An early look at 2020-2021 Aggie hoops roster
LAS CRUCES –With the season now over, it's time to look ahead to the future of New Mexico State basketball.
The NCAA ruled that winter-sport athletes won't be granted an extra year of eligibility last Monday, which marked the end of eight college careers for the Aggies. That leaves some holes to fill moving forward, and spots are up for grabs.
Here's a look at the players set to don crimson and white for New Mexico State's 2020-2021 campaign.
Evan Gilyard II
UTEP transfer Evan Gilyard II enters the upcoming season with a perfect 19-0 record as an Aggie.
The then-junior point guard averaged 7.5 points and a team-high 2.8 assists in 22.9 minutes per game last season, making him a key part of New Mexico State's strong finish.
The Miners' former leading scorer embraced making the extra pass in his first season with the Aggies, and that'll have to continue moving forward. With no true backup point guard currently on the roster, Gilyard is likely to see 25 minutes a game this upcoming season.
Back for the Aggies is Clayton Henry, who received a medical hardship waiver on May 19.
The 6-foot-4 senior played just one game last season after suffering a pair of injuries. He recorded 8 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists during a game against Northern New Mexico on Dec. 29.
Now fully eligible for another go at this, Henry immediately be one of the better two-way players in the conference.
Expect Henry to be a Swiss Army knife for the Aggies this upcoming season, playing at positions 2-4, although he’ll most likely begin the season as the starting small forward.
Henry is a 3-and-D veteran who brings plenty to the table, and he should regularly see over 20 minutes a night after averaging a smidge over 15 in his junior campaign.
McCants emerged as one of the best bigs in the conference last season despite being snubbed of an All-WAC team.
The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 9.3 points and 6.2 boards in 25.7 minutes per game as a redshirt junior while also adding a 3-point shot to his repertoire. McCants shot 40.3 percent from distance and 68.6 percent from inside the arc.
McCants has the makings of an All-WAC first team selection this upcoming season, and he'll be the second half of a two-headed scoring monster with Jabari Rice.
One player posed for a larger role this upcoming season is William McNair.
The 6-foot-10 forward averaged 1.8 points and 1.6 boards in 8.2 minutes per game last season as a redshirt freshman, but he delivered some viscous dunks and blocks when he saw playing time.
The jump from freshman to sophomore year is normally the biggest in production for players, and McNair should crack the starting lineup alongside McCants to start the year.
The biggest key for the young forward is going to be building confidence down low. McNair is one of the few players on the team who'll have a size advantage most nights, and he needs to take advantage of that by pounding the rock.
Tennessee Owens became a fan favorite in his redshirt sophomore season.
The Las Cruces native averaged 4.8 minutes per contest and went 5-for-10 from deep throughout the year, seeing a majority of his time in the closing moments of games.
Owens does what's asked of him when he's on the hardwood, and the walk-on guard should continue to electrify the crowd with his quick trigger.
New Mexico State confirmed that senior Bryce Rewalt will return for another season.
The Las Cruces native went 6-for-10 from deep in his only season with the Aggies and was the second half of a fan-favorite duo alongside Owens. Rewalt is eligible for the extra year since he served as the team's manager prior to this season.
Now back in the mix, Rewalt will return to closing out games with a fireworks display from distance.
No player in the conference made a bigger jump in production last season than Jabari Rice.
The redshirt sophomore averaged 12.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game en route to an All-WAC First Team selection. Rice shot 46.6 percent from the field (38.5 percent from distance), and his improved decision making was the most impressive aspect.
Rice averaged 26.3 minutes per game last season, and he's sure to be in that same ballpark this time around as one of New Mexico State's cornerstone players.
Rashaun Agee is now in the mix after redshirting his freshman year.
The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 20.3 points and 14.7 rebounds per game in his senior year at Bogan High School in Chicago, Illinois while showing good mobility and a soft touch around the hoop.
Similar to McNair's debut season, Agee's minutes will likely be scarce this year. Head coach Chris Jans has preached leaving minutes up for grabs, though, so we'll see just how much the freshman can capitalize on his chances.
Another new face for the Aggies is Snead State Community College transfer Jason King.
The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 13 points, 6.6 boards and two assists per game in his final season with the Parsons, where he showed a pretty well-rounded playing style.
King is at his best when he gets a full head of steam with the ball in his hands. Limiting his turnovers is going to be something to focus on, though, after averaging three per game last year.
Casper College transfer Wilfried Likayi missed all of last season with a torn meniscus and LCL, but he'll join the rotation next year as a redshirt junior.
The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 16.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game with the NJCAA squad, showing an ability to score from both inside and outside in the process.
Likayi's length and mobility is similar to that of Pascal Siakam, although how much he can elevate his game remains to be seen. Still, Likayi will get his chances on an Aggies team looking for new contributors.
One key transfer now in the mix is South Florida's Mayan Kiir.
The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 4.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 12.5 minutes per game as a sophomore for the Bulls in 2018 before sitting out last season due to personal reasons.
