By Russell Gurule
For Enchantment Sports Fan-demonium
Save a handful of hardcore fan message board folk, basketball isn’t typically on the minds of most New Mexicans.
A weekend jaunt to Jemez or Elephant Butte? You bet.
A family vacation to Disneyland? It’s horribly hot and packed, but why not?
But for those who aren’t hoop junkies, here’s a little secret: Roundball has become a year-around sport in the Duke City.
I know, because I’m one of those hoop junkies.
And this summer, I searched out summer gym rats all across the city.
I have always loved the game of basketball whether played in a gym, the Albuquerque Boys and Girls Club, a blacktop or even a hardpan dirt court. My heart has been in this game and this summer it is great to see that love and joy of hoops is alive and well in Albuquerque.
Area high school players honed their skills and traveled across the country, playing in tournaments hoping to catch the attention of college recruiters to keep their dream alive.
And many did.
Enchantment Sports has learned of scholarships being offered to well deserving New Mexico kids.
Here are a few:
Las Cruces Onate’s Ricky Lujan (New Mexico Highlands, Ft. Lewis, Metro St., Dallas Baptist).
Bosque Prep’s Elijah Davidson (Black Hills St., CSU-Pueblo, Northern New Mexico College, Western Colorado).
Santa Fe High’s J.B. White received an offer from Marquette, and holds offers from New Mexico and Utah.
To those young men and boys that have not attained a scholarship yet, they continue to dribble, drive, shoot, and play defense for local club teams. NM Elite, Duke City Hoops and Elite Youth Sports NM gave many boys and girls the opportunity to showcase their skill through practice, games, tournament leagues and camps.
The Zia Invitational was hosted by Flight Force Athletics. The invitational featured teams from all over New Mexico and Texas with both junior high and high school divisions.
The D1Ambassadors, New Mexico’s premier AAU program, recently announced the inclusion of two AAU programs under the D1Ambassadors name. D1West Texas and D1Alaska will make the D1Ambassadors the largest AAU program in the nation located right here in the Duke City.
One of neat things about the game of basketball, is many of those who played teach younger players.
Former Lobo Jamal Fenton of Fenton Fundamentals, Byron Scales of Gamechangers505, and former La Cueva Bear and UCLA Bruin Bryce Alford are some sharing their knowledge.
Basketball skill schools like New Mexico Basketball Academy and Rise Basketball School put on weekly clinics and individual workouts for school aged children.
However, Albuquerque metro high schools are heavily involved in promoting basketball as well.
Sue V. Cleveland Head coach Sean Jimenez (left) put on several comprehensive camps focusing on many different skill levels.
And his assistant, Phil Griego ran a youth camp that the youngsters seemed to be having a blast.
Del Norte head coach Jeron McIntosh (left), a rising star in the game, also held a solid summer camp.
Many high school teams were involved in college team camps such as the one put on yearly by the University of New Mexico, and others packed their bags and traveled. The Eldorado Eagles traveled to Spokane Washington and played an international game with a team from Japan, with other schools dedicating parts of their summer vacations competing in California and Colorado.
Part of my summer trek included meeting Nick Lourenco, owner of New Mexico’s new pro basketball franchise, the New Mexico Bullsnakes of the ABA.
Lourenco is still trying to build a team while playing exhibition games to prepare for the inaugural season.
I had no idea until gym-ratting this summer that The Duke City Pro-Am founded by certified NBA agent and former Grambling State star Jordan Locke was happening.
Locke’s Pro-Am summer league brought a lot of players from all different levels. Several former Lobos played in the Pro-Am — including Philip McDonald, the league MVP.
Devon Williams and Fenton also put on a show for the hometown fans.
Other New Mexico connected notables include: New Mexico Highlands stars Jordan Jones, Raquan Mitchell, and Kendrick Nichols. Former Cibola High star Christian Cunningham. His facial dunk went viral on the internet.
Cunningham will be playing in Iceland this coming season.
Next summer, the Pro-Am will begin its third year here in Albuquerque
Alas, it is the end of September and the summer is over …
I have met some amazing basketball junkies this summer. Guys like Locke and Lourenco, who work hard to keep the game vibrant and exciting. However, it is the young men and women that I crossed paths with all summer long that made it so exciting. They walk around with their shorts on, wearing various camp T-shirts, backpacks, headphones on, dribbling or carrying a basketball.
No matter the level from pro to youth sports they all have a love for the game and a hunger to get to the next level
And I definitely get it.
Russell Gurule was born and raised in Albuquerque and is a long-time resident. He graduated from Highland High and also attended Hope Christian. Russell is a long-time observer of New Mexico Lobo and high school athletics. Logistics is his day job. Basketball and politics are his passions. To contact Russell with comments of tips, please email EnchantmentSportsNM@gmail.com.
Enchantment Sports’ Fan-Demonium is a place for sports fans to share their thoughts. Fan-Demonium pieces are the opinion of the author only, and not necessarily of Enchantment Sports. Interested in submitting something? Email EnchantmentSportsNM@gmail.com. All pieces must include your real name, and we must be able to contact you and verify your identity.