One of the most dynamic and exciting players in the WAC is 5'8" sophomore Kaitlyn Soto. Soto played backup point guard last season for the Aggies appearing in all 31 games. In addition to playing backup point guard she also saw court time alongside Madison Spence giving the Aggies a dribble-drive-shoot threat.
Soto has been described by Aggie head coach Darin Spence as "The Energizer Bunny" but fans and opponents might be more likely to describe her as the Tasmanian Devil enveloping and discarding anyone that gets in her way. "She is by far the roughest player I've ever had, said Coach Spence. He added, "And I've been a head men's basketball coach on the junior college level."
Soto quickly became a fan favorite with her high energy level, enthusiasm and reckless abandon when driving through the paint on her way to the basket. "She's physical, she'll knock you down, she'll outrun you," said Coach Spence. "She's a warrior out there."
Soto averaged 20 minutes per game and scored 6.1 points per game and was second on the team in assists per game at 2.0. Her ability to drive to the basket and get fouled was evident in the 101 free throws that she attempted, second most on the team. She converted on 65 percent of the free throw attempts, a number that she will need to improve this season given the volume of free throws that her style of play lends itself to.
Soto was also a surprisingly effective rebounder as she corralled 70 rebounds last season in 31 games while averaging about 20 minutes of floor time per game. Soto has worked hard in the offseason to become a more complete player which should pay big dividends for her and her teammates this season. "Her game has improved. Her overall ball handling has improved. Her ability to get in the lane and make decisions whether to pull up and shoot it, pass it or continue for the layup has improved," said Coach Spence. "Defensively she's really good and she just brings a lot of toughness to our team."
Joining the Aggies in the backcourt this year is junior point guard Jasmine Lowe. Lowe sat out the 2008-2009 season but during her first two seasons of post high school basketball she was a high octane performer leading Foothill College to a 33-3 record during the 2007-2008 season and a second place finish in the state. Lowe averaged 20 points per game in her two seasons. "Jasmine is that waterbug quick explosive left-handed guard that can play the one or the two. She was a two-time player of the league in her Junior College conference out in California. Just an explosive type player."
Despite her scoring ability, Lowe's biggest contribution could come on defense, a side of the ball that Coach Spence demands excellence from. "She's [Jasmine] a great on-ball defender but just like all those on-ball defenders she learning how to play defense off the ball."
Offensively Lowe will give Aggie opponents a different look to guard this season as she joins a rare group of players at New Mexico State under Coach Spence who have been left-handed (Monique Bribiescas and Marissa Maffei being the most recent). "It gives the defense another side of the floor that they have to guard," said Coach Spence. "Kaitlyn is predominantly right-handed and she's gotten much better going left. Madi's right-handed but she does a lot going left as well. But people defend you going right and so now you throw Jasmine out there and it just opens up that whole other side of the floor where a defender is used to a kid going one way, now she [Jasmine] has the ability to come back the other way with her strong hand."
Spence likes Lowe's ability to penetrate the lane and she could be another Kaitlyn Soto type guard for the Aggies. "What she does real well is she'll get the ball offensively into the lane. She drives and penetrates real well. She can finish in the lane," said Coach Spence. "She's a streaky perimeter shooter but plays with a high level of intensity, especially on the defensive end but is a very explosive, streaky scorer as well."
Hoping to see more court time this season for the Aggies is sophomore guard Taylor Altenburg. The 6'0" guard from Elko, Nevada played in 14 games for the Aggies last season and in just her second game in an Aggie uniform she scored seven points against Long Beach State hitting one three pointer and finishing four of six from the free throw line. In her return to her home state of Nevada against the Nevada Wolf Pack, she scored a career high eight points hitting two three pointers and sinking two free throws. She added three assists, one steal and a block.
"Taylor is a catch and shoot player that's got good length. She's a heady player," said Coach Spence. "She fills that role of that person can play a couple of different positions. Her strong suit is being able to catch and get shots off."
Rounding out the Aggie backcourt is one of the Aggies' prized recruits in this year's class, 6'0" guard Camila Rosen. Rosen sat out her senior season due to a knee injury but averaged 16.5 points and nine rebounds during her final season in high school. " Camila is a long wiry player that is kind of a two/three player. She's got a soft shot, a very good shot. When it bounces around the rim it still has a chance to go in," said Coach Spence. "She's a good defender because of her length. She has some moments in practice where she gets back to that explosive player that I know she is. As each day comes she just to get better and better and she's got a good chance to be a good player on both sides of the ball for us."