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Vance Jackson says he’ll return to Lobos

New Mexico’s Vance Jackson, front, looks for room to maneuver during MWC quarterfinal action last month vs. Utah State. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

Vance Jackson is still a Lobo.

While he technically never left the program, his Friday announcement on his social media accounts that he is done testing the NBA Draft waters and won’t turn pro was received by plenty of Lobo basketball fans with relief and celebration.

Jackson’s Friday afternoon post on Twitter had hundreds of “likes” and retweets and responses from Lobo fans within a couple hours, most thrilled that the 6-foot-9 junior forward from California will again be wearing the cherry and silver for the 2019-20 season.

Jackson’s tweet stated:

“Wow, what an eye opening experience! An experience that I personally needed in order to take strides forward in my growth as an athlete and most importantly in my growth as a man. In that short time I was able to sit back and reflect. Thoughts of my teammates, our coaching staff and our great fans were constantly on my mind. With that being said, Lobo Nation we’ve got some unfinished business and I’m excited to announce that I will be staying in school.”

In 32 games with UNM last season, Jackson was second on the team in scoring (13.1 per game), rebounding (7.0 per game) and steals (1.1 per game) and led the Lobos in assists (2.7 per game).

His strength was his versatility, posing mismatch problems depending on who opposing teams used to defend him — proving to be too big in the post when defended by smaller guards and to good of an outside shooter (he hit 57 3-pointers this pas season) to be guarded by slower big men 20-plus feet from the basket.

Jackson took advantage of a new NCAA rule that allows players to retain their college eligibility while still hiring an agent to help with workouts or preparation up until about a week prior to the NBA Draft as long — as they don’t take extra benefits beyond the cost of those workouts or travel, and as long as they maintain their academic eligibility. Jackson, who was working out of his home in California, had exclusively online classes with UNM this spring semester and did not quit those courses.

His return to the roster, coupled with the recent surprise ruling by the NCAA that senior guard Anthony Mathis was granted another season of eligibility, restoring his 2016-17 season (he played just 10 games and a total of 64 minutes) means the Lobos return their top six scorers from this past season’s 14-18 team. They have added three transfers (one already on scholarship this past season) and two freshmen.

The NCAA allows teams 13 scholarships per season, meaning the Lobos losing two scholarships (Dane Kuiper graduating and Karim Ezzeddine quitting the team in January) and adding four new ones won’t work. As of Friday, no Lobo player had requested to be placed in the NCAA transfer portal, leaving UNM as one of only two programs in the Mountain West (Air Force the other) to not have at least one player intending to transfer. But, the recent trend of recruiting in college basketball has been for transfers and additions to continue at all schools of all levels often well into July or even August.

At least one of the four new Lobo players is expected to become a walk-on, the Journal has learned, leaving UNM over by one scholarship heading into 2019-20.

UNM is not commenting either on Jackson’s decision to return or on any potential scholarship or transfer issues.

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