Sixteen months ago, before starting his junior year of high school, Dane Kuiper decided he wanted to be a Lobo.
For Jordan Hunter, it happened about one hour after Craig Neal’s first win at the University of New Mexico on Nov. 9, 2013.
With Anthony Mathis, the decision came this past May.
While the Lobos coaching staff has long since closed the book on its 2015 recruiting class after the trio of prep stars gave commitments, today is when they finally get to make it official and binding. They’ll sign their National Letters of Intent to accept scholarships to play basketball for Neal and the Lobos starting next season.
All three were at last month’s Lobo Howl event, sitting behind the team’s bench and posting multiple photos and messages on their Twitter accounts talking about how they couldn’t wait to play with one another for the Lobos.
“I picked UNM because of the fit and relationship I have with coach Neal and the rest of the staff,” said Kuiper, a 6-foot-7 shooting guard from Tempe, Ariz., Corona del Sol. “I really felt like I can come in and help the team win. They also have the best fan base and support that I have ever seen.”
Kuiper, who has made numerous visits to Albuquerque with his family since his commitment two summers ago, including attending several Lobo games, was chosen by the Arizona Republic as the top basketball player in that state for the class of 2015.
Mathis, a 6-2, 170-pound shooting guard from West Linn, Ore., told the Journal he, too, felt an instant connection with the Lobos’ fan base and coaching staff, making his decision to play at UNM over offers from places like UNLV, Oregon State and Portland an easy one.
“The fan base is amazing and the coaches really treated me very good on my trips there,” Mathis said. “I felt real comfortable and my family feels real comfortable with the coaches, too.”
Hunter, a 5-11 point guard from Beaumont, Texas, Ozen High School, said last year he is excited to have the opportunity to be the Lobos’ point guard of the future.
While Kuiper and Mathis were recently named top-100 national recruits by the recruiting service HoopScoopOnline.com, Hunter actually grades out the highest according to ESPN.com. Hunter received a “scout grade” of 78 (Kuiper 75, Mathis 73).
Neal has long insisted he could not care less about such rating systems, but it certainly helps the profile of the program when landing more heralded players.
UNM coaches and staff are not allowed to comment about prospective recruits until they sign letters of intent.
The Lobos currently have the NCAA maximum 13 scholarship players with two seniors – Hugh Greenwood and Deshawn Delaney – exhausting their eligibility after this season. With their two scholarships opening, and three new players that are signing today, the Lobos will have to make one scholarship adjustment sometime before classes start in August.
UNM WOMEN: The team expects to receive signed paperwork from two high school seniors today: Jannon Otto, a 6-1 wing at Oak Hills High in Hesperia, Calif., and Jaisa Nunn, a 6-3 post from Juanita High in Kirkland, Wash., are likely to make commitments official.
Otto averaged 21 points and 10.2 rebounds as a junior last season. Nunn averaged 12.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks.
Emily Lines, a 6-1 wing a First Baptist Academy in Naples, Fla., plans to sign to play for UNM on Sunday, her father, Rick Lines, said. Emily Lines averaged 18.5 points and 11.2 rebounds last season.
Staff writer Ken Sickenger contributed to this report.