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Lobos' Kirk Undergoes Back Surgery

Status for Season Unknown

With individual workouts likely about three weeks away, the University of New Mexico men’s basketball team will be short at least one big man during the early going.

And maybe much longer.

School officials confirmed that 6-foot-11 sophomore center Alex Kirk underwent back surgery Tuesday afternoon and will be out an undetermined amount of time.

UNM coach Steve Alford released a statement saying, “Earlier today sophomore center Alex Kirk had very successful back surgery to relieve a herniated disk in his back. We fully expect that Alex will recover 100 percent.”

Alford, however, didn’t say how long that recovery might take, or how much of the season Kirk could miss.

When asked about the possibility of Kirk sitting out the season as a redshirt, a UNM spokesman said that Alford “doesn’t want to put anything out there specific since there is no timetable yet, but (redshirting) would be an option.”

Lobo basketball team trainer, Nate Burney, said he could not give specifics about the surgery without the team’s permission, and a UNM spokesman said the Kirk family will have to give the OK for those details to be released.

Kirk played for his father, Alan, at Los Alamos, where he was one of New Mexico’s highest-rated recruits in the past decade.

Last year, he started the Lobos’ first 18 games and 21 of their first 22. Kirk had a UNM freshman scoring record of 31 points in the Lobos’ 102-62 rout of Cal State Bakersfield in early January, and scored 10 points on three other occasions. He also had a season-high 10 rebounds twice in the early going.

But Kirk became a backup shortly after junior Drew Gordon — a transfer from UCLA — became eligible in late December. Gordon went on to be named All-Mountain West Conference second team, while Kirk’s playing time dipped considerably.

Kirk scored just 19 points combined in the Lobos’ final 17 games.

Sources told the Journal that Kirk didn’t injure himself playing basketball, but was having back issues during most of the offseason.

From last year’s team that went 22-13 and advanced to the second round of the National Invitation Tournament, the Lobos return four starters — seniors Gordon, A.J. Hardeman and Phillip McDonald and sophomore guard Kendall Williams.

Besides the 6-9 Gordon and 6-8 Hardeman, the Lobos also have 6-9 sophomore Cameron Bairstow to help with size up front. UNM has received a national letter of intent from 6-9 Dallas product Jarion Henry, but the school said he still has not gained eligibility for the upcoming school year.

UNM classes begin Aug. 22, and the basketball team typically starts its individual workouts about a week after the start of school.

If Kirk does redshirt, he would remain a sophomore, eligibility wise, for the 2012-13 season. Kirk was a three-time first-team all-state player for Los Alamos and was rated the nation’s seventh-best center by ESPNU.

He is also an outstanding student, earning the team award for such last season.
— This article appeared on page B1 of the Albuquerque Journal