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Lobo women look strong in post

Jaisa Nunn and Nike McClure have been getting in each other’s way for years.

That may change this fall when the 6-foot-3 senior posts from Washington state look to clear space for one another as University of New Mexico women’s basketball teammates.

Nunn, a three-year standout for the Lobos, and McClure, a graduate transfer from Washington State, have been squaring off in the paint during the Lobos’ summer workouts. It’s a familiar pattern that dates to their AAU days with the Northwest Blazers program.

But UNM coach Mike Bradbury intends to play the two physical posts together next season. He’s confident Nunn and McClure can stop pushing each other around while creating match-up nightmares for opponents.

“In almost all of the games we play next season, we’ll have the two best posts on the floor,” Bradbury told his guards during summer drills at the Davalos Center. “If you get cut off or get in trouble, remember that. Just get Jaisa or Nike the ball.”

The directive brought a smile to Nunn, who did plenty with her opportunities last season. The Kirkland, Wash., native averaged a double-double (17 points, 10.2 rebounds per game) and earned All-Mountain West honors despite being constantly swarmed by opposing defenders.

Nunn is not concerned that her production will dip with McClure in the lineup. On the contrary, she believes having another legitimate post threat will allow both players to thrive.

“Our games are different,” Nunn said, “and I think we’ll complement each other. I’ve played against Nike, so I know what she can do.”

McClure, who spent the past four seasons at Washington State, has not faced Nunn in a collegiate game. Their history goes back further.

Nunn and McClure both played for Northwest Blazers, though not as teammates because McClure is nearly two years older and competed on different age-group squads. They did go head to head in practice and at various summer tournaments, however.

“Going against Nike always made me mad,” Nunn recalled. “She runs like a gazelle, and I definitely don’t run anything like a gazelle. I usually spent the whole time chasing her around.”

McClure doesn’t remember the matchups fondly either.

“I used to get so irritated because Jaisa was two years younger and she still gave me the works in the post,” McClure said. “I was really skinny in high school, and Jaisa was built strong. I just tried to make her run whenever I could.”

Ironically, McClure’s desire and ability to run the floor ultimately helped her end up on a roster with Nunn. UNM’s up-tempo style was one of the primary selling points in her decision to join the Lobos next season.

“I love the pace,” McClure said. “They start fast here and just keep on going.”

A native of small-town Tenino, Wash., McClure injured both knees and took a redshirt season as a freshman at Washington State. She then endured three straight losing campaigns.

McClure enjoyed individual success — including a school- and Pac 12-record 12-block performance against Colorado — but her team struggled in the powerhouse conference. WSU coach June Daugherty took a leave of absence last season due to health concerns and the school announced in March she would not return.

McClure, who is eligible to play next season as a graduate transfer, decided a change of scenery was in order. New Mexico had a potential recruiting chip in Nunn.

“I could have called Nike and given her the full sales pitch,” Nunn said, “but nobody asked me.”

Such a call was not necessary. Bradbury sold McClure on the idea of helping a Lobo team that won 25 games a season ago take the next step.

“Mike was really honest with me about what he wants to do next season,” McClure said. “He has high expectations for the team and for me, which was what I wanted. I had a lot of options but New Mexico felt like the best option.”

Bradbury envisions a Lobos lineup with considerably more height than last season, but he does not plan to slow things down.

“Absolutely not,” Bradbury said. “Having Nike on the floor will let Jaisa play the perimeter a little more, and make our post defense and rebounding a lot better. That just means we grab the rebound, throw an outlet pass and go. We won’t slow it down and wait for the posts.”

Nunn and McClure have yet to play together but they’ve proven a good match for each other in summer workouts. Their similar size and strength makes for physical skirmishes in the paint, which is exactly what both players expected.

“Nike’s strong and we’re both competitive people,” Nunn said. “It’s always going to be a battle.”

Added McClure, “We’re going to make each other better.”

Bradbury believes the seniors’ different strengths can benefit them when they’re practicing head to head. He’s even more eager to see what they can do side by side.

“Jaisa is more polished offensively,” Bradbury said, “and Nike is more athletic and better defensively. They’re both good rebounders, which was not a team strength for us last year, and I think having both of them will make us tougher. I don’t see either one getting pushed around too much. “