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Kansas transfer to add size that Pitino is seeking

Kansas forward Gethro Muscadin, left, guards Bryce Thompson, middle, and Tristan Enaruna (13) rebound during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Washburn in Lawrence, Kan., Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Kansas defeated Washburn 89-54. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

The path from Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas, to the front door of the Pit in Albuquerque has been traveled before.

Lobo fans hope Saturday’s news of another Jayhawk transferring to the University of New Mexico men’s basketball program could net similarly successful results.

Gethro Muscadin, a 6-foot-10 freshman forward from Haiti who played this past season at Kansas, announced on social media Saturday morning he will be transferring to play for Richard Pitino and the UNM Lobos.

The former four-star recruit in the class of 2020 out of Aspire Academy in Kentucky played just 33 minutes for the Jayhawks this past season and picked the Lobos after receiving interest from Penn State, Wichita State and Boston College, among others.

After Muscadin entered the NCAA’s transfer portal on March 31, Kansas coach Bill Self was quoted in the Kansas City Star saying Muscadin was recruited to “be a contributor for us over time” and got better daily throughout the season.

“If he continues to progress, gets stronger and keeps his athletic ability like it is now, he’s going to be a really good player,” Self said. “We certainly wish him the very best and know that he will be successful and he knows that we’ll always cheer for him.”

Because the 2020-21 season did not count against the eligibility of any player, Muscadin will have four years of playing eligibility remaining.

Saturday certainly wasn’t the first time a former Kansas Jayhawk made his way to UNM via a transfer. The three most recent include a pair of Lobo starters in J.R. Giddens, who was named Mountain West co-Player of the Year and was a first round NBA draft pick out of UNM under Steve Alford, and Carlton Bragg, who started under Paul Weir.

Merv Lindsey started his college career at Kansas, too, and played the 2013-14 season under Craig Neal.

Muscadin, once ranked by as a top-20 center in the nation in the 2020 high school recruiting class, was also recruited by Pitino to Minnesota a year ago.

A soccer player when he was younger, Muscadin started playing basketball at age 15 and moved to the United States from Haiti at the age of 16. He averaged 12.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks at Aspire in the 2019-20 season.

Pitino’s best team at Minnesota also featured his best rim-protection during his eight seasons coaching at the Big Ten school, and adding rim protectors to the Lobos’ roster is a priority.

In addition to Muscadin, the Lobos earlier this week signed 6-9 junior college transfer Jay Allen-Tovar, who is also expected to join 6-10 returning Lobo Valdir Manuel as potential UNM posts. Assane Ndiaye, a 7-1 center who transferred to UNM last summer from Kilgore (Junior) College in Texas, also remains on the Lobos roster at the moment, but to date he has not been medically cleared to play and his status for next season is not yet clear.

While Pitino can not yet comment on Muscadin until his paperwork to transfer is approved by UNM, the new Lobos coach made clear what he’s hoping for on the recruiting front. Per a quote the school posted on its website last week after the signing of Allen-Tovar: “He has the size, skill and athleticism that we need.”

All are similar descriptors for Muscadin throughout his playing and recruiting the past several years.

Four players – guards Jamal Mashburn, junior from Minnesota; Jaelen House from Arizona State and forwards Muscadin and Allen-Tovar – have transferred to UNM since Pitino was hired as coach. Prep forward Jamel King, who played this past season in Arizona and was recruited by former UNM coach Paul Weir, also remains committed to the Lobos after signing a letter of intent back in November.

ABOUT THOSE FANS: Pitino was a guest speaker Wednesday for the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce. In his talk, he was asked about Lobo fans historically feeling they are a part of the program as opposed to just spectators of a basketball team.

“The No. 1 thing that we will sell (in recruiting) is the fans,” Pitino said. “It is a top-five fan base in college basketball, in my opinion. It really is. And it would be very, very silly to not make them feel a great part of it because they are the No. 1 thing that we sell every single time we talk to a recruit.

“So they’re going to be a part of it. We are going to make ourselves accessible. We’re going to engage in the community.”

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