One of the most challenging parts of the early summer basketball practices is learning the new players: getting a sense of how they play, who they are, and how they might fit into the upcoming season. I was fortunate enough to get a few minutes with two of this season’s incoming freshmen prior to the team’s trip to Europe.
There is still a lot of adjustment, acclimation, and melding before the real season starts, but even watching a few early practices some things are apparent. They both are rather different than what we have seen on the Lobo roster for a while.
Corina is a point guard. Not a hybrid guard, not a talented basketball player who was transitioned to play the point, but a player who looks like she has been a point guard for many years. When she is running drills or pushing the ball up court in a scrimmage you feel that the ball should be in her hands—and watching the other players on the court you sense they feel it also. The first time I can say I felt that way since Bryce Owens graduated in 2016.
Originally Corina was not going to be pushed into the starting PG role right away—but things change. Aisia Robertson was going to be the returning PG, but injured her knee. The CiCi Cryor was going to be a grad transfer with a year of eligibility, but changed her mind and went pro. So like Bryce, Corina might take the reins on day one of her first season. Getting on the same page with teammates is obviously a work in progress, the shot was not consistent when I saw her working out, and some of the passes could use a bit more tempo, but the presence and the basic decision making looked pretty good for a few weeks into her college career. A lot to like and look forward to.
Autum is a bit harder to draw a comparison. She is a forward, but not in the mold of any on the team now or recently. While she is about the same height as Shai, they are very different. Autumn is a good athlete, with a quick jump, especially going after rebounds, but not the player who relies on explosively quickness like Shai or Porche or Dionne. But she is more solid and stronger than they were, certainly than they were as freshmen. I am trying to think of a 4-position player who had the strength and good, not great, athleticism as a freshman that Autumn has shown—and I cannot think of one. My first thought was Jaisa, who was a four as a freshman when Whitney Johnson player the five. But no—Autmn is definitely quicker than Jaisa was, but is not that strong. Definitely more athletic than a Melissa Forest or Jessica Kielpinski (who was a 4 as a freshman to Angela Hartill’s 5). No, it isn’t quite right, but the best image might be Deeva Vaughn, though Deeva was not at UNM as a freshman.
What we will see of Autmn this season might be a bit of a hybrid. Until Azaria Robinson is fully recovered she may see some time as the back-up 5 to Bride, as well as some time at the four. I don’t know this, but she is probably physically the best suited to play there when Bride needs a rest. And if the Lobos play faster, as mike always wants to do, Bride is not playing 35+ minutes a game. Offensively, if Autumn earns minutes, she will score. She has good hands, attacks the glass, and has a scorer’s mentality. And based on a limited sample size, it isn’t all under the basket shots, her three-point shot is not a liability. As with Corina, this is a freshman who should be able to contribute now, and who will be enjoyable to watch develop over her years here.
Joe: Welcome. Thank you for taking the time after practice. How long have you each been playing basketball?
Corina: I started playing AAU when I was six.
Autumn: I started when I was nine.
Joe: You have a lot of catching up to do.
Autumn: Yea, a lot.
Joe: Why basketball?
Autumn: Honestly I played a lot of sports. I played volleyball, golf, tennis, track, basketball. I like basketball because I was a lot better at basketball.
Corina: Growing up, that’s all we had. I played street ball with all the younger boys and older boys at the park. I just found it fun.
Joe: Who influenced you as far as basketball?
Autumn: I think it was my Dad. He played basketball when he was younger. He encouraged me and said “Why don’t you just try it out?” Ever since then he’s been helping me with my game and I just stayed with it.
Corina: I’d say the same with me, my Dad. He played when he was younger and a little bit when he was in college. I look up to him and that influenced me.
Joe: Do you each have the same basketball style as your dads?
Corina: Yes, some. But all he could do was shot. He wasn’t a point guard.
Autumn: No, my Dad was a guard, so we play two different positions.
Joe: In all those years from when you started and now, was there a time when you thought about giving it up?
Corina: Oh, yeah. Especially after a bad game, if I thought I really sucked. But you stay with it and you just move on. You try to get better.
Autumn: I have to agree. Pretty much after every practice I can feel that way. But I’m good at sports, so I just keep going.
Joe: Both of you, your names have been out there in for a number of years as “good players”. What’s the recruiting process like?
Autumn: It was stressful. When I committed, I thought thank goodness that’s over with. So I had a year just to chill because I had committed so early. I think it’s just the pressure of everybody making an offer and someone else making an offer and you have to show respect to everybody and be open to all the schools even though you didn’t want to go there. So I thought it was very stressful.
Corina: I would say the pressure of everybody trying to tell where to go. Expecting you to pick one of the biggest D1 schools. Not every D1 school is a fit for you.
Joe: What made UNM the right fit for you?
Corina: Just looking at how they carried themselves, how close they are. They’re a family. Playing time. I looked at that.
Autumn: The team is very special. I like the bond that they have. They respect one another and they push one another. I like that.
Joe: Corina, as far as playing time, Aisia’s injury opens up a lot of minutes at the point.
Corina: Well, I know I can’t do it on my own. They are going to be backing me up, but I’m going to try my very hardest to get them past where they made it last year.
Joe: I think you will have a lot of people hoping for that. You have been here a short time. What’s different from what you expected?
Autumn: The pace. Every day, you wake up, you do weights, you get a break, then you have practice, you get another break, then there’s study hall. Just that constant moving and working out. I’m getting used to that.
Corina: I have to agree. I was used to getting up, going to school for seven hours, go home. This life here is non-stop.
Joe: What’s different about the basketball part of it?
Corina: They are all fast, especially the posts. They all can shoot, I mean. High school, you had like two or three D1 players. These are all good players. It’s hard. Playing with me, there’s never a bad moment. I know we are supposed to be serious on the court, but I’ll find a way to make it fun. I like going at a fast past, but I’m going to have to adjust, because this is really fast.
Joe: As a point guard, what is your thought process out there? As you are moving the ball down, what’s the first thing you are looking to do?
Corina: First of all, don’t mess up. Don’t turn over. Try my very hardest to either score or look for the open person.
Autumn: Me as a player, I like to shoot. That is the first thing that I’m going to do. Other than that, I cheer on everybody else. I’m a very humble person so I definitely pass before I shoot. That’s the kind of player I am. Rebounding is one of my strengths. Rebounding and put-backs. People say that I am quick on my feet–with put-backs at least–so I think that rebounding the ball is one of my key things.
Joe: It’s only a few days before you guys are off to Europe. Have either of you been to Europe before?
Corina: No, I’ve never been out of the country.
Autumn: Same here.
Joe: Speaking of the country, have you had a chance to see much of what’s going on in New Mexico yet? What do you want to see?
Corina: I want to see the air balloons.
Autumn: You guys get a lot of concerts. I want to see one of those, too.
Joe: What else do you want to tell people
Corina: Come to the games!
Autumn: I’ve heard that they fill The Pit up. I would like to see that again.
Joe: We’re working on it. We’ve been getting up to 5 or 6 thousand.
Autumn: I’m used to 200 so that’s a lot.
Joe: We look forward to it. Thank you again very much for your time.
In unison: Thank you.