There had been a shroud of mystery surrounding Natalia Chavez during the month of July.
It was commonly known that Chavez was going to commit to play women’s basketball for the University of New Mexico, but she had been oddly silent the entire month. And no one was quite certain why.
Chavez, an incoming senior at Volcano Vista High School, cleared that up on Monday.
“I left to travel for a month,” she said. “I really didn’t want to say anything until I got home.”
Chavez, a 5-foot-10 shooting guard whose halfcourt, 3-point buzzer-beating shot in overtime against Hobbs thrillingly won the Class 5A state title for the Hawks in May, on Saturday night finally made official what was the worst-kept secret in town: she’ll join teammate Jaelyn Bates as a future Lobo.
“The way they train them to get to that next level, I really like that,” Chavez said Monday afternoon. She said she had been bouncing around during July from one AAU tournament to another, hardly spending any time at home.
Hence, she waited a few weeks to make it official.
“I think I’ll fit in very well,” said Chavez, who averaged 16.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists in the spring season for Volcano Vista.
Chavez will begin her senior school year later this month, and said she has one final AAU event on her summer calendar, at the end of August in Dallas.
She said she and Bates never really discussed committing to the Lobos together, and that it just worked out that way.
Chavez also said current Lobo Jaedyn de la Cerda was instrumental in luring Chavez to UNM, as it related to both school and coach Mike Bradbury, who “pushes you to be the best,” Chavez said, relaying words spoken to her by De La Cerda, who played her prep ball at Roswell High.
Chavez expects to sign her national letter of intent in September, she said. Bradbury is forbidden from commenting on any recruit until the school has received that signed letter.
Chavez chose UNM over San Jose State, Colorado State, New Mexico State and Eastern New Mexico. Her two finalists were UNM and San Jose State.
“My family, my community, can come watch me play,” Chavez said, “and that was a huge part of it as well.”
Metro basketball notes
LAST SEASON: This upcoming boys basketball season will likely be the final campaign for longtime Bernalillo coach Terry Darnell.
Darnell, who recently interviewed to be the permanent superintendent in Bernalillo but didn’t get that position, said the man who did get it, Matt Montaño, will allow Darnell to coach one final season at Spartan Alley.
Then, said Darnell — who is in that very rare group as someone who has won state titles both as a player and head coach at the same school — he plans to step down. His next season will be his 28th as coach at Bernalillo.
Darnell is going to be the district’s Deputy Superintendent of Operations, a job he started on Monday. He is closing in on 400 career wins at Bernalillo, he said, “so next year would be a good time to leave.” He also will be coaching two of his nephews on the 2021-22 roster.
AHS PROMOTES CAMPOS: Janai Campos, at 24, is immediately going to be one of New Mexico’s youngest head basketball coaches.
Campos, who played for Albuquerque High and coach Doug Dorame for four seasons, is the Bulldogs’ new girls varsity coach.
The 2015 AHS graduate had been an assistant for Dorame the last five seasons and was the JV head coach the last four seasons. Dorame recently announced his retirement.
“I think the past five seasons, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to prepare,” Campos said. “(Doug) has given me the opportunity to take on leadership, and I did a lot of work in the background, had time to learn and grow.”
MOVING ON UP: Josh Maddox last week resigned as boys basketball coach at Valencia High School in order to become an associate head coach at the University of the Southwest in Hobbs.
Maddox resigned officially on Thursday, as he takes a job that he said gives him “an opportunity to chase my dreams and coach basketball at the college level,” he wrote in his resignation letter.
It was not immediately known how the Jaguars will go about filling that job for next season.