No fooling: Lobos De La Cerda, Anderson are coming back

Lobo Jaedyn De La Cerda, right, shoots a three pointer while being guarded by Colorado State’s Jamie Bonnarens in March. (Roberto E. Rosales/ABQ Journal)

Jaedyn De La Cerda and Antonia Anderson decided the timing was right for a little offseason drama.

After officially informing UNM women’s basketball coach Mike Bradbury last week that they intended to return for another season, the two seniors decided to keep most everyone else in suspense until the proper time.

That time came Thursday – April Fool’s Day – when De La Cerda and Anderson released a video clip on their social media accounts.

The scripted 90-second video, produced with the help of UNM’s Chase Christiansen and Stanley Frazier, included a twist. It begins in solemn fashion with both players thanking coaches and fans for their time at UNM and later pans to De La Cerda and Anderson reflectively walking down the Pit ramp.

After lamenting that their COVID-impacted senior season could not be played in front of fans, both players shrugged and asked in unison, “Want to run it back?”

The decision to return was made possible by an NCAA ruling awarding players an extra season of eligibility because of the pandemic. De La Cerda said releasing an announcement video on April Fool’s Day was her mother’s idea.

“We wanted to have some fun with it,” De La Cerda said. “When I woke up (Thursday) morning, I was so excited knowing we finally get to post that video. We’ve been getting a ton of positive responses. It’s been great.”

De La Cerda, of Roswell, and Anderson of Cibolo, Texas earned All-Mountain West Conference first-team honors and played key roles as UNM won its first outright regular-season Mountain West title. The Lobos lost to Fresno State in the MWC tournament semifinals, however, and fell in round one of the WNIT after starting posts Anderson and Shaiquel McGruder were injured.

The unhappy ending factored in Anderson’s decision to return.

“Even with the success that we had this past year, we still have unfinished business and bigger goals to accomplish,” Anderson said in a UNM press release. “The plan is to do that in front of our fans in the Pit.”

Antonia Anderson drives down the lane in March vs. Colorado State. (Roberto E. Rosales/ABQ Journal)

Thursday’s news means that UNM will have all five of its starters returning, along with MWC Sixth Person of the Year LaTascya Duff. Bradbury said he could not recall a season in which his top six scorers were all set to return.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said.

“The way things were last year, we never got to install all of our offense or defense, so we can definitely get better. Having two leaders like A.T. (Anderson) and Jaedyn back will be a big help.”

Both De La Cerda (thumb) and Anderson (knee) are scheduled for surgery in the next two weeks and face extended rehabs which could impact the beginning of next season. De La Cerda nonetheless plans to be ready for opening day.

“A.T. and I talked about that,” she said. “We’re going to take rehab serious and hold each other accountable. Coming back next season to play in front of our families and fans is very motivating.”

SCHEDULE NOTES: UNM’s nonconference schedule for 2021-22 is almost complete, and it includes some familiar opponents. The Lobos will visit current Final Four participant Arizona to begin a home-and-home series. They will also take on NCAA Tournament qualifier Stephen F. Austin along with Texas Tech during a three-day tournament in Houston.

UNM’s two-game series against New Mexico State will resume after the teams did not meet last season because of COVID restrictions. New Mexico’s home schedule will also include UTEP, Lamar and Southeast Louisiana.

Arizona and Arizona State will visit the Pit in 2022-23. The Sun Devils owe UNM a home game after the Lobos played in Tempe in 2019-20, but both programs agreed to postpone the return game for a year, Bradbury said.

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