Former ESPN top-100 basketball recruit JJ Caldwell was officially announced as an addition to the University of New Mexico men's basketball team on Friday, according to a release.
The release said Caldwell will join the team as a junior, transferring to UNM after previously playing with the Texas A&M Aggies. He is immediately eligible to play and will begin the final two years of his eligibility at the start of the 2019-20 campaign.
The six-foot-one point guard played sparingly in his freshman year as an Aggie — averaging just under three points and two rebounds per game, though he only logged 16 minutes per contest. Despite the limited action, he was able to dish out an average of 2.6 assists, while maintaining a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio.
His 2017-18 season was one that some off-court issues that also included an arrest, suspensions and ultimately his release from the the team.
According to multiple reports and the team website, Caldwell was released from the basketball program in February 2018 due to a violation of Texas A&M policy. The former Aggie did seem to show contrition, delivering an apology via Twitter shortly after his dismissal — pledging to take the many life lessons he had learned and "take them with me on my journey to become a better player and most importantly, a better person."
Caldwell initially announced on social media that he intended to turn professional a few months later, but UNM head coach Paul Weir apparently saw the the guard's potential upside and was able to coax him into seizing an opportunity for a second chance and become a Lobo.
"JJ is a terrific point guard with the type of speed and passing ability that will be a tremendous boost for our team," Weir said in a release. "He loves the game of basketball and we look forward to his impact on the court for the Lobos."
The depth at point guard will likely be a welcome sight for UNM men's basketball and Lobo fans alike. Jaquan Lyle suffered an achilles injury in the team's first practice last year and it took a while for the team to find consistency at that position for much of the year.
Senior guard Anthony Mathis handled the duties for a while with varied results before Keith McGee and Drue Drinnon eventually shared time at the point. McGee and Drinnon, both of whom were underclassmen last season, seemed to show plenty of growth by the end of the season.
That experience, along with a recent waiver-of-competition approval for Mathis to return for a another year and several key players announcing their intention to return should provide for a talented roster.
But as the squad found out last season, things do not always go according to plan. A team with a perceived high ceiling often bring with it high expectations, and those are sometimes hard to live up to. Caldwell acknowledged that things might be difficult, but seemed happy for his second chance.
"The coaching staff told me the truth from the start and told me it was not going to be easy. I'm just glad I get to represent the Lobos and hopefully help reach our goals," Caldwell said.
He is expected to start working out with the team and take part in the summer conditioning program.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball and baseball and contributes content for various other sports as well. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Robert_Maler