What: Game One
Who: NM State (0-0, 0-0 WAC) vs. New Mexico Highlands (0-0, 0-0 RMAC – DII)
When: Monday, Nov. 7, 7 pm MT
Where: Las Cruces, NM – Pan American Center (12,504)
Watch: ESPN+ | Comcast NM | Bally Sports Arizona (PxP – Adam Young, Analyst – Rus Bradburd)
Listen: Zia Country 99.5 (PxP – Jack Nixon, Analyst – Anita Skipper)
Attend: Pan American Center Box Office (575-646-1420), Online Ticket Sales
Stats: Click Here
Follow: Twitter – @NMStateMBB, Instagram – @NMStateMBB, Facebook – NM State Men’s Basketball
THE OPENING TIP
• Following a historic 2021-22 campaign that included its first NCAA Tournament win in nearly three decades, NM State retakes the court to kick off its 2022-23 campaign as they prepare to host in-state foe New Mexico Highlands in the season opener on Monday night.
• With the departure of former three-time WAC Coach of the Year, Chris Jans, who took on a new role as the lead man at Mississippi State, the Aggies were tasked with replacing a coach who finished his tenure with a 122-32 record as the Aggies’ head coach.
• Filling that role will be Dubuque, Iowa, native Greg Heiar who served on staff with Jans at two institutions (Chipola College in 2003-04 and Wichita State from 2011-14 and 2015-17).
• Heiar takes over the reins at NM State with 22 years of coaching experience, including stops along the way as an assistant at Wichita State (2011-17) and LSU (2021-22)
• The man touted as one of the best recruiters in the country has also twice been a head coach – serving as the bench boss at Chipola College from 2004-05 and most recently at Northwest Florida State College last season.
• During his one-year stint at Northwest Florida State, Heiar took the Raiders to the pinnacle of junior college basketball – leading his team to a 31-5 overall record and a NJCAA National Championship.
• The Raiders’ national title run was the culmination of a remarkable turnaround from the previous campaign. NWFS went just 6-15 in 2020-21, but with Heiar leading the way, the Raiders increased their win total by 25 games en route to the title of the nation’s best NJCAA club.
• Heiar’s résumé also includes a three-year stint in the Southeastern Conference with LSU. With the Tigers, Heiar was a part of 67 wins, including an SEC Championship and a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2019. The Aggies’ new leader contributed greatly to bolstering a Tiger recruiting class that ranked No. 4 in the country entering the 2019 season. In addition, Heiar’s on-court coaching helped Tremont Waters – the No. 51 selection in the 2019 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics – earn first team All-SEC honors.
• His time spent in Baton Rouge, La., came on the heels of a stellar six-year run with the Shockers of Wichita State. During Heiar’s time the Shockers won 179 games, five Misouri Valley Conference regular season titles and made six-staight trips to the NCAA Tournament, including the programs’ second-ever Final Four appearance in 2013.
• While at Wichita State, Heiar worked extensively with the Shocker backcourt, which saw Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet earn All-American honors. Both would also eventually sign NBA contracts following the 2016 season.
• Additionally, the Shockers were one of the top winningest programs in the country during Heiar’s stay as their 179 wins was tied for third-most nationally behind only Gonzaga (187) and Kentucky (185).
MEET THE NEWCOMERS
• Even for fans that have followed the Aggies for many years, the team that NM State will take the floor with on Nov. 2 will look almost entirely unfamiliar as only two of the Aggies’ from last year’s team will wear Crimson & White this season .
• Aside from junior forward Mike Peake and sophomore forward Chi Chi Avery, all other Aggies that suit up for the 2022-23 season will be making their Aggie debuts. Redshirt freshman Shakiru Odunewu is the only other member of this year’s squad who has spent time within the program as he redshirted with the Aggies last season.
• 15 of the 16 new faces stepped foot in Las Cruces for the first time during the offseason. Las Cruces native and son of Aggie legend William Benjamin, Deuce Benjamin serves as the lone Aggie newcomer with roots already established in Las Cruces.
• The Aggies will lean on several newcomers this season as Issa Muhammad, Xavier Pinson, DaJuan Gordon, Kim Aiken Jr., Deshawndre Washington, Anthony Roy, Kyle Feit and Doctor Bradley are all expected to play major roles for Coach Heiar in their debut season with the Aggies.
• Despite being new to the program, Washington and Muhammad should be comfortable with the system in place as they were key cogs on Coach Heiars national championship team at Northwest Florida State one season ago. Washington, a 6-7 point guard, started 35 of 36 games for the Raiders while averaging 12.0 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists. The highly-touted Chicago guard came to the Aggies as the sixth-ranked junior college recruit according to jucorecruiting.com after he was named a NJCAA Division I First Team All-American and NJCAA Division I National Championship Tournament Most Valuable Player.
• Fellow National Champion, Issa Muhammad steps into his role with the Aggies after averaging 9.8 points and 6.4 rebounds with the Raiders last season. Muhammad makes stop number three of his collegiate career after also playing for Daytona State for a pair of seasons.
• Joining Washington in the backcourt will be transfer DaJuan “Quaye” Gordon who begins his career with the Aggies after stints with Missouri and Kansas State. In his lone season with the Tigers, the elite two-way guard made starts in all 32 games he appeared in on his way to averaging 8.3 points and 4.0 rebounds in 24.5 minutes per game.
