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Basketball programs off to a promising start in young season

Daniel Rey Perez
Graduate student and UTEP guard Daryl Edwards drives the ball to the net against NMSU at the Don Haskins Center.

Getting off on the right foot is a priority in any basketball program and both the UTEP men’s and women’s basketball teams have done just that.  

Both programs stand at 3-0 heading into their respective matchups against The University of New Mexico and have displayed signs of exceptional play on both ends of the court.  

The Don Haskins Center has been filled with a breath of fresh air as both programs earned under 10 wins in the 2018-2019 season and have now reloaded with solid talent and a blend of athletes that can be the main star on any given night.  

The men’s basketball team which features several Division I transfers that have contributed immensely to head coach Rodney Terry’s program in the early season, and the women’s team features three top 100 JUCO transfers, a reliable point guard, and a mixture of senior leadership that have brought much needed depth to head coach Kevin Baker’s program. 

Through three games the highly touted transfers in the men’s squad along with several returners from last season have blended well and have dominated New Mexico basketball in their opening schedule, earning victories over New Mexico Highlands, New Mexico State, and Eastern New Mexico, and will take on The University of New Mexico this week. 

The main identity of this Miner team is defense with UTEP holding its opponents to 59 points per game and a 35 percent field goal percentage. 

 In the Miners matchup against New Mexico Highlands it forced 20 turnovers and 17 against Eastern New Mexico. UTEP has struggled taking care of the ball at times though averaging 16 turnovers per game, and that is usually the case with most teams in the start off the year as the look to shake off the nerves in the beginning of the season. 

“We know this season is a marathon and with saying that we know how much better we can be, and the potential of this team is through the roof,” junior forward Bryson Williams said. 

Williams will be the leader of that marathon for the Miners as he has shown why there was so much buzz surrounding the 6-foot-8 Fresno State transfer, who is averaging a team-high 16 points per game and 65 percent from the field.  

A strong duo for UTEP has been sophomore guards Souley Boum and Jordan Lathon as both can share the rock with ease as Lathon leads the team in assists with four and Boum averages two per game. Boum and Lathon can bring defensive pressure every night  as they are the two leaders in steals for the Miners averaging one steal per game.  

The Miners face a tough test this week in the form of The University of New Mexico another mid-major team that is undefeated (4-0) and features a talented transfer player in JaQuan Lyle who is averaging 19 points per game for the Lobos. The presentient defense and playmaking abilities of the Miners must be evident if it wants to come out of the Don with a victory. 

The same could be said for the Miner women’s basketball team as it takes on an undefeated Lobo team as well (4-0). Through the Miners first three games its extended depth and ability to score the ball well has led them to wins over UC Riverside, New Mexico State, and Alcorn State.  

“ When you have a team like this that’s willing to play hard for 40 minutes you could do some big things and I think that’s why we’ve had some early success because this team is willing to go that extra mile,” head coach Kevin Baker said following the Miners 92-47 win over Alcorn State. 

Senior guard/forward Katarina Zec leads the Miners in points averaging 17 per game, while freshman guard Katia Gallegos has been a steady maestro of the offense leading the team in assists with three per game. Junior forward and Top- 100 Junior college recruit Michelle Pruitt are playing well on both ends of the court averaging three rebounds per game and is second on the team in points per game with 11.  

Sharing the wealth is one of the keys to the Miners success as of late as the team has 45 total assists through three games, averaging 15 per game. In the Miners last matchup against Alcorn State it had 23 assists for the game and 12 players scored at least two points.  

“I think the thing that jumps out the most is the 25 assists and how we shared the ball and I did like that,” Baker said. 

The Miners will have to bring their strong defense that has forced 22 turnovers per game, against a Lobo team that averages 82 points per game and is led by sophomore guard Ahlise Hurst’s 17 points per game.  

Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams will take on The University of New Mexico at the Don Haskins Center Nov. 23, with the women’s team’s tip-off starting at 11 am while the men’s tip-off is set for 7 p.m.  

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About the Contributor
Isaiah Ramirez is a senior multimedia journalism major at the University of Texas at El Paso. Isaiah has worked for the university’s paper The Prospector since Spring 2018 and has held the position as a sports editor and is currently a reporter at the publication. During the fall semesters he also works as an on-air reporter for Football Friday Nights a weekly radio show showcasing local football games broadcasted by 600 ESPN El Paso. He covers local news as well as local and UTEP sporting events such as football, men’s and women’s basketball, and has covered the annual Hyundai Sun Bowl game and two-time NBA champion Danny Green’s basketball camp here in the Sun City.
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Basketball programs off to a promising start in young season