The Lobos got a big man.
Morris Udeze, a 6-foot-8, 245-pound center who played four seasons at Wichita State, including starting every game the past two seasons for the Shockers, announced Sunday he’ll use his graduate transfer option to play his final season for Richard Pitino and the University of New Mexico.
In 27 games for Udeze this past season at Wichita State, the Houston native averaged 10.2 points and led the team in rebounds (6.1 per game), blocked shots (0.9/game) and field goal percentage (.505).
During American Athletic Conference play this past season, his defensive rebound rate (18.3) and offensive rebound rate (11.0) ranked ninth and fifth, respectively in the league.
That’s music to the ears of Pitino and staff for a Lobos team that had only one primary need in this offseason’s recruiting cycle: Find a rebounder.
UNM ranked 313th out of 358 Division I programs this past season in rebounding margin at minus-3.7.
The Lobos hosted Udeze on an official recruiting visit in Albuquerque in mid-April.
A text message and a social media message left Sunday with Udeze for comment on his commitment and what made him choose the Lobos were not returned.
Udeze, like other big men in this offseason’s transfer portal, was a popular target for many programs. He had either interest, offers or on-campus recruiting visits from at least a dozen programs including UNLV, LSU, Ole Miss, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Texas and Georgia Tech.
New Mexico What’s The Word ?
— Morris (@MorrisUdeze24) May 8, 2022
While many teams have been active filling several roster spots this offseason with some of the 1,500-plus players who have entered the NCAA transfer portal, the Lobos have been patient and had only two open scholarships to offer with its starting corps of players all returning, including all-Mountain West guards Jamal Mashburn Jr. and Jaelen House.
The UNM front court last season lost centers Gethro Muscadin (transferred after 12 games) and Valdir Manuel (never played a game after being suspended in the preseason) and then converted starting center Emmanuel Kuac (broken leg). Kuac is now recovering and will be available for the 2022-23 season, but he is expected to play more of his natural wing position.
UNM returns in the front court (listed by current season of eligibility) freshman 7-foot center Sebastian Forsling and forwards Birima Seck, a 6-11 freshman, Jay Allen-Tovar, a 6-9 junior, and 6-6 Javonte Johnson, a 6-6 sophomore forward who can now shift down to play more of a wing role.
In Forsling, the Lobos had planned to have him use the 2020-21 season to continue his development by either redshirting or with limited minutes — much like the team did with Seck — but instead were forced into playing the big man from Sweden more minutes than anticipated.
Both rising freshmen — Forsling and Seck — can continue their development this season, but now have the help of Udeze being able to eat big minutes in the frontcourt.
Players leaving programs and hoping to be immediately eligible to play at a school next season had until May 1 to enter the NCAA’s transfer portal, but signing them to join a team can happen through the start of the fall semester at the end of August.
Udeze is the fourth member of the 2022 Lobos recruiting class, joining three prep players who signed National Letters of Intent to play for UNM in November: guards Donovan Dent of California and Braden Appelhas of Kansas City along with forward Quinton Webb of California.
BIG WEEKEND: UNM Lobos assistant coach Isaac Chew, who joined UNM last season when Pitino was hired, enjoyed with the rest of the Lobo coaching staff the official announcement of Udeze’s commitment this weekend.
But that might not have been the biggest recruiting news for him of the weekend.
His son, Patrick Chew, on Saturday announced his commitment to play at Murray State, where Chew was an assistant from 2007-2011 alongside fellow assistant Steve Prohm before Prohm was head coach there from 2011 to 2015 before leaving to coach at Iowa State. This offseason, Prohm returned as head coach at Murray State.
Patrick Chew is a 6-3 senior guard at Brophy Prep in Phoenix.