Drue Drinnon will be leaving the Lobo basketball team and heading home.
The UNM sophomore point guard left the team Oct. 28 to be with his family in Georgia, but returned this weekend and was on the team’s bench for Saturday night’s win over Cal State-Northridge wearing a Lobos shirt and cheering on teammates.
On Sunday afternoon, Drinnon posted on his Twitter account his intention to transfer to be closer to his family. His message read:
“Lobo family, I just want to take a moment to say, due to a serious family situation at home, I will be finishing my education, and basketball career closer to home. Thank you to each of you for the tremendous love and support you have given me through the season. I will always support my coaches and Lobo brothers. Once a Lobo, Always a Lobo! Please keep my family in your prayers…. Go LOBOS!”
Neither Drinnon nor UNM has elaborated on the family matter back home.
Shortly after his post, which also included a picture of himself in his Lobos No. 22 uniform, his Twitter account was deactivated. His mother, Nina, sent the Journal a screen shot of a notification from Twitter showing somebody was trying to access Drinnon’s account from California, so it was deactivated. She did, however, confirm the original tweet was from her son, and she, like her son, also expressed gratitude to Lobo fans for their support over the past year and a half her son has been in Albuquerque.
On Oct. 31, Lobos head coach Paul Weir first told media about Drinnon’s decision to return home to address a “personal” matter and the coach said then there was a possibility he would not rejoin the team.
Late Saturday, after the Lobos’ win, the recruiting-centric website VerbalCommits.com posted an announcement that Drinnon’s name had already been placed into the transfer portal, alerting coaches across the country of his intention to transfer and opening the door for them to contact him about his future.
Drinnon, a 6-foot-1 former four-star recruit from Smyrna, Ga., played in 27 games as a freshman and started eight times, averaging 13.9 minutes per game.
NCAA transfer rules require a player to sit out a full academic year after leaving one school. Drinnon would not be eligible to play until after the first semester of the 2020-21 season at his new school, unless he applies for and is granted a hardship waiver, likely related to the unspecified family matter he referenced in his announcement.
The NCAA has been far more liberal in recent years in granting players such waivers when addressing family matters.
Drinnon will have either two and a half seasons of playing eligibility remaining or three full seasons, should the NCAA grant him a waiver.
As of Sunday night, UNM had not officially addressed the Drinnon news.
HE SAID IT: Senior forward Corey Manigault, when asked about teammate Keith McGee running over to pick him up off the floor in Saturday’s game after a fall.
“We’re all going to have our ups and downs. Some days, it might be him. It might be the opposite way around. But that’s my boy. Even if I’m not having a good day, he’ll make me smile.”
AROUND THE MOUNTAIN: After the first week of the season, it would be silly to read too much into any results, but let’s do it anyway.
The Mountain West Conference’s preseason top three teams – No. 17 Utah State, San Diego State and UNM – are the only three remaining undefeated teams at 2-0 each.
Preseason favorite Utah State got a scare in a sloppy opener against Montana State and is still playing without star center Neemias Queta, the sophomore from Portugal who is out with a knee injury with no set timetable on his return.
Preseason No. 2 SDSU has the best win in the league and two of the top handful of wins. It won on the road at BYU (the Cougars played without their best player) on Saturday, which could be a coveted Quadrant 1 win at season’s end on the NCAA Selection Committee’s NET rankings. The Aztecs also destroyed Texas Southern 77-42.
And the Lobos 2-0 includes one win against a non-Division I opponent and another against a CSUN team expected to be solid, but was without its best player.
All three title contenders were impressive in the opening week, but still have plenty of questions to answer.
The other eight teams in the MWC are all sitting at 1-1.
DEFENSE: UNM held CSUN to 0.93 points per possession and held Division II Eastern New Mexico to 0.84 on Wednesday.
That sample size is too small to make broad judgments on whether the team has turned the corner after what had been two below-average seasons on defense, ranking 204th and 202nd in defensive efficiency (out of 353 Division I teams). But the numbers were good.