Last year, the University of New Mexico men’s basketball team saw a multitude of players announce their intentions to leave the program before a new head coach took the reins and coaxed some of them into staying put.
And while head coach Paul Weir has seemed to connect with the roster and get them to buy into his philosophy, arguably bringing stability to what looked like a shaky program in that regard, a release said a pair of players were recently granted their release to pursue other opportunities: senior forward Connor MacDougall and junior transfer Jachai Simmons.
MacDougall didn’t see any action during the past season after he suffered a foot injury during an exhibition game against former rival Brigham Young University. The Lobos lost that contest 79-73 and essentially lost one of their few big men on the roster in MacDougall as well.
The release said he is planning on graduating at the conclusion of the current semester and could join another team as a graduate transfer.
The 6-foot-9-inch forward never really got a chance to showcase his talents while at New Mexico, playing sparingly as a sophomore in 2016-17. During that season he appeared in 27 games, averaging 4.0 points and 1.9 rebounds.
Though MacDougall never got to play for the first-year Lobo head coach in an official game, Weir sounded complimentary of him in recognizing his potential opportunity.
“We wish nothing but the best in the next chapter of Connor’s journey,” Weir said in a release. “His graduation from the University of New Mexico is an amazing accomplishment, and I hope it is just the beginning of a terrific future ahead.”
The versatile six-foot-seven-inch talent Simmons, whom Weir recruited, started in 10 of the 25 games he played in.
Simmons logged just 3.4 points and 1.6 boards per game this season but also recorded 0.7 steals and assists per contest in just 13.6 minutes of play.
He showed flashes of brilliance during his time on the court, logging a season-high 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting in an 87-58 victory over Air Force on Dec. 27, 2017.
Simmons’ length made him a formidable defensive presence, and he seemed to especially enjoy playing on that end of the floor, often showing emotion after he drew a charge or made a defensive stop.
But his role on the team seemed to diminish as the season drew toward the end, and he reportedly was dealing with some personal issues.
Simmons did not play at all in the team’s final three regular season games and never saw the floor during the Mountain West Tournament either.
“Jachai (Simmons) has had a challenging past few months,” Weir said. “We both agreed a fresh start would be in his best interests, and we will support him every which way we can in that endeavor.”
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball, football and tennis. He can be contacted at sports@ dailylobo.com or on Twitter @Robert_Maler.