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NMSU basketball holds first official practice following restriction changes

Justin Martinez
Las Cruces Sun-News
New Mexico State guard Clayton Henry runs drills at a pre-season practice for the NMSU men's basketball team in Las Cruces on Tuesday, July 21, 2020.

UPDATE: This article has been updated with additional information from the New Mexico governor's office.

LAS CRUCES – The New Mexico State men's basketball team held its first official practice in full on Wednesday following Tuesday's new state restrictions.

The updated requirements dictate that all individuals arriving from out of state must quarantine for 14 days. Said individuals are also no longer exempt from this process if they test negative within 72 hours of arriving in New Mexico.

The state then limited workout groups to 10 people or less, although New Mexico State would be able to practice in full once its plan is approved. That has not happened yet.

In addition to the state's restrictions, the NCAA also limits teams to a maximum of 30 practices across the next 42 days. Players can work up to 20 hours per week and four hours per day with one off day per week.

"We've been working with our administration to ensure our student athletes remain safe and in compliance with both the state and the NCAA testing protocols," New Mexico State head coach Chris Jans said. "We've been doing that since (COVID-19) hit, and we'll continue doing it."

Lastly, the NCAA states that teams must conduct weekly testing during the preseason from Oct. 14 to Nov. 24. Testing will then get bumped up to three times per week beginning one week before the season's start date, which is set for Nov. 25.

But, according to the state's latest restriction, the team is required to conduct PCR testing three times per week right now, regardless of whether it's before or after the official season start date. New Mexico State's plan to operate in accordance with this criteria has not yet been approved, and the team is currently testing only once per week.

"We have been following and, in some cases, exceeding the NCAA requirements from a testing standpoint not just for basketball but for all sports," New Mexico State athletic director Mario Moccia said. "If (testing three times a week) becomes mandatory right now, we will have to figure out how to accomplish that."

The New Mexico governor's office reached out to the Sun-News following the publication of this article to say that New Mexico State should not be practicing in full until it has been given approval from the state. It should also be testing three times a week right now, which it is not.

In addition to sorting out these requirements with the state, the Aggies are also sorting out their schedule.

Jans stated that the schedule-making process is "a long way from being over" and may not be completed until November, although finalizing dates for the team's rivalry games against UTEP and New Mexico are high on the priority list.

"For us, (the rivalry games) are of an upmost importance," Jans said. "From where I sit right now, everything seems to be on schedule to be able to get all four games. We’re still working it out with each other to figure out potential dates and make it work for everybody’s respective schedule.”

Once the season begins, the Aggies are faced with the task of integrating seven new players following the graduation of a large senior class.

With an unconventional offseason and just over one month left until the start of the new campaign, fresh faces have to adjust quickly to the new system.

"It takes a while for our new guys to adjust to expectations that we have and how we go about approaching our practices," Jans said. "Not having a normal offseason certainly has stunted their growth... For me, it just feels like (the season) is creeping up on us pretty quickly. We have a long, long road ahead of us to get to where we can compete at the level where people expect us to be."

Justin Martinez can be reached at (575) 541-5455, JMMartinez@lcsun-news.com or @JTheSportsDude on Twitter. Make sure to subscribe to the Las Cruces Sun-News  to stay up to date with all local sports.