Sunday night in-state rivals New Mexico and New Mexico State played the first of their two meetings of the season, and while the play of guard Elijah Brown in the Lobos’ 83-74 victory will get headlines there was also a scary situation involving New Mexico redshirt junior forward Devon Williams.
Williams left the game with 11:16 remaining the second half after colliding with teammate Jordan Hunter while going after a loose ball. Williams remained on the Pan-American Center court for several minutes following the collision, with paramedics placing him onto a stretcher.
Williams was taken to a Las Cruces hospital for evaluation of what was described by head coach Craig Neal following the game as a neck injury.
UPDATE: Williams’ mother commented on the status of her son following the game, noting that she had spoken with him.
With all five starters from last season’s 18-win team back, the transition for Utah State first year head coach Tim Duryea was expected to be a smooth one. Two days before the Aggies’ regular season opener at Weber State, Duryea’s program was hit with news that will have a significant impact on their 2015-16 campaign.
Sophomore forward David Collette has left the team and will transfer, with the school announcing the news Wednesday evening. Collette was one of the best front court players in the Mountain West last season, averaging 12.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game while shooting better than 59 percent from the field. For his efforts Collette was a third team all-Mountain West selection, and his departure is a major blow to a team with hopes of contending in the Mountain West.
Collette was Utah State’s most productive player in their 77-60 exhibition loss to Cal-State Monterey Bay on November 6, scoring 22 points on 8-for-13 shooting while also grabbing five rebounds. With his height (6-foot-10) and skill Collette, who redshirted as a freshman in 2011-12 before going on a two-year LDS mission, will be a highly sought-after player on the transfer “market.”
Based upon his words in the release, Duryea is none too thrilled with how this situation came to be.
“I was shocked when he came into my office today and said he was going to quit,” Duryea said in the release. “I think there are a lot of factors in play that, unfortunately, have become a trend in college basketball of schools poaching other schools’ players. I don’t feel good and don’t like how things transpired, but we will move on and get ready for our season opener on Friday.”
This news leaves a major hole to fill on a team that entered the fall with one of the Mountain West’s better front courts. Junior wing Jalen Moore, a preseason all-conference selection, will lead the way with players such as Elston Jones and Lew Evans among those who will compete for the available minutes. But to lose an established interior scorer at this stage in the year makes the adjustment process even tougher for Utah State.
Armed with one of the deeper backcourt rotations in the Mountain West, led by preseason Player of the Year Marvelle Harris, Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry has enough options to provide flexibility within his lineups. That includes being able to go “small” at times, with a front court led by junior Karachi Edo being entrusted with the task of defending the paint and controlling the boards.
Fresno State’s available front court options have done well enough in the preseason to allow Terry to take the step of redshirting freshman forward Nate Grimes, with the decision being announced just before the Bulldogs’ 77-55 exhibition victory over Dominican College Friday night.
The 6-foot-8 Grimes, who spent his final season of high school basketball at Quality Education Academy in North Carolina, received numerous offers from Mountain West and Pac-12 programs before deciding to commit to Fresno State. He’ll be able to benefit from competing with Edo, sophomore Terrell Carter II and junior college transfers Torren Jones and Cullen Russo in practices this season, with an eye towards being a contributor in 2016-17.
Fresno State, picked to finish fifth in the Mountain West preseason media poll, returns their top five scorers from last season.