• Gordon serves as just one of three Aggies to join the team one season after playing at the Power Five level with the other two being LSU transfer Xavier Pinson and Arizona transfer Kim Aiken Jr. However, both Pinson and Aiken Jr. do find themsleves in need of approved waivers from the NCAA before they can begin their Aggie careers.
• Upon approval, Pinson has an opportunity to step in and become one of the best guards in the Western Athletic Conference. That sentiment is backed with selections to both the Coaches’ All-WAC First Team and Media All-WAC Team. Just last season, Pinson held down the starting point guard position for the Tigers as he started 27 of 28 contests and averaged a team-high 4.8 assists per game while pouring in just under 10 points per game.
• Kim Aiken Jr. treks to Las Cruces after making a stop in Tucson, Ariz. Before playing for the Wildcats, Aiken Jr. was a First Team All-Big Sky selection and Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year at Eastern Washington when he led the Eagles to a berth in the 2020-21 NCAA Tournament. Aiken could potentially provide big-man depth alongside Muhammad during the 2022-23 season.
• Former San Francisco Don Anthony Roy joins the Aggies after spending last season in Wenatchee, Wash., where he played for Wenatchee Valley College. With the Knights, Roy appeared in 26 games and finished the year averaging 23.2 points per game while shooting 53.6 percent from the field. He also added 7.5 rebounds per game and 4.0 assists per game on his way to being named NWAC Second Team All-East Region.
• Kyle Feit makes his second stop at the Division I level after spending three seasons with Arizona State (2018-21). Looking for a bigger role, Feit returned to his home state of Florida to play at Indian River State College. Feit’s play in 2021-22 helped skyrocket the stock of the sharpshooter as he led all NJCAA shooters with 112 made threes while shooting at a 46.5 percnt clip.
• Big man Doctor Bradley should offer a spark off the bench for the Aggies with his athleticism and ability to defend multiple positions. Last season, Bradley checked into all 37 games at Salt Lake Community College where he averaged 13.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
THE POWER FIVE FIVE
• At some point in their college basketball careers, five members of the 2022-23 Aggie roster previously suited up for a Power Five institution.
• Xavier Pinson (LSU in 2021-22 and Missouri from 2018-21), DaJuan Gordon (Missouri in 2021-22 and Kansas State from 2019-21), Kyle Feit (Arizona State from 2018-21), Mike Peake (Georgia in 2019-20) and Kim Aiken (Arizona in 2021-22) all have previous experience at the Power Five level. Between that group, programs from the Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC are represented.
• Across all five athletes, the Aggies roster will include 10 years of experience at the Power Five level not to mention several other individuals who passed up Power Five opportunities to join the NM State program.
AGGIE LEGENDS ON THE RADIO
• Longtime Voice of the Aggies Jack Nixon will be joined by NM State legend Anita Skipper (formerly Anita Maxwell) for the 2022-23 season.
• During her playing days with the Aggies, Skipper became the first men’s or women’s player at the Division I level to have at least 2,500 points, 1,000 rebounds and 300 steals in a college career.
• With 2,601 career points during her four-year career, Skipper still holds the title of all-time leading scorer in NM State history regardless of gender.
• The three-time All-American was selected 29th overall by the Cleveland Rockers in the first-ever WNBA draft in 1997.
• The Dallas native recently made her debut on the radio alongside Nixon on Wednesday, Nov. 2, when the Aggies hosted Western New Mexico.
ACCORDING TO OTHERS
• In an announcement made by the conference on Monday, Oct. 17, the Aggies were picked to finish second in both the WAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll and WAC Preseason Media Poll.
• This marks the first time since the 2017-18 season that NM State will enter the season without the distinction of “preseason favorite” – at least on paper.
• 2017-18 also happened to be the last time the Aggies entered the season with a new head coach as Chris Jans was entering year one with the program.
• All the Aggies did that year was compile a 12-2 record in WAC play to earn the WAC Regular Season title before going on to win three games by an average margin of victory of 12 points en route to a WAC Tournament title.
• According to the league’s coaches and media that follow the WAC, Grand Canyon was selected as the preseason favorite to win the league. In the coaches’ poll, the Lopes garnered eight first-place votes to finish with 135 points. The Aggies earned the second-most number of first-place votes with three while racking up 127 points. Stephen F. Austin, Abilene Christian and California Baptist rounded out the top five in a poll of the league’s 13 head coaches. The top five on the side of the media mirrored that of the coaches’ poll.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
• Heading into their season opener against New Mexico Highlands on Monday, Nov. 7, the Aggies have put up a 71-42-1 (.627) all-time mark in season openers.
• Dating back to the 2015-16 season, NM State has emerged as the victor in each of its last seven season openers. Over the last decade, the Aggies have gone 7-3 (.700) in their first game to begin a season.
MAJOR MID MAJOR
• After finishing the 2021-22 season ranked fifth in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top-25 poll, the Aggies find themselves ranked 22nd in the preseason mid-major rankings.
• Additionally, nine of the Aggies’ opponents during the 2022-23 season are also featured among the initial rankings, with a trio of Aggie opponents among the top 25 while the other six votes received to be included in the preseason rankings.
• Of the nine NM State opponents that have been recognized among the top mid-major institutions, six reside in the WAC alongside the Aggies (Grand Canyon, Abilene Christian, Stephen F. Austin, Utah Valley, Southern Utah and Sam Houston).
THIS DAY IN NM STATE HISTORY
• Monday’s meeting with the Cowboys will mark the first time in program history that the Aggies will play a game on Nov. 7 and only the third time in history that NM State will begin its season during the first week of November.