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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Men's basketball: ‘Pancake’ Thomas granted release

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By Aaron Sweet / New Mexico Daily Lobo

sports@dailylobo.com

The New Mexico men’s basketball rebuilding effort will require one more component for the upcoming 2014-15 season.

The Lobos granted sophomore guard Cleveland “Pancake” Thomas a release from his scholarship, the team announced Wednesday afternoon. Thomas becomes the third player to be released from the team after this past season.

UNM also gave releases to freshman guard Tim Myles and sophomore forward Nick Banyard. The team said in a statement that Thomas will transfer from the University.

“I want to thank the entire Lobo organization from the coaches, to the staff, trainers, fans, and anyone who’s been a supporter of me,” Thomas wrote on Twitter.

In all, UNM loses seven players from this past season’s Mountain West tournament championship squad. Starting guard Kendall Williams and forward Cameron Bairstow, along with walk-on Chris Perez, graduate this year while junior center Alex Kirk will leave with one year of eligibility left. Kirk has declared the NBA draft alongside Williams and Bairstow.

Thomas started the first 10 games for the Lobos last season before losing the job to junior guard Deshawn Delaney, who transferred to UNM. Thomas played in 64 games in two seasons, including all 34 contests in 2013-14. He scored 3.9 points per game, seventh on the team’s scoring list.

Lobo head coach Craig Neal thanked Thomas for what he’s done for the program.

“He’s been a big contributor to our program and an integral part of two conference championships here at New Mexico,” Neal said. “He has come in and excelled on the court, in the classroom and in the community. We are sorry to see him leave our program but will continue to support him as he explores other playing opportunities.”

In addition to incoming freshmen Xavier Adams and Joe Furstinger, the Lobos will bring in J.J. N’Ganga, a transfer from Northwest Oklahoma College-Townaka. The 6-foot-10 center will have two years of eligibility.

A native of Aubersvilliers, France, N’Ganga averaged six points and 5.4 rebounds in 32 games a season ago. He connected on 47 percent of his shots from the field and 64 percent from the free-throw line as NOCT held a 19-14 record.

“He is a high caliber player, and his junior college statistics don’t really showcase the type of player that he is,” Neal said in an April 17 statement. “He has only been playing basketball for a few years. He is a strong academic student that will fit in well here at the University of New Mexico, and he is a very dedicated student-athlete.”