JaQuan Lyle had dinner with head coach Paul Weir on Thursday, something they try to do once a month. A lot of the conversation revolved around the depth of the roster the New Mexico Lobos can count on for the upcoming season.
Last year people were looking at Jaquan Lyle, a transfer from Ohio State, to perhaps fill the point guard role. However, Lyle got injured before the season started and senior Anthony Mathis, who is now at Oregon, ended up with that responsibility. When discussing Lyle last season, Weir said that the Lobos would miss him the most on defense.
On September 22, the 6’5″ guard tweeted that after 11 months and 12 days, he has officially been cleared 100%. With a smile on his face while talking to the media on Friday, Lyle said he is the best he has been both mentally and physically in years.
While Lyle might be feeling good, he knows he has a lot of competition. JJ Caldwell wouldn’t be a surprising option as the starting point guard. Weir also mentioned Drue Drinnon, Kurt-Curry Wegscheider and Zane Martin as being players competing for some playing time there.
“As far as the depth in the guards, it’s tremendous,” Lyle said. “I think not only for games but we are able to compete against each other everyday in practice and get each other better….In the end we all have one common goal, but being competitive with each other brings the best out of us.”
Whether or not Lyle becomes the starting PG doesn’t matter too much because Weir said what he brings to the table is much more than just basketball skills. His experience and leadership off the court make him the leader the Lobos need right now.
“We need more guys who have the confidence and security to address teammates. Not always in a confrontational way but in a leadership way, he has that,” Weir said. “That to me that is by far his biggest contribution. Again, independently of the fact that he is a phenomenal basketball player.”
First official practice of 2019 for the UNM men’s basketball team pic.twitter.com/0CWBAJPNAt
— The Lair New Mexico (@thelairnm) September 27, 2019
The team might be deep in guards, but the Lobos really only count with Carlton Bragg and Corey Manigault for bigs. Weir said he is not particularly happy with how thin the Lobos are for the five, but that he is confident the two players they have will be “sufficient” as long as the team can keep them healthy.
Assistant coach Dan McHale agreed with him and added that the Lobos won’t just be keeping their fingers crossed that they will stay injury free. They have a plan based on other players’ abilities.
“We are going to be able to play more of a hybrid power forward spot with Makuach (Maluach) and Vance (Jackson), and just be able to protect our 5 man,” McHale said. “The bigs have been great, we just have to keep getting them healthy everyday.”
Weir was asked about the expectations on this particular roster that many have said is made up of a lot of individual talent. He said that at the end of the day it was his job to take responsibility for the results if the team doesn’t perform well. However, Lyle thought differently.
“The coach is not out there playing. No matter the game plan, no matter what it may be,” the player said. “We are the ones out there playing, the coach isn’t. At the end of the day, those losses I feel like they would be on us. We just have to go out there and compete every night.”