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For state’s DII basketball teams, all roads lead to the Pit this weekend

New Mexico Highlands coach Craig Snow, a former assistant basketball coach at UNM, is plenty familiar with what it’s like to be down on Bob King Court for a game in Dreamstyle Arena – The Pit.

But now as a head coach and athletic director at New Mexico Highlands University, he has an even greater appreciation for the opportunity to do so with his new program in the second New Mexico Basketball Classic – an event that features New Mexico’s three Division II men’s basketball programs, one of its NAIA teams and the UNM Lobos playing multiple games in the Pit over two days.

“I’d like to thank UNM and specifically coach (Paul) Weir for getting this tournament in Albuquerque,” Snow said. “It’s great for our program and our players. We will continue to recruit the state of New Mexico and this tournament helps us do that in many ways.”

Snow’s Cowboys have a pair of returning starters from New Mexico high schools (Sandia’s Jordan Jones and West Las Vegas’ D.J. Bustos).

So, too, do the other teams in the event – Eastern New Mexico University, Western New Mexico University, Fort Lewis College (Durango, Colo.), and Northern New Mexico, which plays the Lobos in a Saturday exhibition.

“Playing in the Pit is something that you can’t appreciate until you’ve done it,” ENMU third-year coach Tres Segler said. “I was blown away my very first year as a head coach that my first game was at the Pit. The long ramp down, the perfect sizing of the arena, and the overall ambiance is incredible. You get to feel all the history that gym holds, but the Pit’s branding and updates are to all the highest modern standards. It truly feels like an NBA arena.’

NMHU, ENMU, WNMU and Fort Lewis will play two games Friday (free to fans and played in the Rudy Davalos practice facility) and two games Saturday in the Pit. Tickets for those games are $10 and can get fans into both games and into Saturday night’s UNM vs. Northern New Mexico exhibition. Fans must keep their tickets because the arena must be cleared before the Lobos game.

Weir says he hopes to get New Mexico State University to be a part of future New Mexico Classic tournaments in some way, either against the Lobos or against the D-II programs.

“This tournament itself, going to Hobbs, going to Farmington, going to Gallup, for me personally, has all been about me trying to bring a basketball community together,” Weir said. “… I think basketball in this state is special. I think it should be honored every chance we get.”

WNMU’s Matt Enriquez says the exposure for his program is invaluable.

“We are very appreciative to coach Weir, his staff, and UNM for making this happen again,” Enriquez said. “It is a chance to showcase our program to a broader audience. This will be a great experience for our players and fans.”

Defending Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference champion Fort Lewis College has featured several New Mexico players on its roster through the years, including two more this season.

“We are extremely grateful to have the opportunity to play at a historic venue like the Pit,” FLC coach Bob Pietrack said. “It is a great experience for our players and wonderful exposure for our basketball program.”

New Mexico Basketball Classic schedule

Where: Rudy Davalos Center (practice facility attached to the Pit)
Tickets: Free admission
• Fort Lewis College vs. Eastern New Mexico, 12:30 p.m.
• New Mexico Highlands vs. Western New Mexico, 3 p.m.

Where: Dreamstyle Arena – The Pit
Tickets: $10 and good for both games plus Saturday night’s UNM Lobos exhibition game vs. Northern New Mexico, but fans must keep ticket to get into Lobos game
• Fort Lewis College vs Western New Mexico, 12:30 p.m.
• New Mexico Highlands vs Eastern New Mexico, 3 p.m.
• UNM vs Northern New Mexico, 7 p.m.