In a college basketball season where “uncertainty” and “unprecedented” has found their way into far too many articles, here’s the latest in wild list of firsts for the vagabond UNM Lobo men’s basketball team.
On Monday afternoon, the program relocated out of its home state that has been living out of a hotel and working out in rented gyms in West Texas announced its next temporary home will be a few states over to the West.
UNM announced the following:
• It will spend the next two weeks based out of St. George, Utah.
• It will add a rare January non-conference game there Wednesday against the Dixie State University Trailblazers, a first-year Division I member of the WAC which, ironically, had its WAC-opening series this past weekend against New Mexico State University postponed due to a positive COVID-19 case on the Aggies roster.
• It will make the 2-hour bus ride from St. George to Las Vegas, Nev., this weekend, where the Lobos are scheduled to play UNLV on Saturday and Monday, before returning to Utah.
• In lieu of payment for traveling to play at DSU’s Burns Arena, per a contract reviewed by the Journal, the Lobos get to practice at DSU and “host” their Jan. 21 and 23 Mountain West Conference games against San Jose State. The Spartans, coincidentally, are staying at the same Phoenix-based hotel as NMSU because a county health order forced their relocation out of state.
UNM struck a similar deal in December when it played the Rice Owls in Houston and, instead of receiving payment, was able to practice and host two games at Tudor Fieldhouse.
“I want to say thank you so much to Dixie State for providing this opportunity to better the experience of our basketball team during these unusual times,” Lobos coach Paul Weir said. “… We are grateful to all of the people and places who have aided us in this journey and look forward to continuing our fight forward.”
The change of scenery can’t hurt the Lobos, who are 3-6 overall (0-6 Mountain West).
The past four games — two losses to Nevada, two losses to Utah State — were scheduled home games for UNM, which paid Lubbock Christian University for use of the Rip Griffin Center gym for the games.
HOW TO WATCH: Dixie State has broadcast rights to Wednesday’s game, which will be streamed, free, online on WACDigitalNetwork.com. The contract states “DSU will also stream the January 21 and 23 games with details to be determined separately.”
TALKING GRAMMER PODCAST: What’s Brandon Mason been up to?
I caught up with the former New Mexico State Aggie player and UNM Lobos assistant who resigned in August but has done anything but lay off the hoops scene.
In a conversation recorded for Episode 34 of the Talking Grammer podcast, Mason talks about his new pursuits with youth basketball around the state, the blessing the time with his family has been, whether or not he still watches the Lobo basketball players he helped recruit to Albuquerque, and about the Lobo alumni team he’s helping put together for this summer’s The Basketball Tournament event.
While he hopes to have more specific news to announce soon about his next venture in basketball, for now Mason made clear he’s dedicated to this state and helping kids get an opportunity to play at the college level.
“I’m trying to use all my connections from when I recruited from all these top programs and Nike and Adidas and Under Armour and all that kind of stuff, and bring that kind of connection to New Mexico,” Mason said in the podcast.
ALPHA FAN: It’s been a rough year for Lobo basketball — on and off the court.
Last week, the program that has always been what it is because of the passion and dedication of its fan base, far more than any level of on-court success the team itself has enjoyed, lost one of its biggest supporters.
Dale Kennedy, a regular contributor to the Journal’s Sports Speak Up! section, a regular contributor to TheLairNM.com fan site and a regular at Lobo home and road games, passed away at the age of 70. (Read his obituary here)
The Indiana native is survived by his wife of 50 years, Marcia, three children, four grand children, one stepdaughter and was preceded in death by one son.
He never seemed to meet a stranger, and certainly not anyone he didn’t want to talk about the Lobos with. He held weekly breakfast meetings with “the posse,” as he dubbed them, where the talk was always about Lobo basketball, no matter what time of year.
I was fortunate enough to get to know Dale through the years, talking on social media, through email and plenty of times in person — at games and on flights — two seasons ago when he and a friend checked off their bucket list attending every Lobos road game for a season.
He always asked about my family, bragged about his and, of course, about the Lobos.
He was a good man and he, not the games themselves, was one of the reasons I’m blessed to have the beat I do covering Lobo basketball.
In lieu of flowers, the family noted in an obituary published this week in the Journal that donations can be made to the Lobo Scholarship Fund through the UNM Lobo Club.