It’s basketball season and the New Mexico State men’s team made a fierce appearance at the annual Crimson and White Scrimmage at the Pan American Center last week.
After a phenomenal season last year, the Aggies are looking to have an even stronger season and win the Western Athletic Conference again, and the team looks to go even further in the NCAA tournament.
Fans arrived to last week’s scrimmage with positive energy as they came to witness a new era of Aggie basketball. After the departure of head coach Chris Jans earlier this year, the position was passed to Greg Heiar.
“[Heiar] is a spitting image of coach Jans, but he’s a little younger and I believe that he’s going to take the Aggies even further,” Aggie basketball fan Frank Duran said. “Thoughts went into my head. I was like, ah man, we just lost the best coach ever. Then when we looked into the new coach, I’m like, yeah we’re going to be alright,” Duran said.
Greg Heiar was hired back in March, a couple weeks after the team’s loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Heiar became a top candidate for the next Aggie head coach after his last season at Northwest Florida State, where he won the JUCO National Championship. Since he was hired, Heiar has shown commitment to working on the team’s chemistry and signed them up to play in a tournament in Nassau, Bahamas.
“Going to the Bahamas was so important,” NMSU Athletic Director Mario Moccia said. “To get four games under your belt against collegiate competition, so glad they got to do this tonight … everyone’s excited about Aggie basketball,” he said.
As most fans know, this years’ team is less experienced compared to last season. Some players who are returning are Mike Peake, a junior, and Marchelus Avery, a sophomore. Peake, a forward, is expected to be playing a bigger role on the court in his second year with the Aggies.
“I feel like this upcoming season is going to be fantastic,” Peake said. “I feel like we’re a team of one and we’re going to surprise some of y’all.”
Peake’s stats from last year were 34 games played with an average of 13.5 minutes of playing time a game and a season scoring total of 139 points.
Not only is there leadership on the roster, but also on the assistant coaching staff. One of those coaches is none other than Johnny McCants. McCants played a big role in the Aggies’ starting lineup last season, posting an average of 26.4 minutes a game with a total of 268 points. The Las Cruces native hopes he can contribute a positive impact as not only a player but now as a coach.
“The coaching side, it’s pretty tough. It’s my first year, there’s a lot that goes into it. Scouting my own players, scouting other players, going to other practices, and then plus I got a bunch of other guys on the team asking me questions wondering how they can get better and stuff. I try to help out the best I can,” McCants said.
With a former player like McCants bringing in his experience, it will potentially assist the development of every player on the roster.
With the Crimson and White game under their belts, the Aggies will be hosting one last exhibition game versus Western New Mexico on Nov. 2 at the Pan American Center. After that, it’s crunch time for the Aggies as they begin their regular season on Monday, Nov. 7, versus New Mexico Highlands University at the Pan American Center. Look out Panamaniacs because basketball season is back!