Maps tell us Southern California’s “Inland Empire” region doesn’t reach New Mexico.
Lobo basketball plans to bring it to the Pit next year anyway.
Donovan Dent, a 6-foot-2 senior guard at Corona (Calif.) Centennial High School, announced via social media on Wednesday evening he has committed to play for the University of New Mexico Lobos, becoming the third player in as many weeks to commit to coach Richard Pitino’s Class of 2022.
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“The thing that excites me the most with coach Pitino is that he is a winner and I come from a winning program at Centennial,” Dent told the Journal on Wednesday night about his decision. “I feel like me and him are just gonna be a great duo.”
Dent added Lobos assistant coach Eric Brown — “that’s my guy” — was the lead recruiter on him. Brown was also lead recruiter on 6-6 wing Quinton Webb, the Rancho Cucamonga, California, prep senior who was on an official recruiting visit in the Pit the same weekend earlier this month as Dent. Webb committed last week to the Lobos.
“Quinton played a little part in me coming here simply because we were on our official visit together (and) we’re both from Inland Empire,” Dent said. “We’re just ready to turn up the Pit.”
Joining in the Lobos’ Inland Empire social media love fest on Wednesday evening was former Lobo and former Mountain West Player of the Year Kendall Williams, one of the program’s all-time greats whose “from Rancho Cucamonga” player introductions when he was a four-year starter from 2010-11 to 2013-14 became etched in many Lobo fans’ memories.
In a Twitter post replying to the Journal’s announcing Dent’s commitment, Williams wrote, “#BringBacktheIE.” Williams and former Lobos teammate Tony Snell were Inland Empire players and Snell played in high school alongside former San Diego State star and NBA MVP Kawhi Leonard.
Dent and Webb, who will play against each other in the coming season, join 6-6 sharpshooting Kansas City guard Braden Appelhans, the first Class of 2022 commit for Pitino and crew who is playing this season for a prep school in Ohio, as a three-person recruiting class prepared to sign National Letters of Intent in November’s early signing period, which begins Nov. 10.
As for Dent, as a junior he led his team in scoring (15.7 points per game) and assists (6.0 per game) and upped his scoring average to 23.7 ppg in his final three games of the season in playoff action, all leading to his being named the Inland Boys Basketball Player of the Year this past summer by the Press-Enterprise newspaper in Riverside, Calif.
“As far as guards go,” his high school coach Josh Giles told the Press-Enterprise, “I think he is the second-best finisher in the state behind Amari Bailey (the consensus top-five national recruit who has committed to UCLA). He’s incredibly competitive and is not going to let anything stand in his way.”
Giles added his senior guard is an all-around player who regularly “would end up on the other team’s best perimeter player.”
As for a self scouting report, when asked what Lobos fans will see down the road in the Pit when he hits the floor, Dent’s theme was about winning.
“They’re gonna see a competitor — a guy who will do anything to bring home the Mountain West championship back to the Pit,” he told the Journal. “It’s been a little (while) since it’s been there. Ready to have the fans jumping again.”
UNM coaches and staff are not allowed to comment on players being recruited until they sign their National Letter of Intent, though most offer up the fan base some sort of smoke-signal type post on social media letting them know something good just happened. While many coaches tweet out a familiar saying each time, Pitino has used a variety of celebratory type posts to announce commitments he can’t officially comment on.
Wednesday, about the time Dent posted his announcement on Instagram, Pitino went with a video of Ted Lasso dancing that had Pitino’s face on it and a “Go Lobos” message at the bottom corner.
— Richard Pitino (@LoboCoachPitino) September 15, 2021
There are two seniors on this season’s 2021-22 Lobos roster — guard Saquan Singleton and forward Valdir Manuel — though both were listed as juniors during last season’s COVID-hampered season that the NCAA has already said doesn’t have to count toward a player’s four seasons of playing eligibility. That means both, if they and the program decide, could get another season of eligibility beyond the coming season.