Or is it 14?
The big news out of Lobo men’s basketball on Wednesday was the program, for now, has a roster for the 2021-22 season that no longer exceeds the NCAA’s maximum scholarship limit of 13.
New head coach Richard Pitino confirmed that sophomore Kurt Wegscheider, a 6-foot-5 sophomore guard from Central African Republic who played in 36 games the past two seasons for the Lobos, and 7-1 Assane Ndiaye, a center who was with the team this past season but was never cleared to play in a game, have entered the NCAA transfer portal and will leave the program.
Pitino also noted that while senior wing Makuach Maluach still has not made a final announcement about his future (Will he leave UNM to pursue his professional career or utilize the extra year of eligibility the NCAA is allowing due to the unusual COVID-related circumstances of the 2020-21 season?) the program is proceeding now as though the four-year starter is moving on.
“He’s been great,” said Pitino of Maluach, who has practiced all spring with the team, even as recently as last week. “… I did my best. I tried to keep him, but certainly understand what he wants to do going forward. I support them all in their next destination, wherever it is.”
If Maluach does decide to return, he would be scholarship player No. 14, but as a “super senior”, the unofficial term for college athletes who would have exhausted their eligibility in 2020-21 had it not been for COVID, the NCAA has ruled he would not count against the Lobos scholarship limit of 13.
For now, the Lobos have six returning scholarship players in guards Jeremiah Francis, Javonte Johnson and Saquan Singleton; and three forwards in Emmanuel Kuac, Rod Brown and Valdir Manuel.
The seven newcomers who are part of the 2021 recruiting class include four guards – Jamal Mashburn Jr., a transfer from Minnesota; Jaelen House, a transfer from Arizona State; Taryn Todd, a transfer from TCU; and K.J. Jenkins, a transfer from Kilgore (Junior) College – one wing – Jamel King, a high school recruit from Bella Vista Prep School in Scottsdale, Ariz. – and two forwards – Jay Allen-Tovar, a transfer from Salt Lake Community College; and Gethro Muscadin, a transfer from Kansas.
STATE TOURNAMENT: Though fans will be allowed in a limited capacity in the Pit this week for the state high school basketball tournament, and the court is quite literally across the hall from Pitino’s new office in the Rudy Davalos practice facility, neither the new Lobos coach nor anyone on his staff will be allowed to sneak a peek at any of the action.
The NCAA won’t allow a return of in-person recruiting for college coaches until late June.
“It kills me that so much good high school basketball will be right around the corner from me, but I also know just from being here for seven, eight weeks how much high school teams (dream of) the road to the Pit.”
RALPH DAVIS’ NEW GIG: Former Lobo assistant coach Ralph Davis earlier this week was introduced as a new assistant coach at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
Davis had been in college basketball in New Mexico for more than a decade. He was an assistant and later head coach of New Mexico Military Institute’s junior college team from 2009 to 2018. He joined the Lobos in 2018 as video coordinator before bumping up a year later to Director of Operations then this past season as assistant coach.
WALK-ONS MOVE ON: Two Lobo walk-ons in the past week have made their transfer plans known.
Daniel Headdings, the Wasilla, Alaska, guard who spent the past two seasons with UNM, will be playing next season for Pima Community College in Tucson. Logan Padgett, the forward and son of former Lobos assistant coach Scott Padgett, will transfer to play next season at Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.