#112 New Mexico State Men's Basketball Preview

New Mexico State Aggies

Overall Rank: #112
Conference Rank: #3 WAC

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2010-11: 16-17, 9-7
2010-11 postseason: none
Coach: Marvin Menzie (76-58 at New Mexico State, 76-58 overall)

The New Mexico State frontcourt is in good shape as long as Wendell McKines can stay in good shape. The 6-6 senior missed the 2010-2011 campaign with a knee injury and his progress will be extremely important for the Aggies. The team certainly missed his 10.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game that he averaged two years ago. As long as McKines’ knee holds up, he will team up with Hamidu Rahman to create one of the best frontcourts in the conference. Rahman, a bulky 6-11 senior, is a decent interior scorer and a solid rebounder, but most of his production does not show up in the box the score.

Who’s Out:
Getting McKines back is nice, but the Aggies lose their leading scorer and rebounder of a year ago. Troy Gillenwater dominated the WAC, averaging 18.9 points and 6.3 rebounds. His leadership and production will be missed. However, what Gillenwater brought to the game, among many other things, was an ability to hit the long ball. Gillenwater hit 1.4 three-pointers per game and was one of just two players on the team to average more than one long ball per game. Unfortunately for New Mexico State, the other was the only other loss on the team. Gordo Castillo spent most of last season coming in off the bench, but was third on the team in scoring and connected on 40.0 percent of his 5.2 attempts per game from beyond the arc. If NMSU hopes to stay towards the top of the WAC, they better find a shooter.

Who’s In:
The newcomers could help fill in that role. Emery Coleman is a good shooting guard, but is not ready to turn into a sixth man of Castillo’s quality as a freshman. Temjae Singleton has some potential as well, but he is more of a slashing small forward than a shooter. His depth on the wing could prove useful, but he will not be the answer to the three-point situation. Terel De Rouen is the most likely candidate to see major minutes this season as a backup point guard. The depth on the perimeter is slim, so the newcomers will get an opportunity, but relying too heavily on freshmen is not something this team needs to do.

Who to Watch:
That means the more minutes point guard Hernst Laroche and guard Christian Kabongo can play the better. Laroche is a decent outside shooter, but his shooting is pretty much there to open up the offense. Laroche’s first job is to create for his teammates. The fact that he can knock down the occasional three-pointer gives him space to do so. He averaged 4.6 assists per game last year and also tallied 11.5 points per game. He is the unquestioned leader of this team, but New Mexico State still needs a shooter on the wing. Kabongo certainly tried to be a shooter last season. The 6-4 sophomore did have a fine freshman campaign and proved to be an all-around solid player. However, his scoring was limited to attacking the basket. He attempted 2.3 three-pointers per game and connected on just 18.7 percent of those attempts. Kabongo is a much better shooter than that, but it remains to be seen if his shot will start falling. Tyrone Watson will once again start at the small forward spot. He is a good rebounder from the wing and a versatile scorer but, like Kabongo, he does most of his damage attacking the basket.

Final Projection:
The newcomers will have to provide most of the depth on the perimeter, but the frontcourt has a slew of players returning. Tshildzi Nephawe is a big 6-10, 268 pound center who can eat up a bunch of space in the paint. Renaldo Dixon and B.J. West are also at least 6-10 and provide the Aggies with an endless amount of big bodies to run in and out of the game. Bandja Sy started 20 games last year and has plenty of experience playing in the post. Sy is the one big man who will likely come in off the bench that can stretch out the defense with his shooting ability. Nephawe, Dixon and West are more bangers under the basket. The frontcourt will be fine even without Gillenwater. The problem lies with the outside shooting. If the talented frontcourt is going to get open looks, there needs to be at least a threat or two from beyond the arc. If it does not come from Kabongo, Coleman better be ready to see significant playing time as a freshman. If those two cannot find their stroke, it may be another disappointing season for the Aggies.

Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
Hernst Laroche, Senior, Guard, 11.5 points per game
Christian Kabongo, Sophomore, Guard, 8.9 points per game
Tyrone Watson, Junior, Forward, 7.6 points per game
Wendell McKines, Senior, Forward, DNP last season
Hamidu Rahman, Senior, Center, 7.2 points per game

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