Lobo hoops notebook: Pitino says roster is set, Sandia Prep alum to walk on - Albuquerque Journal

Lobo hoops notebook: Pitino says roster is set, Sandia Prep alum to walk on

Sandia Prep’s Mac Manzanares (left) puts up a shot over Bosque School’s Everrett Jenkins in action on February 26. Manzanares will walk on at UNM, the school announced on Wednesday. (Mike Sandoval/For the Journal)

Recruiting is never really done in college basketball, or so they say.

But, even in an era of seemingly never-ending player transfers and signings, it does seem that Richard Pitino and the UNM Lobos’ 2022-23 roster is about as complete as it can be in an offseason in which the team only had two open scholarships to fill — which itself is a rarity in college basketball spring/summer recruiting anymore.

“Well, I thought today was a good time to get together with the roster being as set as a roster can be in today’s world,” Pitino said Wednesday morning at the beginning of a schedule press conference.

“We’re very, very excited about the three spring additions.”

The Lobos have recently added from the NCAA transfer portal 6-foot-8 center Morris Udeze, from Wichita State, and 6-8 forward Josiah Allick, from University of Missouri-Kansas City — both expected to be in the mix to be starters or compete for big minutes off the bench. And Wednesday morning, the team also announced the addition of walk-on Mac Manzanares, a Sandia Prep graduate and the fourth freshman added to the 2022-23 roster, joining scholarship players Braden Appelhans of Kansas City and California prep stars Donovan Dent and Quinton Webb.

All six new Lobos — five scholarship players, one walk-on — and most of the nine returning players — eight on scholarship, one walk-on — are expected in Albuquerque the first week of June for summer classes and workouts.

But with so many players entering the transfer portal year-round and the deadline to sign new players not being until the start of the fall semester — does “set” really mean set?

Pitino was asked if he and his staff might still be working on any Class of 2022 recruits.

“No,” he said, before a never-say-never safety net follow up. “Not unless we get some crazy phone call (about a recruit). But no. In my mind, we’re done.”

DONE, AND HAPPY: There were no secrets about what the Lobos targeted in the offseason transfer portal recruiting cycle after this past season’s 13-win campaign: Experience and size to help in the front court.

“I think, obviously, with Morris and Josiah, we addressed needs,” Pitino said. “We said over and over and over again that we needed to get bigger, we needed to get stronger. That will happen with maturity of our young team in the weight room, but we also needed to recruit to it. And we did that.

“So we filled some needs. We’re excited, very excited.”

THE RETURNING BIG: One player who won’t be with the Lobos the first week of June is rising sophomore center Sebastian Forsling, who is home in Sweden and will play with his country’s Under-20 national team.

While recent recruits will get plenty of minutes at the center spot, Pitino said people shouldn’t forget about Forsling’s continued development. And that includes Forsling himself.

“Sebastian had a phenomenal spring,” Pitino said. “… His body looked great. I joked with him, I said, I don’t need to see you in some plaza smoking cigarettes, you know, like in Europe. We need to stick to the regimen of what we’re doing.”

WITH A SIDE OF MAC: While the bulk of Pitino’s press conference focused on the recent additions Udeze and Allick, the Lobos also formally announced before Wednesday’s news conference the addition of Manzanares, though it had been decided for some time before the news was announced.

The 6-5 forward was a three-time all-state selection at Class 3A Sandia Prep. Manzanares, who is the son of UNM Senior Associate Athletic Director Ed Manzanares, averaged this past season 22.4 points, 12.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.

“For any kid growing up in New Mexico, anytime you pick up a basketball you dream of playing in the Pit for the Lobos,” Mac Manzanares said in a prepared statement released by UNM. “I have imagined myself playing for the Lobos my whole life and it’s amazing to think I will be out there wearing that uniform. I can’t thank Coach Pitino and the staff enough for this amazing opportunity that is truly more than a dream come true.”

Pitino said trying to ensure local talent is on the roster, even if in a walk-on role, is important because of how important the Lobos are to this community.

“Bringing in a kid like Mac, who obviously was an all-state player, he grew up loving the Lobos. … If they are good enough locally, throughout the state, we need to be all over them,” Pitino said.

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