Less than two months after her arrival, Ahlise Hurst is starting to feel acclimated to Albuquerque.
A freshman from Bendigo, Australia, Hurst has the student/athlete part of her new life with the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team under control.
“I know how to get to my classes,” Hurst said, “how to get to training – practice, I mean. That’s what it’s called here. I’m good.”
Hurst has made an excellent first impression on UNM’s coaching staff, too. The 5-foot-9 guard/forward makes defense her top priority and tends to make life unpleasant for the Lobos’ other ball-handlers during scrimmages.
“She’s a really good on-ball defender,” head coach Mike Bradbury said, “which is something we lacked last year. Her basketball IQ is extremely high, too, especially for a freshman. Ahlise gets it.”
Bradbury doesn’t plan to announce or even determine a starting lineup (senior post Jaisa Nunn excepted) until the week before UNM’s Oct. 30 exhibition opener against Lubbock Christian. Even then, he intends to employ a different group of starters for the Lobos’ second exhibition contest, Nov. 4 against Eastern New Mexico.
With that said, Hurst has put herself very much in the mix.
“That’s one of my goals,” she said of earning a starting spot. “I want to be the best defensive player on the floor, as well.”
Lofty basketball ambitions run in Hurst’s family. Her father, Joe Hurst, was named MVP of Australia’s National Basketball League after the 1998 season. His daughter inherited not only Joe Hurst’s drive but a healthy share of his athleticism and quickness.
Ahlise Hurst calso can score. In Australia she impressed enough to earn a spot as a developmental player in the professional Women’s National Basketball League as a 17-year-old. Hurst did not earn a paycheck but gained valuable experience and once racked up 15 points in a WNBL game.
At UNM’s early practices, Hurst has looked good attacking the basket off the dribble. She’s also getting more and more comfortable from behind the 3-point arc.
“She’s good with the ball and she can really shoot it,” Bradbury said. “We’re trying to convince her to shoot more often.”
Hurst smiled at the suggestion.
“Yes, I need to be a shooter,” she said. “That’s what they keep telling me.”
While her transition to American college basketball has been relatively smooth, some aspects of relocating to New Mexico have proven more challenging. That includes answering the classic chile question: Red or green?
“I’d have to say neither,” Hurst said with a laugh. “I haven’t learned to do chile yet. I still don’t really eat that much here.”
Hurst has picked up some insights into American cuisine from transfer and fellow Aussie Bride Kennedy-Hopoate, who spent three seasons at Iowa State before joining the Lobos during the summer. Hurst did not previously know Kennedy-Hopoate but said she connected with her via FaceTime after the latter committed to UNM.
“Bride’s not much on chile either,” Hurst said with a laugh, “but it’s good having her here. When I start talking fast like we do at home, she’s the only one who understands me.”
FULL HOUSE: UNM had full participation for the first time this preseason when senior Emily Lines (foot) and freshman Quincy Noble (concussion) returned to practice this week. It didn’t last long as freshman Shaiquel McGruder injured an ankle during Tuesday’s practice. McGruder is considered day to day.