NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The University of New Mexico Lobo men’s basketball team has eight new players ready to play for first-year head coach Richard Pitino. That’s a lot of getting to know you but the Lobos believe they have done well in that area. Coach Pitino said his players are always together and appear to have good chemistry. That could make it a little bit easier for Pitino as he tries to restore the program as a winner.
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“We talk about what are our goals,” said Pitino. “We want to get better and we want to win. Whatever’s in front of us, we want to win. They seem to be doing that right now, but any coach will tell you October first, no adversity has hit anybody. So, we’ll see.”
One of the new faces is a familiar one to Pitino. Point guard Jamal Mashburn Jr. followed Pitino from his prior job at Minnesota. “You know, we always had a good relationship and he’s been with me since my freshman year in high school, recruiting me and he’s always been honest,” said Mashburn. “I’m always about honesty. So, he shoots it to you straight.”
Pitino describes Mashburn Jr. as a good kid with a lot of determination. Pitino is glad to have him again. “You know, as a coach you have a lot of good days, you have a lot of bad days, just challenging,” said Pitino. “When a guy like that decides to follow you, believes in you. It makes you proud.”
The Lobos will host New Mexico Highlands in an exhibition game on Nov. 5.
In other sports news, the UNM athletic department suspended Lobos forward Valdir Manuel indefinitely. A reason for the suspension was not given.
Lobo football hopes to bounce back and start Mountain West Conference play with a victory against Air Force Saturday. The Lobos offensive line is hoping to help in trenches better than the last game. “You know we haven’t played to the best of our ability,” said Lobos offensive lineman Kyle Stapley. “I put a lot of that on my shoulders. For me it’s just about motivating the guys, you know, talking about that feeling we felt, you don’t win a game you should have. I’ve been talking a lot about the game last year. We went to Air Force and it was 28-0, trying to remind everybody about that feeling. We talked we don’t ever want to feel this again. Now it’s time to do something about it.”
The Mountain West Conference issued a statement Friday to confirm that Colorado State and Air Force were not headed to the American Athletic Conference but remain committed to staying in the Mountain West. The league also announced that Boise State and San Diego State remain committed to the Mountain West. They are the other two institutions that were rumored to be possibly on the move in conference expansion.
New Mexico State is at San Jose State Saturday. The Aggies are seeking a second win on the season. The Aggies are 1-4 while the Spartans are 2-2. The game in San Jose starts at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday.
UNM volleyball improved to 3-0 in Mountain West play with three games to none win at San Diego State Thursday night. The 3-0 start in conference play is the best for the Lobos since 2014. The Lobos are 12-2 overall and will play at UNLV Saturday.