Now that the season is complete, New Mexico junior center Alex Kirk will explore his options for the upcoming NBA draft, Lobo coach Craig Neal said Wednesday afternoon.
Neal, at his end-of-season press conference, said Kirk’s paperwork has been sent to the league office and he will await feedback before making the decision to leave one year early or return to the Lobos.
Kirk, a Los Alamos native, is expected to receive his academic degree at the end of this semester; his biography on the team’s website identifies Kirk as a marketing major. He missed the 2011-12 basketball season after a back injury after joining the Lobos in the same class as Kendall Williams, Cameron Bairstow and Tony Snell, currently with the Chicago Bulls.
“I’m going to support Alex and any of my players on whatever decision they make, and my job is to make an impact and mentor them and do what’s best for them,” Neal said. “But right now Alex is exploring those options.”
No UNM player participated at the Wednesday press conference.
Kirk does have a third option at his disposal. With a degree program at UNM complete, he could potentially transfer to another college and will play one final year without having to sit out. Transfers who have not completed degrees at their first school must sit out one year in order to join their new team.
However, Neal said he does not expect Kirk to go that route.
“I think Alex is always going to be a Lobo,” Neal said. “The only thing I think he’ll do is look to go to the NBA.”
Both Williams, a guard, and Bairstow, a forward, are in the process to turn professional.
Neal said he’s been working for the last week helping the two departing players. The coach said Williams already has an agent, will finish school and then conduct training in California. Bairstow, who will remain in Albuquerque until classes finish May 15 to work out, is in the process of selecting an agent.
Williams and Bairstow should perform well in their pro workouts, Neal said, much like Snell did. In his 10 years with the Toronto Raptors, Neal said he coordinated that team’s pre-draft workouts. Many of the same developmental drills Neal has in place at UNM, he said, are what is typically done at various NBA camps.
UNM also granted releases for two UNM underclassmen, freshman guard Tim Myles and sophomore forward Nick Banyard. Both players requested the release, Neal said.
Banyard, who played in 24 games but averaged 1.7 points, wants to pursue other options “to see if there’s something better for him out there,” Neal said. Myles played only four minutes and one game and did not take a field goal, and Neal said Myles wants to be closer to his home in Etiwanda, Calif.
“It just didn’t work out,” Neal said. “They’re great kids.”
Both players expressed on Twitter their appreciation to the UNM fans.
“I came in with a bunch of strangers and leaving out with them as family!!” Banyard tweeted. “Really blessed to have experienced this. Thank you!”
Myles said on Twitter he will no longer be with the team because of medical reasons.
“To all the lobo fans thank you for your support and love throughout my commitment and my time as a lobo,” he tweeted, “it has been great.”