LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (KTSM) – He’s two weeks into his first Division I head coaching job at New Mexico State and Greg Heiar is already deep into building his first roster for the 2022-23 season.
Heiar has a lot to get done before the official start of preseason practices in the fall, including recruiting a new roster, re-recruiting some of the players brought to Las Cruces by Chris Jans and hiring a coaching staff.
He’s already made progress in all of those areas and the last two weeks have been a learning process for Heiar, who came to NMSU from Northwest Florida State, where he won the junior college national championship last month.
“Learning what to sell (about NMSU) in recruiting, has been very time-consuming, because you want to understand the great things about this university and this community. I’ve learned a ton already,” Heiar said in an interview with KTSM on Monday. “The support here from the top down is incredible. You can get really good players here and support them.”
Rebuilding the roster was always going to be necessary for Heiar; the Aggies lost five key contributors before he arrived. Yuat Alok, Clayton Henry, Johnny McCants and Donnie Tillman all graduated and 2022 WAC Player of the Year Teddy Allen elected to enter his name in the NBA Draft.
Heiar’s first order of business upon arrival in Las Cruces was to attempt to re-recruit the returning players that won an NCAA Tournament game in 2021-22. Heiar told KTSM on Monday that Chi Chi Avery, Kiran Oliver and Mike Peake had all decided to return to New Mexico State for 2022-23.
All-WAC guard Jabari Rice entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal the day after Heiar was introduced at NMSU and tweeted on Sunday that he would be making a decision on whether to return to NMSU for his final season, transfer, or turn pro soon. Mario McKinney and Nate Pryor are in the portal along with Rice.
Heiar also said that he expected that starting center Will McNair would enter the transfer portal. As of Monday, McNair had yet to put his name in the portal.
“I haven’t seen Will McNair much. I anticipate that he’ll transfer. I don’t know his situation, but I want players that want to be here and play for me and this staff and this university,” said Heiar. “If any of them want to go somewhere else, go ahead and we’ll support them. I think he’s in that boat.”
That leaves three players – Virshon Cotton, Jorge Moreno and Levar Williams – from the 2022 team and Heiar said all of them were still 50/50 on returning or leaving.
Rice is no doubt a priority for Heiar and NMSU to retain if they can and Heiar indicated on Monday that he felt the Aggies had a legitimate chance at keeping him. A Houston native, Rice has been at NMSU since the 2017-18 season, averaging 11.9 points and leading NMSU in assists last season.
Heiar said Rice would likely make his decision within the next week and said he has been selling Rice on the skill development he’ll get from staying at NMSU. Heiar has a track record of producing talented guards at the NBA level, including Fred Van Vleet, Skylar Mays and Austin Reeves.
“I’ve really enjoyed spending time with him, he’s a wonderful young man. I love his personality,” said Heiar. “He’s a huge piece to moving forward with putting this team together.”
Heiar retained assistant coach Dominique Taylor from Chris Jans’ staff and the duo has been hard at work recruiting outside talent as well.
Sources told KTSM that a pair of potential transfers – former UTSA guard Jordan Ivy-Curry and Salt Lake City Community College forward Doctor Bradley – took official visits to NMSU over the weekend. The Aggies were expecting to host a few more recruits this coming weekend as well, sources said.
The Las Cruces Sun-News reported over the weekend that Heiar had made contact with Las Cruces High School star Deuce Benjamin and that the 2021 New Mexico Gatorade Player of the Year could be close to signing with the Aggies. A source close to the situation confirmed Heiar’s interest in Benjamin on Monday.
Additionally, Heiar could bring multiple players from his Northwest Florida State team that won the JuCo national championship. Three starters from that team – forward Issa Muhammad (9.8 ppg), wing DeShawndre Washington (12 ppg) and guard Kam Woods (11.1 ppg) – are still uncommitted and have received interest from NMSU.
It also seems likely that Heiar could bring on assistant coaches from his staff at NWFSU, however, sources said that no official decisions had yet been made regarding the rest of the staff beyond Taylor.
Expect Heiar to continue filling out the roster over the next few weeks. Once Rice makes his decision to either return for one final year or go elsewhere, dominoes will begin to fall.
“I want size at every position, as well as athleticism. I’m really excited about the direction the recruiting is going. I feel like in the next few weeks we’re going to have some good news,” said Heiar. “But I’m going to be patient with everything. I want to make sure everything is right. It’s my first D-I job; I’m not going to rush anything. I’m a general manager right now. I’m going to make strategic decisions that benefit the program.”