Recruiting is as unique and important to college sports as any aspect of the game itself, sometimes even more so. Recruiting can stress fans, break coaches and change programs forever. The hardest thing about recruiting is that it’s never done; a player can come, go or hold out for as long as an offseason can last.
With this in mind, Daily Lobo sports editor Matthew Salcido has broken down some of the most important student-athletes making their way down to the University of New Mexico, at least for now.
Lobo basketball fans spent all of last season worrying about their team’s lack of rebounding, ability to score in the post and experienced big men in general. 6-foot-8-inch transfer Morris Udeze is the Lobos’ best shot to fix these issues in the short term. Udeze not only averaged 6.1 rebounds and shot 50.5% from the field as Wichita State’s starting center last season, but he also will bring the Lobos playoff experience from his team’s March Madness appearance in 2021 where he led his team in points.
Udeze has big-game physicality and an impressive wingspan of over 7 feet. Fans who search out tapes from his Wichita State games can observe his powerful frame and soft touch around the rim. Udeze is more than capable of creating his own shot with his back to the basket, but he’s also shown great court awareness, and I think he’ll be a fantastic pick-and-roll partner for Jamal Mashburn Jr.
Udeze will only be eligible to play in The Pit for one year, but that’s always the cost of venturing into the transfer portal for players. It’s hard to give UNM head coach Richard Pitino and his staff anything other than an A-plus for this addition.
Before Udeze chose UNM as his landing spot in mid May, the Lobos’ biggest recruit was California’s 2022 Mr. Basketball Donovan Dent. The point guard from Corona, California led Centennial High School to a 33-1 record his senior year and averaged 16.4 points and 6.7 assists on 53% field goal percentage.
Dent is athletic, spry and loves to attack the rim. He has a plethora of finishes and can make good drop-off passes when the defense rotates. He’ll probably struggle against the length and size of college defenders in his first year, but with a solid base of skills and obvious ways to improve, Dent’s future can be as bright as he wants it to be.
UNM volleyball raised the bar for themselves in the 2021 season, and they’re anticipated to continue their success again next season. Kailee Gims will be their addition at the libero position, though her in-game opportunities may be limited with the return of co-captain Alena Moldan, who played libero in every single set of the Lobos’ 2021 season.
Still, Gims may be a gift worth waiting for with a remarkable high school career that saw her break the Cypress Ranch High School season and career records for digs in a game. Gims was also highly accomplished within her club team, the top-10 nationally ranked Houston Skyline, on which she was named the best defensive player. Having a steady stream of defensive talent is vital for a defense-first program like UNM’s, and Gims is a proven entity on that side of the net.
Sherod White has been on the Lobos’ radar since he graduated from high school back in 2020. They finally got him after two seasons at Mt. San Jacinto Junior College where he was named team MVP and a junior college division All-American. The 5-foot-9-inch running back will be an important part of revitalizing the Lobo offense which ranked last in the Mountain West Conference in the 2021 season, especially without a highly rated quarterback coming in next season.
The transition from JC to Division I can be difficult, and no player can turn around a program as lost in the wilderness as UNM football by themselves, but White seems to be set up for success.
It’s nearly impossible to say whether these promising players will actually live up to their potential here at UNM, but it’s safe to say that UNM sports fans will have a lot to look foward to in the coming months.
Matthew Salcido is the sports editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @baggyeyedguy