This time, the big one didn’t get away.
Los Alamos’ Alex Kirk, one of the state’s most highly recruited basketball players this decade, has given a verbal commitment to the UNM men’s basketball program.
Kirk, a 6-foot-11 senior post, told the Journal he will sign a national letter with Steve Alford’s Lobos in November.
“It’s definitely a relief to get it out of the way,” Kirk said of his decision Monday night. “It really was between UNM and Arizona. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, it’s been on my mind a lot. I know I can have success as a Lobo, and now it’s time to focus on the high school season.”
NCAA rules disallow coaches to speak about individual recruits, but it was well known that Kirk was UNM’s top priority for this signing class. Kirk is a gifted big man. He is a solid ball-handler, a solid passer, a great rebounder, a strong shot blocker and stellar shooter outside for a post man.
Kirk — who has a 7-foot-2 wingspan — averaged 28 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocks and three assists a game last season as a junior for the Hilltoppers.
His father, Alan, is head coach at Los Alamos.
“We knew it would be a methodical,” Alan said of the recruiting process. “ We knew the way people, over the last year, would come (after Alex), and the way he developed over the summer, he would have some real opportunities to consider.
“He had a lot of schools back east show interest in him, but he decided he wanted to stay in the west. And that helped narrow it down. We talked a lot about it and, he had a goal of getting it done before the season started. I was pretty confident it would happen in the next couple of weeks.”
Kirk should fit in nicely with Alford’s program, which is filled with talented underclassmen — but no true center. Kirk could be that big man, and he said the opportunity to play right away helped entice him to Loboville.
“I think I will get a chance to play early on,” Kirk said. “And UNM said it will probably be able to get me to the next level (the NBA). Those were real big reasons.”
Kirk said that while the remodeling of the Pit — due for completion in November 2010 — is also exciting, he said it was the overall program and coaches that played the biggest part in his becoming a Lobo.
“It’s really cool that they’re doing all of that at the Pit,” he said. “That’s something for everyone to be excited about. But it’s more the fact that, in my head, it came down to the coach and program. I just feel it’s a great fit.
“I’m glad to get the pressure off, to have made a decision. It really is a relief.”
The official signing period is Nov. 11-18, and both the Kirks say it’s a done deal with UNM. Various internet Web sites list Kirk as one of the top 10 high school centers in the country.
For a program that saw in-state stars like Taymon Domzalski, A.J. Bramlett, Chris Jackson and Kasey Cunningham head to other colleges in the past, getting Kirk is quite a coup for the Lobos.
“We talked a lot about it, and we decided once he made a verbal commitment, that was it,” Alan said. “It’s a done deal now. Alex is going to UNM and now we’re going to focus on the high school season.”
Said Alex, “Having my dad as a coach has been good, he’s always been my coach. He helped me a lot in the process and I think committing really takes the pressure off. I’m excited.”