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Remove the “interim” tag from his title.
New Mexico officially announced Tuesday that longtime assistant and short-time interim head coach Craig Neal will take over the program after the departure of Steve Alford to UCLA.
It will be announced to the public Wednesday at a press conference.
Neal had coached alongside Alford at New Mexico for six seasons. Prior to his time with the Lobos, he was on the bench with Alford at Iowa. Neal also has experience as an assistant coach at the NBA level with the Toronto Raptors. He had emerged as a top candidate to replace Alford on a full-time basis since the time of Alford’s decision to head to Westwood.
Neal now inherits a team that returns nearly all major pieces from its Mountain West title team this season with the exception of Tony Snell. The decision to hire Neal on a full-time basis puts New Mexico in a better position to keep center Alex Kirk, who reportedly said that he would transfer if any coach other than Neal was brought into the program.
New Mexico finished 29-6 this past season, including 13-3 in the MWC. The Lobos lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Harvard.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_
Sunday evening Creighton got on the board in the Class of 2016, as 6-foor-4 combo guard Davion Mintz made his pledge to Greg McDermott’s program. Mintz made the decision on the tail end of his official visit to Creighton, picking the Bluejays over Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Tulsa and Wichita State.
News of Mintz’s commitment was first reported by Rick Lewis of the Phenom Hoop Report, with Mintz confirming the news via Twitter shortly thereafter.
Creighton has just two seniors on its current roster in guard Jams Milliken and forward Geoffrey Groselle, but that doesn’t mean they lack for experience. Among the guards on the roster who will be around when Mintz arrives on campus are redshirt juniors Maurice Watson Jr., Malik Albert, and Isaiah Zierden, and Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster will be eligible in 2016-17.
Mintz, who attends North Mecklenberg HS just outside of Charlotte, can play either on or off the basketball. Creighton’s veteran guards should help Mintz with his transition to the college game when he arrives in Omaha in 2016. Mintz played for the Charlotte Nets grassroots program this summer.
Three days after landing one power forward in Sagaba Konate, West Virginia received a verbal commitment from another big man Sunday evening.
6-foot-11 Mountain Mission School (Gurndy, Virginia) power forward Maciej Bender became the Mountaineers’ fourth commitment in the Class of 2016 on Sunday, with the Mountain Mission program announcing the news via Twitter. Bender is a native of Poland, and in addition to Konate he joins guards Brandon Knapper and Chase Harler in West Virginia’s 2016 recruiting class.
West Virginia will lose two forwards in TyQuane Goard and Jonathan Holton at the end of the 2015-16 season, and the additions of Konate and Bender will help the Mountaineers account for those departures from a depth standpoint. Bender can score around the basket, but he’s also capable of facing up and scoring in pick-and-pop situations out beyond the three-point line.
Bender officially visited West Virginia last weekend, and he was a player the WVU coaching staff wanted to get in the fold. Other programs to offer Bender included Arizona State (teammate Jethro Tshisumpa is an ASU commit), Georgia, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss and Providence. Bender played his grassroots basketball for the West Virginia Wildcats program this summer.