Lobo guard Saquan Singleton is cleared to return to action - Albuquerque Journal

Lobo guard Saquan Singleton is cleared to return to action

Saquan Singleton, center in red, is shown watching action from the UNM bench when the Lobos played Florida Atlantic in the Nov. 10 season opener. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

The mood was upbeat in the Pit on Thursday.

The New Mexico Lobos are off to a 2-1 start that has both shown promise of good things to come and, yes, some major work ahead to be competitive in the Mountain West Conference.

And while there was a very businesslike attitude to the prep work for Saturday’s game against a Montana State (1-2), there was an added pep in the step for the team thanks to the return of Saquan Singleton, the 6-foot-6 senior guard who had been sidelined indefinitely the past two months – first by COVID-19 then by heart-related side effects from the virus that were only recently settled enough to have doctors feel comfortable clearing his return to action.

Singleton did not talk with media on Thursday, but has spoken about the waiting process in the past and said it was all just a matter of time before he would return – something he insisted he never had a doubt about.

“It’s great having Sae back,” said sophomore guard Taryn Todd. “He adds some size to our team, so … we should be a better team when he comes back.”

It remains unclear when Singleton can play; he did miss two months of conditioning and practice.

Singleton had been cleared to start non-contact drills recently but only returned to on-court action on Wednesday. Thursday was his second practice with teammates. He had been diagnosed with COVID-19 in September. When those symptoms were gone and he thought he was ready to return to action when the team started official practices the first week of October, doctors said they detected signs that his heart had not yet returned to a normal, safe condition and would need time to rest and recover.

There was never a timetable given for his return other than that he had to be cleared by doctors. It made the matter harder for Singleton and the team to know exactly how to handle it. And UNM officials have said throughout the past two months they would err on the side of caution in determining whether to let him return at all.

But it was an uneasy, uncharted couple of months for player and team.

“Nobody saw it coming. It wasn’t like it was a sprained ankle that happened and he’s out,” Lobos coach Richard Pitino said. “This was a coming back after COVID and all sudden, boom. You’re done. Indefinitely. Maybe you’re done for your career? We don’t know. I’m sure those thoughts went through his head. They went through my head.

“Yeah, we want to win. We want him to play. But we want him to be safe. So he got re-evaluated. Good news, obviously. But now it’s a matter of getting him back 100%.”

The Bronx, New York, native who played for the Lobos last season but has yet to actually play in a game in the Pit, adds size on the perimeter that can help an undersized backcourt on defense and with the Lobos’ most glaring weakness so far: Rebounding.

“It means a lot. He brings size to our team, toughness,” said guard Jaelen House. “He also can rebound really well, which we’re lacking right now. I just can’t wait until he gets back on the court (for a game).”

Singleton will likely play the 4 spot for the Lobos – a position that has been revolving in the starting lineup for UNM between the team’s forwards. But more and more minutes have gone to guard Javonte Johnson as the team often has played with four guards.

ALSO: Returning forward Emmanuel Kuac has a knee injury and has not yet been cleared to practice. When he does, he will also be in the mix at the 4 spot.

SEASON TICKETS: UNM passed the 7,000 mark on season tickets this week and currently is sitting at 7,198.

They will remain on sale up to the Dec. 6 home game against New Mexico State (that’s three more home games – Montana State on Saturday and Monday vs. Division II Western New Mexico are the other two). After that, tickets would need to be purchased on a per-game or in a mini-plan promotion.

KIDS DAY: Fans can get a free children’s ticket to Saturday’s game with the purchase of an adult ticket as part of Saturday’s “Kids Day” game. For more information on how to get the children’s ticket, contact the UNM Ticket Office at (505) 925-5626 or email at lobotickets@unm.edu.

SATURDAY: Montana State at UNM, 2 p.m., 770 AM/96.3 FM, streaming at themw.com

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