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Lobos leading scorer Mathis talks about getting extra year of eligibility

On Monday, UNM’s Anthony Mathis spoke for the first time since gaining another year of eligibility. (Dean Hanson/Journal)

Anthony Mathis donned the cap and gown of a UNM graduate on Saturday.

He was decked out in golf spikes and a cherry red polo shirt as he teed it up Monday afternoon at the Sandia Golf Club as part of Lobo basketball’s annual 6th Man Club fundraiser golf tournament as the only current – yes, current – basketball player in the event.

In between, the West Linn, Ore., native spoke publicly Monday morning for the first time since the unexpected NCAA ruling on April 17 that gave the Lobos’ leading scorer a fifth season of playing eligibility for undisclosed reasons.

“There were a lot of things that fell in place,” Mathis said of the NCAA’s decision to grant another season of playing eligibility. “There wasn’t one specific thing. Obviously I didn’t play (a lot in the 2016-17 season) and the environment (around the UNM basketball program) was a little different for me personally. For whatever reason, there was just a bunch of things that fell into place. There wasn’t one, pinpoint thing.”

Specifically, or as specifically as he or UNM plan to get on the matter, the rule the athletic department used to appeal for the extra season was NCAA bylaw 12.8.6.3: “Season of competition waiver” by way of “extenuating circumstances.”

What those circumstances were that the NCAA felt rose to the level of Mathis’ deserving another full season remain unclear. The NCAA and UNM don’t plan to say more about it for now, nor as to whether UNM potentially faces any issues for what it was that happened at the school that season.

For now, the good news for Mathis, the Lobos and fans is that one of the program’s all-time great 3-point shooters has another year with the team, at least after a couple more hurdles. After the season ended, and with the odds being long of the waiver being approved, Mathis signed with an agent to start the process of becoming a professional basketball player. Normally, that would eliminate his chances of retaining his amateur status.

“He still has some logistical things to work through,” Lobos head coach Paul Weir said. “He still has to work through with the NCAA to unravel signing with an agent, unravel whatever benefits that agent may have given him. We’re in the process of doing that right now. We’ve given them everything. His agent has given them everything. He’s given them everything.”

And as for graduate school?

Mathis said he hasn’t yet applied, but hopes to this summer. Asked if he was certain UNM would be where he plays next year since the NCAA allows for graduates to transfer to another school and be immediately eligible, Mathis said, “I’m here right now, so, yeah.”

He said the past month has been a bit of whirlwind, not only getting the NCAA waiver, but also wrapping up what he had prepared in his mind to be his last month of college and now trying to prepare for another year of it.

“It’s not all about basketball,” Mathis said. “The first thing I thought about when I got the season back, I get to start my Master’s (degree). Getting your Master’s on a scholarship is something you can never take back from me after basketball is over, so I’m very fortunate for that. But at the same time, I need to get in the gym and get my whole mindset ready for playing college basketball again. I’m looking forward to that.”

And as for the hoops part of it all?

“We have so many great players on this team, if we can truly learn how to play for each other and put in a lot of work this summer, it will be a super special season,” Mathis said. “When you watch teams in March, you truly see who are the great teams and who are the somewhat selfish teams. I want to be a team that truly plays for each other.”

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