It wasn’t like Morris Udeze was running out of options when he dipped his toes into the pool at the transfer gate this offseason.
After all, the 6-foot-8, 245-pound Houston native played 91 games and started 54 times in four basketball seasons at Wichita State, which won 76 games during that span and qualified. twice for the NCAA Tournament.
So why for one last run as a college player would he choose a University of New Mexico team that just finished as the No. 9 seed in an 11-team league and had a record defeats last season?
“For my senior year, I just want to get to the tournament, which I know we can do,” Udeze said Tuesday, speaking to Albuquerque media for the first time since he and most of his new Lobo’s teammates arrived on the UNM campus. there is a week for summer courses and training.
“I know what it takes. And I know we have a great group of special talents here.
As to why the Lobos, several other Mountain West programs and other Power 6 level programs wanted Udeze and fellow Lobo to trade Josiah Allick – another 6-8, 240-pound big man who traded from the University of Missouri-Kansas City but was held off-contact drills on Tuesday — the answer is pretty obvious when either player walks into a room.
Besides having played more Division I games than anyone on the team, both are bigger than all but one Lobo on the roster (7-foot center Sebastian Forsling weighs 240 pounds, and neither other listed player weighs no more than 200 pounds) and stronger than everyone else on the team.
“Morris is the only one on the team to have played in an NCAA tournament,” Lobos sophomore head coach Richard Pitino said. “So when you look at him, he’s got just the level of maturity to him where he’s been doing it for a while. Josiah, you can tell by talking to him he’s been doing it for a while. …
“When you look at Josiah and you look at Morris, their bodies are so much more developed. And we needed that. When you play San Diego State, which has 15 of these guys, or Colorado State or Boise (State) – I mean it was a big conference, and we needed to get bigger.
MISSING LOBOS: Of the 15 Lobos on the roster — 13 scholarships and two extras — 10 were in attendance during a brief practice session the team held in the pit on Tuesday.
Forsling is back home in Sweden to train with his country’s national junior team. All-Mountain West returning goalies Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn Jr., the team’s 13-19 leading scorers and shooters last year, practice alone at home with their coach’s blessing – which can have unexpected benefits.
“It’s good for guys like Donovan (Dent, a new freshman point guard) and KJ (Jenkins, a returning reserve guard) and some of those other guys to have good reps in different places,” said Pitino said.
“So I’m delighted to get them back (July for Mashburn and House, August for Forsling). But I also know it’s a long season.
IN RECOVERY: Three players were ruled out of full-contact drills on Wednesday due to injury, but none of those injuries, Pitino said, should be a factor when the season opens in November.
In fact, all three – Allick (ankle surgery in March), senior Emmanuel Kuac (recovering from his broken leg suffered in January) and freshman guard Braden Appelhans (thumb injury suffered over the weekend ) – practiced at high speed on the north end of Bob King Court while the rest of the team did full contact workouts on the south edge.
Pitino said there was no reason to think the three wouldn’t be ready in the fall for full workouts and for the season.
OLD MAN: Udeze, 22, was assigned three roommates this summer at Lobo Village: All of them — Dent, Quinten Webb and Appelhans — are freshmen and new to college.
So, does the old man make sure they go to bed on time, eat well, and aren’t home sick?
“Exactly. We talked about it. I was like, ‘Are you guys good? Are you guys okay?'” Udeze joked when asked about the younger teammates during their first week at university.
“…Donovan, Braden and Q are a different type of group, man. They are cool, even the guys. They don’t cause any problems. So I don’t have to worry about that. They are cool.”