LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KTSM) – New Mexico State and first-year head coach Greg Heiar are gearing up for the upcoming season, hoping to replicate the Aggies 2021-22 first round NCAA tournament win over UConn.
They’re also hoping to have what would be two extremely important players for the 2022-23 team.
LSU transfer Xavier Pinson and Arizona transfer Kim Aiken Jr. are both practicing with New Mexico State in the lead-up to the season, but they’re still not sure if they’ll be able to play.
Aiken Jr. and Pinson both have pending NCAA waivers for another year of eligibility that have yet to be ruled on. New Mexico State is hoping it happens sooner rather than later, but as of Oct. 3, they still haven’t heard word from the governing body of collegiate athletics.
According to multiple sources, Pinson’s waiver is related to academics; in theory, he should still have one year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic that provided all collegiate athletes with an extra season. Aiken Jr.’s, meanwhile, has more to do with Arizona, but still must be cleared through the NCAA.
Pinson averaged 9.8 points and 4.8 assists in his lone season at LSU in 2021-22, helping the Tigers to a 22-12 record and the NCAA Tournament. Before his lone season at LSU, Pinson played three years at Missouri. In 2019-20, the Chicago native averaged 11.1 points and 2.8 assists. In 2020-21, he scored 13.6 points and dished out 2.9 assists for Missouri.
Aiken Jr. played in just seven games at Arizona in 2021-22, averaging 5.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1 steal per game. He was absent from the team for a Dec. 8 game vs. Wyoming, after which Wildcats head coach Tommy Lloyd said he was gone for personal reasons. Aiken Jr. never returned to Arizona after that.
Before coming to Tucson, Aiken Jr. was an integral part of Eastern Washington’s team for three seasons. It culminated in Aiken Jr. averaging 11.3 points per game and being named Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year in 2020-21, as the Eagles made the NCAA Tournament.
Heiar told KTSM that the team is preparing to have both Aiken Jr. and Pinson for the season opener vs. New Mexico Highlands Nov. 7 at the Pan American Center.
“I’m expecting to have them when we open the season. They’re in the process of taking care of their waivers. Obviously, that’s out of our control a little bit, but what’s in our control is what’s in that waiver,” Heiar said. “I feel confident in the waivers and I’m moving forward like we’ll have them at the start of the season and I don’t see why we wouldn’t.”
UTEP head coach Dana Dimel said similar things about linebacker Breon Hayward, though, as he applied for an NCAA waiver for a sixth year of eligibility in the offseason. As of October, the waiver has not been granted for Hayward and he hasn’t played for the Miners this season.
Heiar and NMSU are hopeful that won’t be the case, even if it means that Aiken Jr. and Pinson become eligible and available later in the 2022-23 campaign, after the season opener.