for that.”
Jackson, the 6-foot graduate transfer from Akron who has 1,230 career points, most from his three seasons as a shooting guard with the Zips, could have gone to a lot of programs, but bought into Weir and UNM as he tried to prove he could be a point guard after having not done so since high school.
“(He) showed a lot of faith on his part that I’ll always be thankful for,” said Weir.
Logwood, the 6-8 forward from Indianapolis, has been remarkably open and candid in recent weeks about the frustrations he’s gone through in his time at UNM while an entire fan base was watching, and some often critiquing. And he’s now playing as good as he has at any point in his college career.
“I think the most interesting thing about my relationship with Sam is it’s just beginning,” Weir said. “… I never probably appreciated the depth to which Sam’s emotions go. He’s not a simple kid to figure out. There’s a lot of layers.”
And of Furstinger, the 6-9 forward from California who is the only experienced big man on the Lobo roster since the October ankle sprain to Connor MacDougall led to his deciding to redshirt the season, Weir can’t say enough about his value to this season.
“When Connor went down our season really lied in Joe’s hands a little bit because if he wasn’t able to give us those games and those minutes and those numbers, our season would have been really lost,” Weir said.
WHAT’S AT STAKE: If the Lobos beat Fresno State, they get the No. 3 seed in the MWC tournament. If they lose, they are No. 4.
But another level of intrigue comes if Wyoming beats the Boise State Broncos, leaving BSU at 12-6. Then, the winner of UNM/Fresno State will also finish at 12-6 and be tied for second place in the final standings, though still hold on to the No. 3 seed via tiebreakers behind BSU.
MWC Seeding Scenarios
Here are the team-by-team MWC Tournament seeding scenarios heading into the final day of the regular season. Teams listed in order of current standings. Teams in bold CAPS are locked to that seed.)
• NEVADA (25-6, 14-3): No. 1 seed
• BOISE STATE (22-7, 12-5): No. 2 seed
• Fresno State (21-9, 11-6): No. 3 seed with win over UNM; No. 4 seed with loss to UNM AND loss by Wyoming; No. 5 seed with loss to UNM AND Wyoming win
• New Mexico (16-14, 11-6): No. 3 seed with win over Fresno State; No. 4 seed with loss to Fresno State
• San Diego State (18-10, 10-7): No. 5 seed with win AND Wyoming loss; No. 6 seed with loss or Wyoming win
• Wyoming (19-11, 10-7): No. 4 seed with win over Boise State AND Fresno State loss AND SDSU loss; No. 5 seed with win over Boise State AND SDSU loss or loss to Boise State AND SDSU loss; No. 6 seed with loss AND SDSU win
• UNLV (20-10, 9-8): No. 7 seed with win over Utah State; No. 8 seed with loss to Utah State
• Utah State (14-16, 7-10): No. 7 seed with win over UNLV; No. 8 seed with loss to UNLV
• AIR FORCE (11-18, 5-12): No. 9 seed
• COLORADO STATE (11-20, 4-14): No. 10 seed
• SAN JOSE STATE (4-24, 1-16): No. 11 seed