2009-2010 bleedCrimson.net Aggie Men's Basketball Preview :: Guards

The New Mexico State Aggies enter the 2009-2010 having been picked to finish third in the WAC by both the coaches and media. The Aggies finished in a three-way tie for third place in the 2008-2009 season with a 17-15 overall record and 9-7 in league play despite having the fifth youngest team in the nation according to statistics guru Ken Pomeroy. The Aggies return nearly all of that youth and with a full season of experience and a full offseason of conditioning, training and practice, the Aggies are poised to make a run for the 2009-2010 WAC championship and a return trip to the NCAA tournament.

The WAC is a talent-rich conference particularly at the guard position. The Aggies are no exception and have a wealth of talent in the one and two positions (point guard and shooting guard).

POINT GUARD
Hernst LarocheThe point guard position was a revolving door during the 2007-2008 season with three different players manning the position. Last season a true freshman named Hernst Laroche laid claim to the starting job and provided stability for the Aggie offense. The 6'1" point guard's stellar freshman season saw him finish with an assist to turnover ratio of 2.48 which was good for second in the league and was also second nationally among all freshmen point guards. "I've said over and over again what a joy to have him on the team because of his stability and consistency," said Aggie head coach Marvin Menzies. "He's a very talented player with an improved offensive arsenal and I think he's got a little bit more confidence that comes along with that [added offense] and that will make him more productive at that position." Laroche's offensive production gradually increased as he finished the season averaging 5.8 points per game and set a career high with 13 points against Cal State-Fullerton. Laroche is also an efficient shooter hitting nearly 50% of his shots in his freshman season. "Based on what he did for us last year and you add the offensive arsenal and you're looking at a very solid, stable head on the body at the point guard position."

Backing up Laroche this season will be 6'1" freshman Da'Shawn Gomez (Inglewood H.S., Inglewood, CA). Gomez averaged 18 points, 10 assists, three steals and three rebounds per game his senior season and was a First Team All-Daily Breeze selection. "Da'Shawn is a backup point guard and is a real solid kid," said Coach Menziez. "He [Gomez] was very well coached in high school and came from a winning program," said Coach Menzies. "He's a young point guard that is a true point guard and has that mentality of pass first, score second. All the kids like him and he's got a great personality. He's a tough kid that knows how to play the game."

With the departure of Terrance Joyner from last season's squad due to off the court issues the coaching staff will be looking to Gomez to spell Laroche from the very beginning. "He's a kid that can step in and get minutes early in his career and can play the role of a backup initially." Coach Menzies is confident that Gomez's versatility can translate into him playing the shooting guard position later after this season. "He can possibly slide over and be more of a combo later on in his career but this year we're going to use him exclusively at the one."

SHOOTING GUARD
Jonathan GibsonAs the lone major contributing senior on the Aggie team Jonathan Gibson will be relied upon to provide leadership both on and off the court for the Aggie ballclub. Although he averaged 14.1 points per game last season, a two point per game average increase over his 2007-2008 campaign, the 6'1" guard's efficiency dropped a bit last season and was inconsistent throughout the season and often times put up quick, ill-advised shots. "He had a good year last year but it was a little disappointing to himself," said Coach Menzies.

However, Gibson righted the ship at the end of the season reminding Aggie fans of his incredible talent and sharp shooting that fans fell in love with during the sophomore season. Gibson finished the final four games of the season averaging 18 points per game and hit 52 percent of his shots from the field (26/50) and 59 percent of his three point attempts (17/29). Coach Menzies believes that with Gibson's strong finish to last season, he is poised for a breakout in his senior year. "He finished the season strong and we're anticipating him to carry on from how he finished offensively and if he can continue to improve with the natural development and individual skill development stuff that he's worked on in the offseason we're anticipating him having a great season for us."

Jahmar YoungPerhaps the most dynamic player on the Aggie roster is junior combo shooting guard/small forward Jahmar Young. Young led the league in scoring during the 2008-2009 season averaging 17.9 points per game. Young was the lone preseason All-Conference pick as he was selected First Team All-WAC by both the coaches and media. "Jahmar is obviously a big time player. He was picked pre-season first team all conference and we're excited about that for him but Jahmar understands that it's just an accolade and he has to go out and earn it now," said Coach Menzies.

Young transformed from a somewhat selfish player on the court in his freshman year to an unselfish leader on the court during his sophomore campaign. In an early season game against Loyola Marymoung he scored 30 points in the Aggies' 104-62 victory. Young was 7 of 9 from behind the three point line in just 27 minutes of play. That display from Young was not a fluke as he finished the season hitting 42 percent of his three point attempts. Young's versatility showed in his ability to get to the basket as well. He finished with 113 two point baskets and was also adept at getting to the free throw line leading the team with 170 free throw attempts and was deadly accurate from the charity stripe converting 82 percent of his attempts, third best in the league. Young is also a workhorse leading the team in minutes player per game at 33.9 and will likely see just as much action this season.

With the incredible offensive skills that Young showed on a nightly basis his defensive skills and unselfishness on the offensive end are often overlooked. Young tied for the team high with 44 steals and was second on the team in defensive rebounds with 105 and fouled out just once in 32 games. He was also second on the team in assists with 104, second only to starting point guard Hernst Laroche.

"He has a work ethic and discipline to do that. On the court he's probably one of the hardest working players I've ever coached and hopefully this year he'll truly reap the benefits of that."

Gordo CastilloThe Aggies finished the season leading the league in three point shooting and part of the credit for that accomplishment goes to hometown favorite Aaron "Gordo" Castillo. Castillo led the league in three point shooting percentage hitting just under 45 percent his three point attempts. "He's such a solid kid through and through on and off the court in terms of his focus and attention to detail. That's one of the reasons he's such phenomenal shooter is because of his concentration," said Coach Menzies.

Castillo averaged just 4.6 points per game last season but scored a career high 20 points in the Aggies' victory over Cal-State Fullerton. He hit six of eight three point attempts and gave Aggie fans a glimpse of his potential. "I'm looking for him to have a breakout season this year with an opportunity to play a few more minutes than he has in the past and we may even go with some smaller lineups and he may be included in that," said Coach Menzies.

"He's lost some weight, he's gotten rid of some of the baby fat and is underneath 10% body fat right now which is phenomenal for where he was when he got here. He's obviously been working hard on his body to become a [better] player."

Rounding out the guards is senior Tray Britt. Britt is a reserve guard who has had the unfortunate timing of playing behind Fred Peete, Jahmar Young and Jonathan Gibson. "Tray Britt in another situation probably would have seen a lot more opportunity but he's never pouted and has kept a positive attitude the whole way and truly is a team guy," said Coach Menzies. Britt has not seen much more than spot cleanup duty in his first three seasons playing in just five games during the 2008-2009 season scoring two points against UC-Riverside.

Britt's contributions to the team have been seen mainly in the practice gym where Coach Menzies gave him high praise for his work ethic. "Tray is probably the strongest and most athletic and has the best body on the team. He's a diligent worker who takes and approaches every day as if it's his last opportunity to play basketball and as a result has developed his body to a place where he's a fantastic defender in practice and has improved on his skill set to a place where he may also have an opportunity early in the season especially."