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With new stars leading the way, Lobos and Aggies renew rivalry

LAS CRUCES — On Dec. 10, 2016, Ian Baker scored 26 points for the New Mexico State Aggies to beat the UNM Lobos.

In 2017, Zach Lofton averaged 25.0 points and Jemerrio Jones averaged 13.0 rebounds in two more NMSU wins in the hoops edition of the Rio Grande Rivalry.

A year ago, it was 5-foot-9 A.J. Harris going off for a career-high 31 points in Albuquerque, and then JoJo Zamora and Ivan Aurrecoechea combining for 50 in Game 2 in Las Cruces to extend the NMSU rivalry win streak to five, the longest such win streak for the Aggies in the 115-year rivalry since five wins from 1954-56.

Each win in the streak seems to have featured a different player Lobo fans have to get to know, and learn to begrudgingly revere.

When UNM and NMSU meet Thursday night in the Pan American Center, if the banged up Aggies are to continue the current run of success over their rivals to the north, there’s a good chance the name Lobo fans will have to get to know will be that of Trevelin Queen.

While Queen’s name may not yet be familiar to many Lobo fans since the 6-foot-6 guard didn’t play against the Lobos a season ago awaiting midseason eligibility due to NCAA transfer rules, he’s no stranger to basketball in the state and has long been on the radar of NBA scouts and opposing WAC coaches.

Averaging team-best 16.8 points and 5.5 rebounds this season for the Aggies, he’s certainly on the radar of the Lobos coaching staff, which happens to include Queen’s former coach at New Mexico Military Institute, UNM’s operations director Ralph Davis.

“It was evident on Day 1,” Davis said of Queen’s talent when he arrived on NMMI’s campus two years ago and went on to average 26 points per game in one of the country’s toughest junior college conferences. “Even with the talent we had in there (it was clear) that he was special.”

Davis spoke with the Journal on the eve of the rivalry game in a podcast interview to share his unique insight on Queen and his pro potential.

Queen and Davis moved on from NMMI after the 2017-18 season — Queen signing to play at Western Kentucky and Davis accepting a video coordinator job at UNM.

Before ever playing at WKU, Queen ended up transferring to NMSU, where he wasn’t eligible to play until midseason. As a result, he missed both UNM games and had to slowly work his way into the rotation with a very deep, and successful, NMSU team, leading box-score observers to easily overlook him until late in the season.

But NBA scouts know who he is and in August, Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman, who focuses on NBA Draft reporting, included Queen in the back end of the first round of his NBA mock draft.

Davis knows that potential is there.

“I have no issue saying that it’s a possibility,” said Davis. “Whether it’s a reality, who knows? But just based off, and talking to people about what he’s done so far, yeah, he’s legit. He’s a legitimate prospect. … When I was at New Mexico Military, I’ve seen NBA players who have come through there, and he’s just as good as any of them.”

INJURIES: Like UNM was a season ago, the Aggies are missing their Ohio State transfer starting point guard due to injury. Harris, a former teammate of JaQuan Lyle at Ohio State who both then were recruited by Weir as transfers — Harris at NMSU then Lyle at UNM — is out until December with a broken finger.

NMSU is also missing Clayton Henry (thumb), a guard who started 25 games last season, averaging 15 minutes and 5.4 points.

UNM hasn’t said whether Carlton Bragg will play against the Aggies. He hurt his right knee late in Tuesday’s game at UTEP. He walked out of the arena with a limp and with a bag of ice on his knee.

NEW TO RIVALRY: At least six key players didn’t play in the rivalry a year ago: For NMSU, Queen and guard Shawn Williams. For UNM, Lyle, Bragg, Zane Martin and J.J. Caldwell.

A DIFFERENT NEIGHBORHOOD: The Don Haskins Center, and the UTEP student section, was rocking Tuesday night in El Paso, something Lobo fans will have to get used to as opposing teams sit in front of the other school’s students in almost all arenas (UNLV is one notable exception).

But it’s unlikely the Lobos, and Weir in particular, will face all season what they’ll get from the NMSU student section Thursday night in the Pan Am Center as the former Aggies coach makes his annual return visit to his old stomping grounds.

UTEP students’ idea of a harsh chant on Tuesday night was yelling at the red-sweater wearing Weir, “Mis-ter Rog-ers! Mis-ter Rog-ers!”

As one Lobo fan noted on his Twitter account (@rabidlobofan) after that chant, “Mr. Rogers is a national treasure, so thanks.”

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