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Lobos sign highly-touted guard from NBA Academy Africa

Kurt-Curry Wegscheider, an 18-year-old basketball player from Central African Republic who has trained and studied at the NBA Academy Africa in Senegal, has signed a National Letter of Intent to play this coming season with the UNM Lobos. (Photo courtesy of NBA Academies via GoLobos.com)

The team with too many players just added another.

But for Lobos head coach Paul Weir, the opportunity was too much to pass up this time around.

UNM on Wednesday announced 6-foot-3 guard Kurt-Curry Wegscheider, an 18-year-old guard who plays for the Central African Republic national team. He has trained and been educated the past two years year at the NBA Academy Africa in Senegal and has signed a National Letter of Intent to join the team for the 2019-20 season.

The signing of the intriguing combo guard comes just two days after Lobo senior guard Anthony Mathis, last season’s leading scorer, announced he’d be leaving the team as a transfer. On Wednesday, he announced via social media that he would, indeed, play in his home state for the Oregon Ducks next season, including in his post a picture of himself in a Ducks uniform.

Among the stops on the journey of the newest well-traveled Lobo recruit was participating in last year’s Basketball Without Borders program. There, Wegscheider was coached by Pascal Siakam, the Toronto Raptors star who played two seasons at New Mexico State when Weir was an assistant there.

Siakam’s basketball journey also got a boost from participating in the Basketball Without Borders program when he was growing up in Cameroon before eventually signing to play for former NMSU coach Marvin Menzies.

“Pascal was his coach in Basketball Without Borders, and Pascal raved about him,” said Weir, the Toronto native who remains in contact with Siakam and has conversed with him about Wegscheider.

Kurt-Curry Wegscheider, an 18-year-old basketball player from Central African Republic. (Photo via Wegscheider’s Instagram page)

Siakam was just one of four or five people, independent of NBA Academy Africa, who offered the Lobos coaching staff high praise of Wegscheider.

“Several people have been able to see him play beyond what we’ve been able to see,” Weir said. “Even the new director of the NBA Academy in Africa is from Toronto and Jerome (Robinson, a Lobos assistant coach) has known him forever. I mean, a lot of things have lined up and these guys are like, ‘Paul, I’m telling you, you need to take this kid.’ So we watched a bunch of film on him. Got on the phone with him. He’s a five-star kid. A lot like Pascal – just really appreciative of things.”

Wegscheider was the MVP of the BWB Africa All Star games, receiving his trophy in person from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, and has also competed internationally at the 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend as part of the BWB Global initiative and on several continents, most recently in the NCAA’s Next Generation Sunday event at the Final Four in April.

He told UNM for a news release that was posted on the team’s website on Wednesday, “I am very excited to be joining The University of New Mexico. It is a great school rich in basketball traditions and with a brilliant education system. I can’t wait to follow the footsteps of other African players who did it before me.

“I am also happy that Lobo fans are the best in the conference, so I can’t wait to play in The Pit!”

The French-speaking Wegscheider, whose teammates in Africa playfully call “Pretty Kurt” because of the number of selfies he likes to take, said on a YouTube video posted by the NBA Academies, “I miss my family every moment, every second. If I leave my mother and my family to come here, it’s because I want to reach goals,” including the NBA.

Based on returning players and committed players expected to join the team, this would put UNM at 15 scholarship players for the coming season, two above the NCAA’s limit of 13.

Weir said he believes the reality of college basketball in 2019 is that recruiting must be year-round and teams must prepare for departures at every turn.

The NCAA has averaged nearly three player transfers per Division I team over the past couple seasons, yet the only Lobo who has announced he’s transferring this offseason is Mathis — a player nobody thought was coming back, anyway.

“There’s obvious academic uncertainties that we have to work through that we learned our lessons from last year,” Weir said. “But also we all saw two days ago that kids can transfer at any time. That wasn’t something that we expected.

“These rosters are fluid 12 months a year now. We had a kid leave halfway through the year this season. Kids are coming and going all year-round. As a coach, it behooves us to be constantly adapting to that and not being stuck at the end of that.”

The NCAA requires UNM to be at its 13 scholarship limit by the time classes begin in August.

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