Craig Neal hasn’t coached his first game at the University of New Mexico.
But he already has his first win of 2015.
Late Sunday, 6-foot-6 Tempe Corona del Sol shooting guard Dane Kuiper, who is entering his junior season and considered by some the No. 1 recruit in Arizona for the class of 2015, gave a verbal commitment to play for Neal’s Lobos.
Kuiper was the No. 1 target for the program and the cornerstone for the team’s recruiting efforts for that class.
“When he came back from visiting (the UNM campus and meeting with coaches and players) last month, he just was different,” Shannon Kuiper, Dane’s mother, told the Journal. “He knew. And when you find a teenage boy who connects with a mentor like that like he did with coach Neal, that’s a pretty special thing. He’s not a super talkative kid, he’s fun loving, but he holds his cards pretty close to his chest, so that was a pretty good indication that was a place that he could call home.”
Dane Kuiper first visited UNM two summers ago for a team camp when he was an incoming freshman at Wasilla (Alaska) High School. He and his family moved to the Phoenix area in the spring and he quickly grabbed the attention of west coast scouts and teams. He landed an invite to the spring Pangos All-American camp for 125 of the nation’s top high school recruits.
“Honestly in my opinion, I think he’s a future pro,” said John Ortega, Kuiper’s Arizona Power AAU club team coach. “He’s a legitimate two guard. … He’s got a high release on his jump shot and he’s doing that with a 6-7 frame and he’s every bit that 195 pounds. He’s got a pro body already.”
Dane Kuiper made calls to coaches at places like Arizona State, Creighton and Oregon State on Sunday night to tell them he will be a Lobo.
“We don’t want to waste their time,” Shannon Kuiper said. “We want to respect the process for them and we’ve got a lot of feedback that coaches really want you to be upfront with them and to his credit, Dane made those phone calls himself. He manned up and made the hard phone calls right away.”
Associate head coach Lamont Smith and assistant Craig Snow played big roles in the recruiting, as did conversations with Hugh Greenwood, Cullen Neal, Alex Kirk and former Lobo Tony Snell, according to Ortega.
Shannon Kuiper said there is another person deserving of an assist.
“He met with the academic advisor (Natalie Williams),” Shannon Kuiper said. “And he absolutely stepped off the plane and said the academic advisor was awesome. For a 16 year old boy, to have that come out of his mouth with all the things he could say, for that to be the first thing was pretty nice to hear.”
Kuiper’s verbal commitment is a first for the program for the Class of 2015. UNM has already received a verbal commitment from 6-foot-5 Alvarado (Texas) High School shooting guard Xavier Adams.