It’s that time of year for the UNM men’s basketball team to hit the hardwood and put on a show for its fans. The team did so on Thursday with a scrimmage, but it was much different than the traditional “Lobo Howl” fans have grown accustomed to.
Drew Ingraham, Assistant Athletic Director of Marketing and Fan Engagement said head coach Paul Weir exchanged the Lobo Howl at Dreamstyle Arena, aka The Pit, for the Cherry-Silver scrimmage at Johnson Gym as a season starter. Ingraham said the Lobo Howl is not gone forever, “we’re just giving it a rest.”
Thursday’s Cherry-Silver game consisted of a 20-minute scrimmage, a 3-point contest — which involved Lobo players launching up threes from various lengths — and a dunk contest. Judging by the fans’ reactions, the latter seemed to be the audience’s favorite.
LoboTHON hosted the scrimmage, and there were options to donate to the group throughout the event. LoboTHON is “a student-chartered organization that works to raise money and awareness for the UNM Children’s Hospital,” according to .
The event also aimed to increase faculty and student attendance at future games by giving Lobo fans their first glimpse of this season’s team in action.
According to Coach Paul Weir, the scrimmage was “also a great opportunity to get engaged in the community. Hopefully, our student body...and (the) campus community will feel connected to our team, and I’m hopeful it’s the start of an annual event that will kick off our season with the people on campus feeling as though they are a part of our team.”
However, turnout for the game was less-than-stellar and — though no numbers were given for the attendance — factors such as the early start and the location change may have affected who did and didn’t come.
Still, some Lobo players enjoyed their time on the court. One of those players was senior Sam Logwood, who thought that the event itself was a success.
“It was really fun to get out in front of the fans,” Logwood said. “Obviously got a lot to work on still, but (it) was just a little taste of how we want to play as a team, as a unit. I thought it was fun for the community to come out; we got a lot of students out (here), and I just enjoy being out here.”
The Lobos opened up the Cherry-Silver game with a scrimmage that proceeded for 20 minutes, which is the same amount of time as one half of a standard college men’s basketball game.
The Lobos split into two teams — Cherry and Silver — with the Silver team including Antino Jackson, Anthony Mathis, Logwood, Connor MacDougall and Jachai Simmons; they were coached by Chris Harriman and David Chiotti. As for the Cherry team, coached by assistant coaches Brandon Mason and Jerome Robinson, Chris McNeal, Troy Simons, Jaquan Lyle, Makuach Maluach and Joe Furstinger made the start.
The first score of the scrimmage itself came courtesy of Simmons, a transfer from Midland Junior College. The six-foot-seven guard/forward scored on a layup for the Silver team to put them up 2-0 early on.
However, the Cherry team’s Simons and McNeal guided their team to a 46-39 win over the Silver team. Simons, who transferred from Polk State, managed to score the Cherry Team’s first seven points of the game, while McNeal added seven points to his stat line.
Gilbert Holmes, a freshman fan studying business at UNM, was impressed by the scrimmage.
“I thought it was very fun,” Holmes said. “I played basketball in high school and coming out to see what D1 completion is like, it’s competitive.”
With competitive play comes a competitive nature, Simons insinuated, when he discussed the trash talk between the two teams.
“Silver (team) was talking a lot of trash, and we had to shut that down today,” Simons said.
As for who was doing most of the Silver team’s trash talking? That would be Logwood, Simons said.
Ultimately, Simons and the Cherry team overcame that trash talking and beat the Silver team, 46-39. Logwood, who represented the Silver team, led all scorers with 14 points.
And though the stands weren’t filled to the brim with Lobo fans who made the trek to Johnson Gym, others like MacDougall’s parents, Debbie and Lonny MacDougall, made their way from Phoenix, Arizona.
MacDougall’s father, Lonny, had a lot to say about how the team looked from a physical aspect.
“I can’t believe how fit they are,” MacDougall’s father said. “It’s unbelievable how physically fit these fellas are. It’s obvious that the six-week program put every one of them at peak.”
Ultimately, Weir said, the Cherry-Silver game was a success in many ways. And though he was not able to watch the entire scrimmage, as he walked through the bleachers to greet Lobo fans, the first-year Lobo head coach had one thing to say about his team.
“Continue to improve in our style of play,” said Weir on his focus moving ahead. “I think we know how we want to play. I think the execution of it is something we have a long way to go.”
Another way the Lobo men’s basketball program is reaching out to the community to encourage potential young athletes is by bringing Lobo players’ practice to high schools in surrounding areas for three weeks, according to Assistant Director of Athletic Communications Chelsea Pitvorec.
Lobo practices will go to Rio Rancho High School on the week of Oct. 10 at 3 p.m., followed by La Cueva High School on Oct. 17 at 3 p.m., and Albuquerque High School, Oct. 24, time TBA.
When Coach Weir was asked how he is handling Lobo fans’ reluctance to change, he said, “Change is difficult, and I’m very sensitive to that. The last thing I would ever want to do is make someone feel (as though) they are not wanted or that I don’t respect or value their thoughts or their opinions. My job is to do what is best for the Lobo Basketball Program.”
“Every decision I make is what is best for our team. I mean no disrespect, no harm, no ill-will to anyone on any platform. It’s been well-thought-out, it’s been well-researched, and a lot of my decisions, I hope eventually, in time, people will say he did what is best for the team.”
The Lobo men’s basketball first regular home season game is Saturday, Nov. 11 against Northern New Mexico in the Dreamstyle Arena.
Sherri Barth is a volunteer sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. She contributes content for basketball, football, rugby and other sports. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @SherriJBarth23.
Matthew Narvaiz is a senior sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers baseball and men’s and women’s basketball but also contributes content for football. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @matt_narvaiz.