Lobo Guard Jamal Mashburn Jr., right, drives from Taryn Todd, left, during practice at the Rudy Davalos Training Facility in October. (Eddie Moore / ) Jamal Mashburn Jr. and KJ Jenkins insist that their Christmas trips home east – Miami and Miami, respectively.
“Oh no. I trained,” said Mashburn, the Lobos’ top scorer. “I definitely went home and trained. I had to.”
Jenkins, who co-tri-captains the team with Mashburn and Senior Saquan Singleton, added, “I stayed in shape when I went home – I was just trying to be fit for the altitude (when I got to New Mexico returned). I’m doing well.”
Her coach isn’t so sure if the Lobo basketball team as a whole passed the test when they found themselves earlier this week after a few unexpected extra days off for Christmas thanks to the team’s opening game in the Mountain West Conference on Tuesday night against No. 20 Colorado returned to the square due to COVID logging with the Rams list.
“They were pretty out of shape, yes,” said Pitino of his team, which returned to Albuquerque on Monday and the 7-6 team began preparations for its new Mountain West opener on Saturday in Nevada on Tuesday.
UNM last played on December 21 in a win against Norfolk State. And the players were allowed to leave town for the Christmas holidays, provided they returned at Christmas, and training for the CSU game on Tuesday began on Sunday. After the game was canceled, the players were allowed to stay with their family until Monday evening.
“They’re trying to get their wind back (in training),” Pitino said of the approach of handling a season break between games longer than he remembers him as a coach.
“The height makes you feel more out of shape than usual. So yes, they were, but (we have) four days to familiarize ourselves as well as possible. “
TASTE IS DIFFICULT: With another season of postponements and cancellations ahead of us, scheduling flexibility – and a program’s willingness or ability to be flexible in the event of postponements – could be a hot topic in the next two and a half months.
Both the UNM and Nevada had postponed their conference openings during the week due to the opposing teams’ COVID logs. Nevada went and played Kansas. The UNM tried but was ultimately unable to schedule a non-conference opponent during the week to stay fresh.
But why should Mountain West teams that might not play until later in the season move games up the schedule if possible to ensure they get played and avoid falling behind from delayed games in the late season that might become pile up?
“Of course I would,” said Pitino of his willingness to postpone scheduled matches to make sure they are played.
Of course, there are reasons why such things can’t happen, including the implications for logistics and season tickets. However, Pitino also acknowledged that having coaches doing such decisions in the middle of a conference season is probably not advisable.
“I don’t think it should be up to the coaches. I really don’t, ”said Pitino. “I think administrators, the Mountain West – I think they should handle it because there will be game spirit among the coaches. That doesn’t mean they are bad people. We all want to win. “
As for the postponement of the missed home game on Tuesday night with No. 20 Colorado State (10-0)?
“I don’t know when that will happen,” said Pitino. “I’m just trying not to think about it too much. I try not to look at their schedule and our schedule. The bottom line is that we’d love to play the game. It would be a great experience for our young team to play against what is probably the best team in the league in our house. But we want to make it safe. “
Pitino said he and CSU coach Niko Medved had talked since the postponement, but more about how the individual teams are doing, not yet about when a make-up could take place.
NEW MEXICO CHRISTMAS: The players may have been out of shape after the break, but what about the coaches?
After all, this was the first New Mexico Christmas for the Pitino family.
Has he indulged in some of the state’s holiday favorites, like tamales? And red chilli?
“I did, yes,” Pitino said before giving rave reviews of things like his family trip to the River of Lights and his education on the culture of the state.
“Then the tamale deal. Yes, we were given some by some good local friends. Stunning. … And my wife and I (had talked the other day) – there have never been as many breakfast burritos as in Albuquerque. And I remember thinking, ‘Chile. Pooh. That’s gross. ‘ And now i love it. You no longer ask to put the red chilli aside. “