As the UNM administration on Thursday asked students living in dorms to move out (unless students simply cannot do so) and try to complete the rest of the semester remotely, Lobo athletics said the move, fortunately, didn’t affect a large number of their athletes. Most of them are already home or have at least moved away from the campus area while the COVID-19 restrictions remain intact.
But moving home isn’t as easy for international students, including numerous UNM athletes from other countries.
Both UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez and Lobo men’s basketball coach Paul Weir on Thursday told the Journal that they are being as accommodating as possible with international students wanting to go home right now, as most of their teammates have already been able to do. But the conversations with those athletes include discussions of the uncertainty of international travel restrictions potentially being in place when they want to return to UNM — or health care options in their native countries compared to what UNM knows is available here.
“We are assisting all student-athletes in every way especially those that want to go home,” Nuñez said. “At no point are we restricting anyone from going home to their families. Currently, most of them already have left to go back home.
“But we all have to be aware that when they return, we just don’t know what sort of guidelines or restrictions will be in place on travel or how long people coming into the United States might have to be quarantine. Because of the many unknowns, it’s hard for us to provide them those answers.”
The UNM Lobos men’s basketball team has four international players: junior Makuach Maluach from Australia, freshman forward Emmanuel Kuac from Canada, freshman Kurt Wegscheider from Central African Republic and freshman Bayron Matos from the Dominican Republic.
Matos, who played at a prep school in Tennessee until December and enrolled at UNM in January, has returned for the time being to his host family in Tennessee. Maluach and Wegscheider, who both want to go home and see their families (both had planned to do so over the summer anyway), are still in Albuquerque for now, Weir said.
UNM also has an international player signed for the 2020 class, 7-foot-1 center Assane Ndiaye from Senegal, who played this season at Kilgore (Junior) College in Texas.
MILESTONE WATCH: Like every year, there are plenty of big questions about personnel for the Lobos roster. And for the second consecutive year, it seems the “will he or won’t he?” game surrounding Vance Jackson is at the top of the list.
The senior-to-be has put himself in a very player-friendly position right now.
The 6-foot-9 forward who flirted a year ago with turning pro could again decide it’s time to go make some money playing basketball at some level.
He could also stay in college, where he has a chance to earn a degree from UNM before the fall semester, making him eligible for a graduate transfer. Then he would be immediately eligible to play for another team. UNM has had two such departures after the past three seasons, both to Oregon, in Elijah Brown in 2017 and Anthony Mathis in 2019.
And the third option is Jackson remains a Lobo for his senior season, when he would seemingly be one of the primary scoring options. He emerged as such in January before an injury and again in late February.
If he returns to college, at UNM or elsewhere, he’s on the brink of some big milestones. Jackson currently sits at 990 points scored (732 at UNM, 258 at UConn) and 493 rebounds (370 at UNM, 123 at UConn).
The 1,000-point, 500-rebound club isn’t common, and Jackson having nearly accomplished that in three playing seasons is already impressive.
This past season, his New Mexico teammates JaQuan Lyle (1,176 career points) and Zane Martin (1,148), each became 1,000 point career scorers in college, as did Mathis at Oregon (1,244), but none of those three had close to 500 rebounds (Lyle was closest at 383).
TRANSFER PORTAL: As of Thursday, the only Lobo basketball player in the NCAA’s transfer portal — the computer database available to all coaches across the country to see which players have announced their intention to transfer — is sophomore Drue Drinnon, who did not play this season for the Lobos.
The 6-foot point guard from Georgia left the team prior to the first game and, at least publicly, has not said where he plans to play next.
ELSEWHERE: Around the Mountain West, some notable names in the transfer portal over the past week include: UNLV 6-2 senior guard Amauri Hardy (14.5 ppg, 3.3 apg, 49 career starts); Utah State junior point guard Abel Porter (5.6 ppg, 3.2 apg, 55 career starts); Wyoming 6-9 forward T.J. Taylor (6.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 36 career starts); and Air Force 6-2 sophomore point guard AJ Walker (11.1 ppg, 3.1 apg, 47 career starts).