LAS CRUCES — New Mexico State won’t play a basketball game for four months, but don’t tell freshman head coach Greg Heiar. His intensity during the Aggies’ summer workouts is in mid-season form.
And with a staff of almost entirely new players and coaches, NMSU can’t afford to slack off, even for a day.
The Aggies began summer practices on June 24, just after their almost entirely new roster of nine players arrived on campus. Only two non-redshirt members of last year’s NMSU team remained at Las Cruces after former head coach Chris Jans left for Mississippi State following the 2021-22 season, and only one has received significant minutes for most of the season. So Heiar, there’s no time to waste building team chemistry and instilling a new style of play at Las Cruces.
“Players are created in the summer, during the off-season. We work a lot on development, skill development, player development, concepts…” Heiar said, adding that he was generally happy with the progress the team made in the first training sessions. “Summer is when you learn how to do it, and they’re learning how to do it right now.”
Heiar has only brought two players who transferred to NMSU from NWFSC – Deshawndre Washington and Issa Muhammad – so he understands the program will face increasing challenges as new games, coaching styles and program values are introduced into a team of more than 75% new players.
Marchelus “Chi Chi” Avery and Mike Peake, Marchelus “Chi Chi” Avery and Mike Peake, are learning a radically different style of play than they experienced last year under Jans. Instead of relying on a calling card of half-court attack, physical defense and the ability to hit the low post, this year’s NMSU team prides itself on “dunks, layups, the throwing line frank and of course, (3-pointers)” in a new offense at accelerated tempo.
His four post players – Peake, Shakiru Odunewu, Muhammad and Bol Kuir – are already going through the play-making drills Heiar promised to put his big men through during his introductory press conference in March. But there’s a learning curve for almost every player aside from Muhammad and Washington, who played for Heiar at the junior college level.
“(We have to) create team chemistry, because there are a lot of guys from different programs who really come from different things. Some of the terms (used) are terms that people don’t know. We have to come together and wanting to help each other,” Peake said. “It’s like that with every new team that comes together. You just have to find your rhythm, find your style of play and under Greg Heiar I think we can do that.
Coaching roster and staff not yet finalized
But even once the current roster of 12 stock market players comes together as Heiar expects, they will still have to accommodate the addition of LSU transfer guard Xavier Pinson and potentially another rookie Heiar would like to add before the season begins. .
Pinson is the only member of this year’s team, according to Heiar, who has not yet arrived on campus. Heiar would also like to sign another position player “who can get double digits (points) in a late NCAA tournament game, if we can. I’m not saying we can, but I’m going to recruit to try to do that.
Heiar added that the departure of redshirt freshman Kiran Oliver doesn’t change his off-season recruitment strategy and that he won’t be looking for a replacement goalkeeper in the transfer portal.
He confirmed that the current roster of scholarship players on campus consists of: Chi Chi Avery; Issa Muhammad; Kyle Feit; DaJuan Gordon; Doctor Bradley; Shahar Lazar; Mike Peake; Deuce-Benjamin; Jaden Alexander; Shakiru Odunevu; Bowl Kuir; Deshawndre Washington and soon Xavier Pinson. Three additional team members will pay their share this season.
Heiar will eventually consider redshirting players after October.
NMSU’s coaching staff is not yet finalized either. Heiar is still looking to add an assistant coach, which is the only vacancy left on his team.
Remaining summer schedule
After the week of July 4, the Aggies will have 10 practices from July 15-28 before heading out for a Bahamas pre-season basketball tour.