Trailing first-place Louisiana Tech in the WAC standings by two games, the New Mexico State Aggies have some work to do if they’re to grab their first WAC regular season title since 2008 (sharing the title with three other teams).
And the task became tougher on Thursday as head coach Marvin Menzies announced the indefinite suspension of 6-5 senior forward Tyrone Watson. Watson, a native of Hamilton, Ontario, started each of the Aggies’ 21 games prior to the announcement and averaged 10.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game.
Watson’s suspension comes a couple days after reports surfaced that he was the lone suspect in the beating of a 19-year old New Mexico State student (warning: link includes graphic images of the victim). According to a report from Local 4 News the altercation occurred because Watson thought that the student, Miguel Rascon, was flirting with a woman who was with Watson.
One of those witnesses tells L4N Watson grabbed Rascon by the neck and threw him on the ground and “stomped on his head multiple times” after Watson thought Rascon was flirting with a girl he was with. A family member tells L4N Rascon has facial fractures, 10 stitches, and a broken nose.
The allegations led to the school making the decision to sit Watson until the situation is resolved. Menzies issued the following statement on Thursday regarding the decision to suspend Watson:
“Our team rules are strict and they exist for the betterment of the university, the basketball team and the players,” said head men’s basketball coach Marvin Menzies. “Tyrone Watson has been a phenomenal student-athlete in our program for four years, so obviously these allegations are extremely shocking and disturbing. Our investigation is ongoing. At the same time, we take allegations seriously and we are sensitive to the nature of the injuries sustained by the individual in this matter.”
The question now is whether or not New Mexico State becomes the second team to see its WAC title hopes dashed due to personnel issues. Utah State was hit hard by the injury bug earlier this month, as they lost leading scorer Preston Medlin for 4-6 weeks with a broken wrist and forward Kyisean Reed is done for the year after tearing his ACL.
Leading scorer Daniel Mullings (14.5 ppg) remains the focal point for New Mexico State and forward Bandja Sy is averaging double figures (10.5 ppg) while also leading the team with an average of 7.0 rebounds per game.
But with Watson sidelined who steps up to give Menzies that third offensive option? Yes, Sim Bhullar is averaging 9.8 points per game but the 7-5 center isn’t a player the Aggies are going to ask to be an offensive force at this stage in his career.
If point guard K.C. Ross-Miller can bounce back from a hamstring injury that kept him out of last week’s win over Denver he may be the best bet to step up in Watson’s absence.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.