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2011-12 College Basketball Season Preview: New Mexico State

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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New Mexico State Aggies (Last Year: 15-16, 9-7 in WAC)

2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Hamidu Rahman (Sr)/Tshilidzi Nephawe (So)/Sim Bhullar (Fr)

PF: Wendell McKines (Sr)/Renaldo Dixon (Sr)/B.J. West (Jr)

SF: Tyrone Watson (Jr)/Bandja Sy (Jr)/Remi Berry (Fr)/Temjae Singleton (Fr)

SG: Christian Kabongo (So)/Emery Coleman (Fr)

PG: Hernst Larouche (Sr)/K.C. Ross Miller (So)/Terrel de Rouen (Fr)

Gone: PF-Troy Gillenwater, SG-Jordo Castillo

2011-12 Outlook:
Utah State has dominated the WAC for the past several seasons, but with the team expected to have somewhat of a down season, that could open the door for a team like the New Mexico State Aggies to take over the top spot.

Even though leading scorer and rebounder Troy Gillenwater made the massive mistake of leaving early for the NBA Draft, New Mexico State has a ton of size inside with five guys standing 6-10 or taller.

With all that height inside, the Aggies' best post player is 6-6 Wendell McKines, who missed all of last season due to a foot injury. He will be joined in the frontcourt by either Hamidu Rahman or Tshilidzi Nephawe, who both bring a physical presence to the paint and saw time in the startling lineup last year. Renaldo Dixon and B.J. West were both role players off the bench last season and should return to those roles, providing even more size and depth down low. French freshman Remi Berry will be another candidate to earn minutes at forward.

Also keep an eye on freshman Sim Bhullar. The 7-5 Canadian spurned his commitment to Xavier and initial decision to attend a prep school this season to instead come to New Mexico State as a part of the 2011 class. It is unlikely he will make much of an impact right away as he needs to work on his conditioning, but his size could allow him to factor into the rotation for a couple minutes a half.

The wing does lose Gordo Castillo but still returns a good amount of talent from last year. Tyrone Watson started every game in 2010-2011 and will return to that role as the small forward. He brings a physicality to the wing and can guard multiple positions. Bandja Sy saw time as a starter as a sophomore and is another versatile forward who should be one of the top options off the bench.

Christian Kabongo figures to start at shooting guard. He has solid handles at the two but is not much of an outside shooter. Freshman Emery Coleman will try to earn minutes behind Kabongo.

At the point, Hernst LaRouche has started all 99 games he has played in at New Mexico State. He already ranks second all-time in school history in assists and fourth in steals. Without question, he provides the Aggies with the most experienced floor general in the WAC.

LaRouche will be backed up by the much-traveled K.C. Ross Miller, who originally committed to Kentucky then almost ended up at Florida International, played a year at New Orleans, was then going to transfer to LSU, but instead ended up in Las Cruces. Freshman Terrel de Rouen is likely the odd man out at the point.

With six Canadians, two Frenchmen, and a South African on the roster, head coach Marvin Menzies and his staff (which includes former Kentucky Wildcat Tony Delk) have spanned the globe looking for talent to bring to the team. They might not have assembled the best shooting team ever, but with a combination of size inside, athletes on the wing, and an experienced point guard; the Aggies should contend for the WAC Championship.

Player to Watch: Wendell McKines, PF
Coming off a solid junior season in which he has averaged 10.7 points and 9.8 rebounds a night, McKines missed all of last year after suffering a foot injury in the preseason. Not only does he bring physicality to the post, but he can also step out and knock down jump shots. He is not the ideal height for a power forward at 6-6, but McKines certainly has not let his shortcomings affect his relentlessness on the glass.

Key Non-Conference Games:
  • 11/16 at New Mexico
  • 11/19 vs. UTEP
  • 11/24 vs. Central Michigan (Great Alaska Shootout)
  • 11/25 vs. Southern Miss/UC-Irvine (Great Alaska Shootout)
  • 11/26 vs. Murray State/Alaska Anchorage/San Francisco/Dartmouth (Great Alaska Shootout)
  • 11/29 vs. Arizona
  • 12/11 at UTEP
  • 12/28 vs. New Mexico
  • 2/18 vs. TBA (Bracket Buster)

    Predicted WAC Finish: 1st

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