The 2018-19 UNM Lobos men’s basketball roster will, much like this past season, be full of new faces.
The team on Thursday announced Chris McNeal, the junior point guard who was in Albuquerque just one season, has decided to transfer from the program this offseason, a move he had been contemplating in recent weeks.
“Chris has truly been a great person to have in our program,” Lobos head coach Paul Weir said in a statement released by the school on Thursday. “We wish him nothing but the best in his future.”
McNeal played his freshman season at Western Kentucky, his sophomore season at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa, and transferred last summer to play for Weir and the Lobos.
He played in all 34 games at UNM with 19 starts and averaged 9.5 points and 2.7 assists and played the second most minutes (829) for the team this past season (Joe Furstinger was first with 895 minutes played).
Because he has already played three seasons, McNeal has just one season of playing eligibility remaining and if he transfers to an NCAA Division I program he will have to sit out the coming 2018-19 season and would be eligible to play his final season in 2019-20.
Three newcomers on next year’s roster are point guards like McNeal, including junior college signee Keith McGee, prep recruit Drue Drinnon and Ohio State transfer JaQuan Lyle, who is more of a combo guard, but could see minutes at the point for UNM next season and did so frequently as a freshman and sophomore at Ohio State.
UNM has had six players officially leave the program this offseason — three by exhausting their NCAA eligibility in seniors Joe Furstinger, Sam Logwood and Antino Jackson — and three who have officially been granted their release to transfer in junior forward Connor MacDougall (did not play this past season because of injury, has one year of eligibility remaining and is immediately eligible as a potential graduate transfer), junior forward Jachai Simmons (played one season at UNM, has expressed desire to play closer to his New Jersey home and has one season of eligibility remaining but would have to sit out one year if transferring to another Division I school), and McNeal.
As of Thursday, the Lobos appeared even on their NCAA-allowed scholarship limit of 13 for the 2018-19 season, but Weir acknowledges other moves could still happen. He and his entire coaching staff are on the road recruiting this weekend for potential players for both the coming season and for the Class of 2019.
The list of UNM’s returning scholarship players as of Thursday included: sophomore wing Vance Jackson, junior guard Dane Kuiper, junior guard JaQuan Lyle, freshman wing Makuach Maluach, junior guard Anthony Mathis, freshman center Vladimir Pinchuk and junior guard Troy Simons.
The new signees for next season include high school guards Drinnon and Tavian Percy and junior college forwards Tajuan Agee and Karim Ezzeddine. Junior forward Carlton Bragg, a transfer from Kansas, is already enrolled at UNM and expected to be on next season’s roster, but is not yet on scholarship.