It isn’t home, but the Texan Dome will do for now for the University of New Mexico Lobos men’s basketball team.
The 3,300-seat arena located in Levelland, Texas, on the campus of two-year South Plains College, 31 miles west of Lubbock and a five-hour bus ride from UNM’s south campus in Albuquerque.
But, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has led to a public health order the prohibits any college basketball from being played or practiced in New Mexico, the Lobos announced Wednesday they would relocate the women’s team to Canyon, Texas, at West Texas A&M University and the men to a place in West Texas, though didn’t initially say where.
Now we know.
“We are excited to host Paul, his staff, and basketball team these next few days,” said South Plains College coach Steve Green. “I hope in some way it assists them in both preparing and ultimately having a season this year.”
Wednesday, UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez would not then confirm where the men’s team would be practicing due to unfinished contractual matters, but the Journal confirmed the location Thursday. The Lobos leave for West Texas on Friday. The men’s team will stay in Lubbock for two days before their hotel in Levelland is ready for early next week.
The Lobos are familiar with South Plains College as senior guard Keith McGee played there in the 2017-18 season, leading the Texans to the 2018 NJCAA Championship as NJCAA Tournament MVP. Freshman guard Isaiah Marin of Phoenix had originally committed to UNM and South Plains simultaneously in June – planning to play one season at South Plains and then join UNM next season. When a scholarship opened for the Lobos in August after the unforeseen transfer of senior guard Zane Martin, Marin joined the Lobos for this season.
The college basketball season starts Wednesday. The NCAA allows for 30 practices over a 42-day period that started Oct. 14. The Lobos so far have held only three full-contact, full-team practices – one Oct. 15 and two earlier this month at Moriarty High School.
Like UNM, NMSU’s men’s and women’s basketball teams also relocated out of state this week – the men’s team to the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa in Phoenix. There it has a five-week commitment school officials said will cost about $100,000 before transportation costs or rental facilities for games they schedule. (The hotel can’t host games). The NMSU women are practicing in Tucson before heading back east to play UTEP in El Paso and possibly the UNM women in Canyon, Texas.
UNM does not yet have any non-conference games scheduled and hasn’t said if South Plains is an option to play games.