LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KTSM) – On paper, the roster that Greg Heiar put together in his first year at New Mexico State could win the WAC again.
Those hopes will be helped immensely if Arizona transfer Kim Aiken Jr. and LSU transfer Xavier Pinson get eligibility waivers cleared by the NCAA.
The core of the team – including Pinson if he’s eligible – go way back to their hometown. Basketball took them all over the country after high school, and basketball has brought them back together in – of all places – Las Cruces, N.M.
“That’s like a fairy tale ending,” said NMSU guard DeShawndre Washington.
The quartet of Washington, DaJuan “Quaye” Gordon, Xavier Pinson and Mike Peake, all came to New Mexico State as transfers, but that’s not all they have in common.
They’re all Windy City born and bred, every single one. From Chicago to New Mexico State and everywhere in between, their paths have led them to play for Greg Heiar and the Aggies.
“Everybody was the man on their team in high school. X (Pinson) was the man, Quaye was the man. Quaye actually won Illinois Player of the Year our senior year,” said Washington.
Gordon and Washington played AAU ball together as kids, then played against each other and Pinson for their respective high schools.
All three arrived in Las Cruces this summer with big-time pedigrees. Gordon came from Missouri; Pinson from LSU; and Washington from Northwest Florida State, where he won the junior college national championship with Heiar.
“Being on a team with someone from Chicago in college is still just crazy to me,” said Gordon. “Everybody came from different places, so we all play a different style. But I think eventually, all of us playing together, you can throw any one of us in any spot.”
As for Peake, he moved away from Chicago to the Kansas City area after his freshman year of high school. He started his college career at Georgia, then arrived in Las Cruces a year ago as a transfer from Austin Peay.
As one of two returners from last season’s NCAA tournament team, he’ll be looked to for leadership.
“Being one of the voices that can get the team through without being a coach and coming from someone other than the point guard should be a big help too,” Peake said.
Together, they’re part of what could be one of the most talented mid-major rosters in college basketball. The Chicago connection might help the Aggies gel quickly.
“Winning is hard at any level,” said Heiar. “Our togetherness and our bond is what will take us over the top. I feel good about that right now.”
If it all comes together, this crew knows they could be capable of a lot.
“This is one of the most talented teams I’ve been on. We’re trying to make it even better by winning the WAC championship and going far in the Tournament,” Washington said.
The Aggies will open the season at home on Nov. 7 vs. New Mexico Highlands at 7 p.m.