LAS CRUCES, NEW MEXICO (KTSM) – After dealing with more adversity than almost any team in the nation last season, New Mexico State basketball got some great news on Monday afternoon.
The senior trio of Clayton Henry, Johnny McCants and Donnie Tillman announced that they will all return to Las Cruces for their extra year of eligibility granted to them by the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The triumvirate’s decision immediately makes head coach Chris Jans’ Aggie roster for 2021-22 one of the most formidable in what will be a rebuilt WAC next winter.
All three players ranked among NMSU’s top five scorers in 2020-21 for an undermanned Aggie team that still made the WAC Tournament Championship. The frontcourt duo of Tillman and McCants averaged 11.6 and 10 points per game, respectively, good for second and third on the team. Meanwhile, the shooting guard Henry started all 18 games he played in, averaging 8.2 points per game.
NMSU will plug the senior trio in to a 2021-22 roster that includes leading scorer Jabari Rice (13.2 ppg), and a bevy of talented Power 5 transfers like Teddy Allen (Nebraska), Nate Pryor (Washington) and Mario McKinney Jr. (began career at Missouri). New players Ishan White and Kiran Oliver II could also play a role.
A gifted scorer, Allen averaged 16.5 points per game while shooting 37.6 percent from three-point range for Nebraska in 2020-21. He has bounced around college basketball; NMSU is his fifth school. Allen began his career at West Virginia, before transferring to Wichita State after one season. He never played a game for the Shockers after an arrest in 2019, and transferred to Western Nebraska Junior College, where he led the nation in scoring and landed with the Cornhuskers. He then abruptly left Nebraska in February, shortly after scoring 41 points against Penn State.
Now in the fold with the Aggies, if Allen can stay focused, he could be a huge offensive boost to the program.
A 6’4 guard, Pryor averaged 4.1 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists for Washington in 2020-21. McKinney played at John A. Logan College last season, leading the Great Rivers Athletic Conference in scoring at 18.4 points per game. McKinney played four games for Missouri in 2019-20, averaging 3.3 points.
With what the Aggies return, and what they’re adding to the fold, the 2021-22 edition of the team has a chance to be the best of the Chris Jans era at New Mexico State. With the WAC adding Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin in July, 2021, and Southern Utah in 2022, plus defending champion Grand Canyon once again looking formidable, NMSU proved that they’ll have a say in the WAC title race.
Time will tell if the Aggies will once again be the class of the conference, but with the return of Henry, McCants and Tillman, NMSU will be loaded for bear.