Aggie Basketball Working On The Little Things

Written by: Jason Groves/Sun-News Reporter

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - When New Mexico State University basketball players make a mistake during practice, they are punished by putting in some extra time on the treadmill.

The treadmill has been busy during practice this week after the Aggies turned the ball over 26 times in their first exhibition game on Saturday.

"Our treadmill has been heated up during practice and they know they will visit it," first-year head coach Marvin Menzies said.

The Aggies take the floor tonight in their final exhibition game against New Mexico Highlands.

Menzies said the Aggies have been working on patience on the offensive end.

"We have been making sure that we make the extra pass," Menzies said. "We want to get the base hits and not always go for the home run. We will have turnovers the way that we play, but we have to curtail them and not accept the turnovers that are unforced."

The Aggies have focused on the defensive end as well, entering their season opener on Friday at Ohio.

"We are trying to be fundamentally sound on defense," Menzies said. "We want to turn up our intensity but at the same time, keep those fundamentals in place."

Menzies said he expects to send out the same starting five that helped the Aggies defeat Cal-State Los Angeles 80-66 on Saturday. Senior Fred Peete started at the point guard position with sophomore Jonathan Gibson in the backcourt. Seniors Justin Hawkins, Hatila Passos and Martin Iti started in the frontcourt.

The Aggies had impressive performances off the bench from two newcomers. Junior transfer Paris Carter was 4-for-6 from behind the 3-point line for 12 points in 17 minutes. Freshman forward Wendell McKines was 4-for-5 from the field, including a 15-foot jumper and two dunks.

With the up-tempo style of play Menzies wants to incorporate, the newcomers will have to contribute off the bench. Freshman guard DeAngelo Jones could add to that depth. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Seattle, Wash., suffered a thigh bruise during the Crimson versus White Scrimmage and did not play on Saturday night. He practiced twice on Monday, and Menzies said he will play tonight if his health holds up.

Menzies said Carter has proven himself at the Division I level at Hartford two years ago.

"We want some athletes who have some quickness and can execute in the halfcourt and also get their own shot when the offense breaks down," Menzies said. "Both (Carter and Jones) have the ability to do that."

Berry returns to Las Cruces

New Mexico Highlands head coach Greg Berry served as an assistant coach at NMSU under Ken Hayes, Weldon Drew and Lou Henson.

"What I am impressed with in regards to New Mexico State is its rebounding," Berry said. "I saw their game against New Mexico last year and they just really dominated the boards. They have good size. We'll have to handle their pressure and handle the ball well. We have to do better in the paint."

Highlands' top players are guards Leo Ural, Nathan Huff and Steve Shanks, and forward Leonard Hopper Jr. The team will be without wing David Omoghan, who is serving a six-game suspension after being named Co-freshman of the Year of the Western Division of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

"We're improved, but we are about a third of where we can be," Berry said. "We have some new guys that will help us and we have some returnees that have some experience. It's great coming back to Las Cruces, I have a lot of friends there."

Pope, Young still sitting

NMSU hired a Kansas City based consulting firm to assist Aggie freshman Herb Pope win his eligibility battle with the NCAA.

Freshman guard Jahmar Young is also awaiting clearance. Menzies said that if cleared, both will travel with the Aggies because, "they have earned that."

"There is a better chance for Jahmar to be cleared in the next couple of days, but Herb's situation could take longer," Menzies said. "Both of them did what they were told to do by their respective institutions. I feel like they should still be allowed to practice, but unfortunately my opinion doesn't count."

Jason Groves can be reached at jgroves@lcsun-news.com