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Hoops notebook: Ex-Lobo transfers to San Diego, African guard clears NCAA hurdle

Former UNM Lobo center Vladimir Pinchuk shows off his new University of San Diego jersey on an Instagram post from Tuesday. Pinchuk transferred to USD this summer. (Photo via Pinchuk’s Instagram page)

Vladimir Pinchuk’s basketball journey continues.

Just not in Albuquerque.

After the 6-foot-11 center from Schwelm, Germany, announced in June he would transfer after two seasons of playing with the University of New Mexico Lobos, he has found a home at the University of San Diego.

Pinchuk recently committed to transfer to the West Coast Conference program. He already is living in San Diego and working out as the 2019-20 school year approaches.

“I really had a great time in the past two years at UNM,” Pinchuk told the Journal in a text conversation on Monday night. “I learned a lot as a person, student and athlete. I appreciate everybody who helped me becoming the person I am today. I wish my ex-teammates and coaching staff best of luck next season.”

Pinchuk came to UNM in September 2017 after classes already had begun. He played for a professional team in Germany and learned basketball from his father, who was a member of the Soviet Union national team that won a silver medal at the 1990 World Championship.

View this post on Instagram

Time to work, see you in a year.

A post shared by Vladimir Pinchuk (@vladyo15) on

In two seasons with the Lobos, Pinchuk proved far more defensive specialist than offensive. The team’s defensive points per possession statistics were at their best in the 2018-19 season in the minutes Pinchuk was on the floor, though some fans grew vocally frustrated with his lack of offensive production.

Pinchuk averaged 3.0 points, 2.9 rebounds and 0.6 blocked shots in 13.7 minutes per game this past season for UNM.

Pinchuk scored in double figures four times for the Lobos in two seasons — 12 points in his first game against NAIA Northern New Mexico on Nov. 11, 2017, and then 10 points three times (UNLV as a freshman and against Iona and UTEP as a sophomore). He also blocked a career best four shots in the Jan. 5 upset of nationally ranked Nevada in Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit.

Prior to the season, teammate and roommate Makuach Maluach said of Pinchuk in a podcast interview with the Journal, “Fans probably won’t see it, but he does the dirty work for us. For me, every time I drive and a big comes and tries to block my shot and I get a free layup, people are going crazy about my layup, but it’s obviously his bucket (because he set such good screens).”

As for USD, Pinchuk will have to sit out the coming season per NCAA transfer rules, then has two seasons of eligibility remaining.

And, despite the idle season ahead, Pinchuk opted to stay in the United States all summer rather than heading home.

“I didn’t want to go back home so I can start working on myself as an athlete ASAP,” Pinchuk said.

On staff at USD is former UNM Lobos assistant Terrance Rencher, who worked with the Lobos under former head coach Craig Neal and was gone before Pinchuk was ever recruited to Albuquerque.

DANE’S NEW GIG: Former Lobo guard Dane Kuiper last week announced via social media he has signed a professional contract to play in the coming season for UBSC Graz, a professional team in Graz, Austria.

KURT-CURRY: The 2019-20 Lobos roster is one step closer to being completed.

Kurt-Curry Wegscheider, an 18-year-old, 6-foot-3 guard who plays for the Central African Republic National Team and has been trained and educated the past two years at the NBA Academy Africa, has been cleared by the NCAA to play for the coming season.

Now, up next for Wegscheider before he can enroll and play with the Lobos is being accepted through UNM’s admissions office and getting approved for a student visa to play in the United States.

NCAA TEAM OF DECADE: The NCAA this week released a 64-team bracket for fans to vote on the college basketball program of the decade (2010-2019 postseasons). The bracket was compiled by former Journal staffer Andy Katz, who now works for the NCAA.

The Lobos were nowhere to be found, which, despite great success under Steve Alford in the early part of the decade, probably shouldn’t be a surprise. The program hasn’t played in any postseason for the past five seasons after its sharp decline under Alford’s successor, Craig Neal, whose Lobos went to the 2014 NCAA Tournament, then went 49-45 the next three seasons before he was fired.

Included in the bracket of note for area hoops fans include: No. 13 seed BYU, No. 13 seed Nevada, No. 14 seed San Diego State and No. 16 seed New Mexico State.

The four No. 1 seeds in the bracket are Villanova, Duke, UConn and Kentucky.

Voting can be done online at NCAA.com.

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