While it wasn’t exactly a huge surprise to those around the Lobos basketball program, or to others in college basketball circles out west, the UNM men’s basketball team on Monday officially lost its second one-time starter in as many days to the NCAA’s transfer portal.
Forward Vance Jackson, the 6-foot-9 forward from Pasadena, Calif., who transferred to UNM in 2017 from UConn, officially entered the transfer portal on Monday, announcing to the college basketball world his intention to transfer.
And, as he expects to earn his degree from UNM before the start of the fall semester, he is listed as a graduate transfer, meaning he would be immediately eligible to play next season for any team.
After news broke about his decision, he later posted a message to Lobo fans on his social media accounts, including on this Twitter account, saying it was “one of the hardest decisions of (his) life” and that “Lobo Nation will always have a place in my heart.”
Thank you✊🏾❤️💯 pic.twitter.com/XYRHmk1gLJ
— VanceJackson (@VanceJackson1) March 30, 2020
He started 44 of the 60 games he played the past two seasons at UNM while averaging 12.2 points an 6.2 rebounds in his Lobos career. He was named to the 2019 Mountain West All-Tournament team. He started all 28 games he played this past season for the Lobos.
Sunday, point guard J.J. Caldwell announced he, too, would transfer from UNM after starting all 13 games of his brief Lobos career before being suspended indefinitely when allegations of possible abuse surfaced from an ex-girlfriend. Though he remains uncharged with any crime from those allegations, his case is still being reviewed by state prosecutors for potential charges to be filed.
His size, ability to shoot from the outside and immediate eligibility should make Jackson a sought after player on the transfer market, potentially making him the third player in the past four offseasons to become a graduate transfer leaving UNM for a Pac-12 program (Elijah Brown in 2017 and Anthony Mathis in 2019 each ended up leaving the Lobos as graduate transfers to play at Oregon).
WHO IS IN: As of Monday afternoon, the Lobos had 11 of 13 available scholarships accounted for with either returning players or newcomers who have already signed National Letters of Intent, though it would be naive to think there isn’t at least a few more months of potential roster shuffling to be had at UNM and every other Division I program in the country.
Having a roster set by the end of March is by far the outlier now in college basketball than the norm and even the current Lobos still have some decisions to be made about their futures at UNM or elsewhere, as does UNM with at least one Lobo player (Vante Hendrix) who was disciplined repeatedly down the stretch of the season for behavior in games.
All that said, as of Monday afternoon, the Lobos had eight scholarship players and three walk-ons on the roster who were not in the transfer portal.
The eight scholarship players (classification for next season): Seniors Makuach Maluach, Zane Martin and Keith McGee; juniors Vante Hendrix and Tavian Percy, Jr.; sophomores Emmanuel Kuac and Kurt Wegscheider; and freshman Bayron Matos.
Three incoming recruits who have already signed letters of intent to play for the Lobos are: guard/forward Javonte Johnson from Colorado, point guard Nolan Dorsey from North Carolina and 7-foot-1 center Assane N’Diaye from Senegal who played this past season at Kilgore (Junior) College in Texas and will have two seasons of playing eligibility remaining.
The three non-scholarship walk-ons returning on the roster are guards Daniel Headdings and Clay Patterson and forward Jordan Arroyo, who saw action in 14 games this past season.
WHO IS OUT: Technically, the Lobos have three players in the transfer portal and three players graduating, but one of those scholarships has already been awarded to Matos, who already enrolled at UNM in January and started practicing ahead of what will be his freshman season in 2020-21.
NCAA.com data indicates just 58 of 353 Division I programs had no transfers last season while 110 programs had three or more transfers out of the program.
The three players who exhausted their eligibility are seniors JaQuan Lyle, Corey Manigault and Carlton Bragg. The three players in the transfer portal with eligibility remaining are Jackson, Caldwell and sophomore point guard Drue Drinnon, who was on scholarship to start the academic year, quit the team before the first game was played, and left UNM in December.
MARCH 31: Tuesday will mark the 3-year anniversary of the firing of Craig Neal on March 31, 2017; and the one-year anniversary of the last day Neal was on UNM’s payroll as he received a $1 million buyout paid out over 24 months until March 31, 2019.
March 31 is also the official end date of Year 3 of Weir’s six-year contract.