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Hoops notebook: New faces mix with returning Lobos as summer program begins

Whatever looking good in a June scrimmage is worth for a college basketball team, the Lobos know they have that going for them.

After holding a regular afternoon press conference updating odds and ends about his men’s basketball team, Lobos coach Paul Weir allowed the media to see, for the first time in many cases, the new crop of Lobos actually on a court, playing basketball.

Minus junior college transfers Tajuan Agee and Keith McGee, both awaiting clearance to participate from their previous schools, all Lobos participated in a heated scrimmage Wednesday in the Pit, which didn’t happen one year ago at the beginning of the summer.

“I’m happy with where we’re at,” Weir said, referring to the conditioning and offseason progress of the players and the fact that last June the roster was only about two thirds available. “Our workload is terrific. To have everybody here, minus those two, is huge compared to where we were at 12 months ago.”

Newcomer Carlton Bragg, the 6-foot-10 former Kansas Jayhawk transfer who attended Arizona State last fall before leaving Tempe and enrolling at UNM in January, participated and played well. But he hasn’t been cleared by Weir to do interviews as he is still working toward meeting unspecified “program requirements.”

“Until he meets all those, I just don’t personally see the benefit of having him out in front of the media and talking to people consistently.”

Another Lobo newcomer, Corey Manigault, said the first week in the intense offseason conditioning program of strength coach Tyler Stuart has been intense, to say the least.

“Crazy,” Manigault said of the first week with Stuart. “I feel like my body is getting better, already, so I feel like it was worth it. But it’s definitely crazy. …

“The guys on the team warned me (about how hard it would be) a little better than the coaches (did when recruiting him).”

Former Kansas Jayhawk Carlton Bragg dunks during a scrimmage Wednesday in Dreamstyle Arena — The Pit. Bragg is one of several new Lobos on this year’s team. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

SAY WHAT? Weir said the sound system in Dreamstyle Arena — The Pit, a common fan complaint for many years, will be better this season.

“The plan is to have a new sound system in place by the time the season begins, which is something that I’ve been really pushing since I got here,” Weir said. “… I think it was something that was really hurting our in-game atmosphere.”

SEASON TICKETS: Weir says there have been 300 new season tickets sold this summer.

CONTRACTS: Assistant coaches Chris Harriman, entering his fourth season with UNM, and second-year assistants Jerome Robinson and Brandon Mason will be back. And maybe for at least a couple years.

“All the current coaching staff members have signed contracts — multi-year contracts to remain here,” Weir said. “I’m really happy about that — that we can keep these guys and keep the continuity going forward.”

Details on salary or the length of the contracts weren’t released.

The Journal last month put in an Inspection of Public Records Act request for the contracts and was told by the school’s records custodian on Wednesday morning in an email, “HR has informed me that they will require an extension on the new contract piece of your request as the agreements/contracts are still being negotiated. We should respond to this piece on or before July 14, 2018.”

Weir was unclear why that was emailed to the Journal and said the coaches contracts are, indeed, signed.

Former Lobo David Chiotti, Weir announced, will not return to the staff.

Weir had high praise for Chiotti, who volunteered this past season a the Director of Player Development. Weir said Chiotti is returning to the private sector.

SCHEDULE: The nonconference schedule is far from complete, but what has changed recently is the Hall of Fame Classic is no longer going to be an exempt tournament for UNM.

The Lobos will still play Saint Mary’s in Los Angeles at the Staples Center, but the game will be a single, neutral-court set up. The three home games for UNM that were supposed to be attached to the exempt event would only work if UNM and SMC could agree upon home games against like opponents. That has fallen through, so UNM is back in the market looking to play in an exempt tournament in November or December.

Tournaments designated by the NCAA as exempt (or called MTE’s for multi-team exempt tournaments) in November and December allow teams to squeeze an extra two to three games into their schedule.

PERKINS: At the end of the practice, out of earshot of where some media members were gathered, former Lobo and Dallas Cowboys running back Don Perkins addressed the team at the request of Weir.

After a words of encouragement from Perkins, 80, at the center of Bob King Court, the team gathered around him for a photo.

WARNING SHOT: Though he did not elaborate on what, exactly, the grades will be, Weir offered without being asked a not so sunny outlook on upcoming grade releases for the program.

“The men’s basketball grades aren’t anywhere near where they should be, Weir said. “That’s a reflection of a lot of things I don’t want to delve into right now. … I think in time those grades will be reflected differently.”



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