NCAA transfer rules leave the start of the 2021 spring semester as the earliest point Kiir can gain eligibility, although a waiver has been submitted for him to become immediately eligible.
Kiir is a mobile big who is willing to extend his range, although shooting more efficiently on those deep shots is next on the agenda. He'll likely begin his career in Las Cruces off the bench with a chance of landing the starting center gig by the end of the season.
Ranger College transfer C.J. Roberts is also on the squad after signing a national letter of intent on April 15.
The 6-foot-1 guard began his collegiate career at the University of Missouri but transferred after redshirting his freshman year in search of more minutes.
Roberts ultimately ended up at Ranger College in 2019 after a one-year stint at Broward College. It's there that the sophomore averaged 9.9 points and two assists per game while shooting 48.2 percent from the field.
Roberts' biggest strength is his speed, which consistently allows him to get the rim and show off his aggressive finishing skills.
Roberts doesn't rely on the three ball, but he's a crafty guard with good ball security and some bounce. His playing style is similar to Gilyard, and he's someone to keep an eye on off the bench this season since he is immediately eligible.
Expect Roberts to be the Aggies' backup point guard and a key spark plug if Harris doesn't return.
New Mexico State secured another big splash when UNLV transfer Donnie Tillman announced his commitment on May 25.
The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 10.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2 assists in 26.1 minutes per game during his junior season with the Runnin' Rebels before entering the transfer portal on April 29.
Prior to his time at UNLV, Tillman was a four-star recruit out of high school. He spent his first two college years at the University of Utah and even earned the Pac-12 Conference's Sixth Man of the Year Award as a sophomore.
Tillman handles the ball like a guard and boasts great body control when finishing around the rim. He averaged nearly five free throw attempts per contest last season while shooting 75.2 percent from the line.
The next step in his game is going to be improving his consistency from deep, though. After shooting 36.1 percent from distance in his sophomore season at Utah, that rate dropped to 29.2 percent at UNLV.
Tillman provides some much-needed wing depth for New Mexico State, and he was deemed immediately eligible by the NCAA on Sept. 2.
The Aggies secured a key transfer in early February with the commitment of Oklahoma State forward Marcus Watson.
Similar to Kiir, the 6-foot-6 sophomore is eying a debut at the start of the 2021 spring semester. He also has a pending waiver to make him immediately eligible.
Regardless of when he joins the team, Watson will make an immediate impact as soon as he touches the court. He's a four-star talent who leans on strength, explosiveness and good finishing ability around the rim.
Watson clearly has athleticism to spare, and adding a consistent jump shot will only make him more of a handful. Even now, he should still carve out a considerable role off the bench in his first season with the Aggies.
Western Nebraska Community College guard Kalen Williams announced his commitment to New Mexico State on May 16.
The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 13.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game on 58.1-percent shooting from the floor in his freshman season on the JUCO squad.
Williams boasts speed and bounce similar to Roberts, but his aggressive rebounding is a plus. Although his shooting form is a bit unconventional, he still went 39.8 percent from deep last season.
The Hephzibah, Georgia native is also a threat once gets to the rim, either going up strong or finding the open man. He recorded an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.8 in his one campaign with the Cougars.
With three years of remaining eligibility, Williams has time on his side. The sophomore guard is immediately eligible but spend most of this season learning from Gilyard and Roberts.
New Mexico State made a late add on Sept. 11 when it announced the commitment of Darreus Brown.
The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 8.4 points, 1.4 assists and 1.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore last season at Clarendon College while shooting 44.4 percent from the floor and 64.3 percent from distance (18-for-28).
Brown is a an aggressive scorer who can either take it to the rim or pull up from distance, although finding a better pace for the game is going to be key at the Division I level. He recorded an assist-to-turnover ratio of just 0.4 last season.
The Amarillo, Texas, native originally committed to Iona College on Oct. 19, 2019, before reopening his recruitment. Now Brown joins a New Mexico State transfer class that includes Kalen Williams, C.J. Roberts and Jason King.
He is immediately eligible for his junior season.
On the move
On the move is 6-foot-6 senior Dajour Joseph, who entered the transfer portal on May 16.
The former South Plains College guard joined New Mexico State last summer as a walk-on but ultimately played just six total minutes in his junior season due to multiple injuries.
“We are hopeful Dajour can secure a scholarship and move forward with both his academic and athletic career," Jans said. "We wish Dajour nothing but the best in the future.”
As the quote from Jans suggests, Joseph would have likely walked on once again this upcoming season and is now in pursuit of a scholarship elsewhere as a result.
Not returning for his senior season is Shawn Williams, who entered the transfer portal on April 17.
The then-junior sharpshooter averaged 5.1 points in 14.9 minutes per game during his only season with the Aggies after transferring from Eastern Carolina last summer. He shot 33.6 percent from the field and 32 percent from distance.
Williams would have likely taken on a similar role this upcoming season as a spark off the bench, but he will instead have one year of eligibility at his future destination.