By Mark Smith
Editor in Chief
He wasn’t at practice on Thursday, he probably won’t play on Saturday and all signs point towards Karim Ezzeddine’s career with the University of New Mexico men’ basketball team being over.
During San Diego State’s 97-77 blowout of the visiting Lobos on Tuesday, Ezzeddine and Corey Manigault — both junior forwards — spent much of the game displaying anger, disgust, pouting and looking agitated while sitting on the bench — which is located in front of the media are in Viejas Arena.
A Lobo assistant coach spoke with Ezzeddine with about three minutes left in the game, and the 6-foot-8 Ezzeddine then headed to the locker room.
After the game, Lobo coach Paul Weir did not comment about the flare-ups.
In Thursday’s news conference, Weir didn’t say what the problem was but that both “can be competitive and don’t like, maybe, the recent string of defeats we’ve had a coupled, maybe, with their playing time.
“(There is) nothing, officially, at this time to report on, but in the coming days there might something more official with Karim and his status with the team. …. Corey, at this point, I don’t see anything serious.”
When asked if Ezzeddine would play on Saturday when the Lobos (8-9, 2-3 in MWC) play host to Wyoming (4-13, 0-4) at 4 p.m., Weir said, “At this point, no. Nut until I have a final resolution to that, I don’t really want to talk too much about it just because (Ezzeddine is) involved in this decision.”
See ya Karim. The second semester of classes starts Monday. If a player wants out of the program and wants to be eligible for the second semester of next season, he needs to get out now. So expect to see something “official” by today (Jan. 18).
Manigault? He’s been a handful when it comes to discipline this season and was even suspended for a game after punching an opposing player in pregame warmups the previous game. But he has plenty of upside on the offensive end of the floor and has a much sweeter jumper than Ezzeddine.
The 6-9 Manigault averages 8.9 points and 4.7 rebounds a game. Ezzeddine, a junior, averages 4.3 points and 3.6 rebounds.
ONE OUT, ONE IN? Weir said that a transfer did get “admitted” to UNM on Thursday but has not yet enrolled. That player is expected to be point guard J.J. Caldwell — who was dismissed from Texas A&M last February after being arrested on a charge of possession of marijuana. Earlier this month, Caldwell announced on Twitter that he is coming to New Mexico.
The Lobos didn’t officially have a scholarship available as of Thursday — however, if Ezzeddine leaves?
Yep, they would.
A player must sit out one year after transferring.
POINT TAKEN — SORT OF: The Lobos could certainly use another point guard right now, considering they don’t have one with experience. That, of course, has been one of the main issues for the UNM offense.
Senior shooting guard Anthony Mathis has been running the point this season and still looks to be the starter at that position. Sophomore Keith McGee and freshman Drue Drinnon, who are point guards, have seen more playing time recently, and McGee has shown some nice athleticism at the position. But Weir said that turnovers are keeping both from getting more time on the floor.
McGee has 21 turnovers in 251 minutes of playing time while Drinnon has 16 in 210 minutes.
IN OUR DEFENSE: The Lobos were flat-out awful in their man-to-man defense during the nonconference season, but have been equally miserable since switching to a zone.
The Lobos used a 2-3 zone in their 85-58 shocker of then No. 6 Nevada less than two weeks ago, but Weir acknowledged that game was more about the energy the Lobos played with than the defense.
So, coming off road losses to Colorado State (91-76) and SDSU — which followed an 80-69 home loss to UNLV — will we see a man or zone on Saturday? Or maybe both?
Weir was non-committal on Thursday. He said the Lobos are actually doing some things better than last year, like holding opponents to a lower field goal percentage, but “what we’re not doing better than last year, is we’re turning over the ball at a tremendous rate. It is, by far, our worst statistic (14.8 per game) and it is creating a lot of offense and momentum for the other team … letting them get into a good rhythm.”
Mark Smith has worked in New Mexico sports media for four decades, and is one of the most decorated sports journalists in the state’s history. Smith has won more than 30 combined awards in print, television and radio. He is the editor in chief of Enchantment Sports. Contact him at mark.enchantmesportsNM@gmail.com.