The University of New Mexico Lobos aren’t limping into the season, but they aren’t exactly a healthy bunch, either.
Lobos head coach Craig Neal on Wednesday announced two players presumed all offseason to be opening game starters – sophomore point guard Cullen Neal and junior college transfer forward Jordan Goodman – may not be ready to go Friday night against Idaho State, though both were full participants in Wednesday’s practice.
In the case of Goodman, the 6-foot-9 junior college All-American who had knee surgery in June that has yet to fully heal, the news he wouldn’t be ready to go Friday wasn’t as big a surprise as the fact that he might be able to play as early as Sunday or during the team’s Nov. 18-24 trip to play in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
Goodman has had nagging injury after injury pile on in the past month while compensating for the knee he had calcium deposits removed from in June, leading to frustrations mounting for not only him but the coaching staff in recent weeks. Craig Neal has said he won’t consider suiting Goodman up for a game until he completes five consecutive practices without incident.
After last week’s exhibition win over Adams State, Neal said on his postgame radio show he didn’t know whether Goodman would ever play for the Lobos. He later told the Journal that was not so much a doubt about Goodman eventually playing as it was about not knowing when he would play. On Monday, Neal told CBS Sports he didn’t think Goodman would play before Dec. 1.
Wednesday, Goodman had his third consecutive practice without incident and was a full-speed, full participant.
“Hopefully he’ll continue to improve,” Neal said. “He’s made strides. He’s worked at it. I don’t think he’ll play Friday. I would say doubtful, but hopefully he can get through these next two practices without any issues.”
Today would be practice No. 4 and Saturday would be practice No. 5 for Goodman. Sunday, the Lobos host Cal State-Fullerton. So will Goodman play then? Or maybe in Puerto Rico? Neal doesn’t want to set a specific date, but admits it could be sooner than he told CBS Sports.
“The only reason why I said Dec. 1 is because I don’t want to be one of those guys who says he’s going to play Friday then he doesn’t play,” Neal said. “I don’t want to be one of those guys who says I could see him playing against Boston College (Nov. 20 in Puerto Rico), and then he doesn’t play.”
So, stay tuned.
As for Cullen Neal, who had been bothered by a minor left heel injury for some time that flared up in last week’s exhibition win over Adams State, the coach said Wednesday afternoon the guard was “50/50” but wasn’t sure whether he would practice later that evening. Not only did Cullen Neal practice, he was limp-free and wasn’t held out of any drill while working with the starting unit the entire time.
Should he not start, however, coach Neal said he’d likely start junior guard Arthur Edwards and have senior Hugh Greenwood move from off guard to point guard, which he played the past three seasons.
SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED: There were no surprises for men’s hoops Wednesday. As reported in Wednesday’s Journal, all three Class of 2015 recruits who had given verbal commitments to play for the Lobos – 6-7 Dane Kuiper of Arizona, 5-11 Jordan Hunter of Texas and 6-2 Anthony Mathis of Oregon – signed and turned in their National Letters of Intent to join the team next fall.
“I’m really excited about these three guys,” Craig Neal said. “They’re not only good players, but I think they’re really good people, and that’s what I think this program is about.”