Hugh Greenwood and Deshawn Delaney won’t allow their careers as Lobos to be defined by a lengthy losing streak.
And to make sure of that, they don’t have any intention of ending their Lobo basketball careers with one, especially in the Pit.
The Lobo seniors left behind from last season’s 27-win NCAA Tournament team to lead this year’s rebuilding
squad derailed by injury said there are mixed emotions about playing the Wyoming Cowboys (22-8, 11-6 Mountain West) tonight. While they are eager to get back on the court to change their fortunes after an eight-game losing streak in February, Greenwood and Delaney are in no hurry to say goodbye after what may be their final home game.
“It’s going to be a bittersweet feeling, that’s for sure,” said Greenwood, the four-year starting point guard from Australia who has evolved into one of the most popular players in program history. “They warn you how quick it goes. You nod your head, but you take it for granted. Four years really has gone quick. It’s going to be an emotional time, that’s for sure, walking up and down the ramp for the last time and playing in front of the fans for the last time.”
The 6-foot-3 guard from Tasmania, Australia, has been a part of five championships at UNM (regular-season Mountain West crowns in 2012 and 2013 as well as three consecutive MWC tournaments).
While Greenwood’s role through his first three seasons was far more about setting up the exploits of star teammates such as Drew Gordon, Kendall Williams, Cameron Bairstow, Tony Snell and Alex Kirk, his place as a gritty, hard-working fan favorite grew. But this season, when thrust into a primary scoring role while also launching the Pink Pack cancer fundraiser in honor of his mother, the chants of “Huuggghhhh!!!” grew louder and louder in the Pit, not unlike those for a fellow former Aussie and Lobos great, Luc Longley.
“You’re dealing with a kid that’s done more for our program as a player (than maybe any other),” UNM coach Craig Neal said. “He’s going to graduate on time (with a degree in psychology). He’s going to play professionally when he’s done (at UNM). Just what he’s bought into, what he’s sacrificed, what he’s done in the community – I don’t know if there’s anybody who’s done that since we’ve been here and we’ve had a lot of great players and a lot of great people.”
Delaney, the father of a 4-year-old son, used basketball to get out of one of the nation’s most notoriously dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago, taking him first to junior college in Vincennes (Ind.) and then to Albuquerque.
Along with expecting to earn his degree in liberal arts, he’ll leave his mark on the Lobos program, as well. Not only will he likely finish the season as the team’s leading scorer, but as Greenwood pointed out Thursday, it was Delaney who may have been the forgotten x-factor in the Lobos’ MWC tournament run a year ago.
“Before coming here, I really didn’t win anything in my lifetime playing basketball,” said Delaney. “Coming here, it’s made me become a winner. I just feel like a winner every time. After winning the Mountain West tournament (last season) and all the games we’ve won, I just feel like a winner. When I leave, I’ll still feel like a winner.”
Delaney, whose son, mother and high school coach are expected to be in attendance tonight, will be the first member of his family to earn a college degree.
“I never thought I would even graduate from high school,” Delaney said. “To get a college degree, it’s awesome. It’s been a dream come true.”
Both seniors say their time at UNM has instilled in them a winning attitude, which is why they are determined to use today’s regular-season finale and next week’s MWC tournament to rewrite the story of this season.
“It is a championship culture,” Greenwood said. “It is a winning culture. … The fans will appreciate you if you’re working hard. They’re going to see that and recognize that. Like DeDe said, it’s not going to be easy. Coach is going to try to get everything out of you because he wants to compete and play for championships. It is challenging, but if you put in the work and you put in the time, it’s definitely worth it.”
MORE SENIORS: In addition to Delaney and Greenwood, two Lobo team managers – Matthew Singleton (secondary education major) and Ryan Berryman (business administration) – will also be honored in a postgame ceremony tonight.
GREENWOOD HONOR: Greenwood’s family (his mother, father, sister and several other relatives) will be on hand today and will accept on his behalf the 2013-14 Tow Diehm Inspiration Award, awarded by UNM to a male student athlete (the female award is dubbed the Leslie Self Inspiration Award and will go to tennis player Natasha Smith) who exemplifies “leadership, character, determination and commitment to team.”
SELLOUT: UNM said Friday that today’s game is a sellout, including the student section, which has had unclaimed tickets in recent games. This is the second of the season (San Diego State was the other).
MORE AUSSIES: In addition to the Greenwood clan in the stands, there will be another Australian special guest in the Pit today. Isaac Humphries, a 7-foot junior center at the La Lumiere School in La Porte, Ind., is making an unofficial recruiting visit to UNM this weekend.
The coveted Aussie who moved to the United States to play at the well-regarded prep school, is a four-star recruit who is already garnering recruiting attention from Duke, Arizona, Kentucky and other elite college basketball programs.