LAS CRUCES – New Mexico State guard Xavier Pinson will play in tonight’s season opener against New Mexico Highlands, a school spokesperson confirmed Monday afternoon.
The LSU transfer’s eligibility waiver was cleared by the NCAA after more than a month of waiting and speculation about the senior guard’s status. He did not play in last week’s exhibition game against Western New Mexico, another Division II school, and will formally make his first appearance in an Aggie uniform tonight.
More:New Mexico State has found the right coach, but fans should temper expectations in Year One
NMSU head coach Greg Heiar remained optimistic through the last month that Pinson’s waiver would be cleared by the official start of the season, although he said the Aggies would be capable of adjusting their rotation if Pinson was unable to play. NMSU is still waiting for Arizona redsirt senior transfer forward Kim Aiken Jr.’s eligibility waiver to be approved by the NCAA.
More:‘That’s like a fairy-tale ending:’ Chicago-born quartet Gordon, Washington, Pinson, Peake unite in Las Cruces
Pinson’s eligibility questions revolved around academics. Aiken’s eligibility questions revolve more around the University of Arizona itself.
Pinson should be expected to start in tonight’s game, possibly in place of Anthony Roy or Mike Peake. Tonight’s game will be the first time this season Pinson has been with the Aggies for a game in front of fans against an actual opponent as opposed to exhibition contests against Division II schools or non-NCAA opponents. Pinson did not travel to the Bahamas for the team’s foreign tour during the summer.
Pinson started 27 of 28 games for LSU last year and averaged 9.8 points, 4.8 assists and 1.9 steals per game on a team that reached the NCAA Tournament. He received media votes for the preseason WAC Player of the Year selection and scored 15 points in the team’s Crimson-White scrimmage last week, which included 10 points in the second period alone. He was also the team’s only preseason First Team All-WAC selection.
Stephen Wagner is a sports reporter for the Las Cruces Sun News. He can found on Twitter at @stephenwag22 and reached at [email protected].