University of New Mexico women’s basketball fans may need some time to familiarize themselves with all the new faces on this season’s squad.
Jayla Everett doesn’t intend to wait.
Everett, who did a superb job separating herself as a high school player, is doing it again in the early days of her Lobo career. The 5-foot-10 freshman guard has grabbed the attention of coaches and teammates with her smooth ball skills and scoring ability.
With UNM’s first exhibition game less than two months away, coach Mike Bradbury fully expects Everett to make a fast, favorable impression Lobo fans. She figures to play a lot in 2018-19. It’s just a matter of what position(s) she’ll fill.
“Jayla’s a special talent,” Bradbury said. “If she stays on the path and her work ethic stays high, she has a chance to be great one. Her ceiling is really high — really high.”
Everett brought an impressive list of accomplishments from her native St. Louis. She led Kirkwood High School to back-to-back Missouri state championships and was named as that state’s Class 5 Player of the Year as a senior by members of its high school coaches association.
ESPNW evaluator Dan Olson ranked Everett as the nation’s No. 65 overall recruit. College coaches did not fail to notice.
“I stopped answering the phone,” Everett said shaking her head. “That situation got way too crazy.”
Everett settled on UNM after visiting Albuquerque with her parents.
“The atmosphere was the big thing,” Everett said. “My parents felt comfortable with me being here and I liked the team and the coaches. So far I’ve really enjoyed it here.”
Everett currently projects as a shooting guard but could ultimately handle the point for UNM, Bradbury said. Everett smiled when asked about her position preference.
“I think right now I’m probably better as a 2-guard,” she said. “I actually would rather pass the ball and set up a teammate than shoot, but if I’m open, I’m open. It’s going up.
“I guess I’ll just let (Bradbury) decide how to use me. He knows what he’s doing.”
Bradbury concedes he has quite a few decisions to make regarding personnel before the season tips off. Everett is one of seven new eligible players on UNM’s roster, and the battles for starting positions and playing time figure to be intense.
At the moment Bradbury says senior post Jaisa Nunn is the only sure starter, though junior transfer Aisia Robertson has a definite edge at point guard.
“Players are really challenging each other,” Bradbury said, “I think you’ll see a lot more numbers in terms of playing time, and minutes will be a lot more even. We have a lot of high-level people fighting for three positions right now.”
Everett says she’s up for the challenge.
“I came in expecting it to be hard,” she said, “and it has been. It’s completely different from high school where you kind of know where you stood. We have a really good energy here and it’s like a sisterhood, but everyone’s fighting for something. If you take plays off, someone will pass you by. I like that kind of atmosphere.”
RECRUITING SEASON: Bradbury and his staff are trying to nail down UNM’s 2019 recruiting class, and the season for official visits is underway. The Lobos recently hosted Azaria Robinson, a 6-foot-2 post from Anchorage, Alaska, who is rated among the nation’s top 100 prep seniors by multiple scouting services. She earned All-State honors after averaging 18.2 points, 12.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks for East High School last season.
Albuquerque offers a change of climate for Robinson, who visited with her mother, Wanda Robinson.
“I can handle the heat,” she said. “Sometimes in track season we have to shovel snow off the track before practice, so I’m not worried about hot weather.”
Robinson also planned to make visits to Nevada and Gonzaga before committing. UNM already has a verbal commitment from 6-1 forward Autumn Watts from Highlands Ranch, Colorado for 2019, with several more recruiting visits scheduled in the next few weeks.