EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – There’s no rest for the weary for Joe Golding and UTEP as the Miners continue to recruit for the 2022-23 season.
The Miners expect to replace as many as 10 players from the 2021-22 roster. Because of that, UTEP played host to a multitude of recruits – players they hope to sign and have already signed – over the Easter weekend.
Among the recruits reportedly on campus for Easter were Jamal Sumlin, a high school player from Cleveland already signed with the Miners; and Southern Miss transfer Tae Hardy, who averaged 13.7 points per game in 2021-22.
But the player who visited UTEP over the weekend that will ignite the fanbase as much as anyone is a local recruit, former Burges and Evansville guard Jawaun Newton. A graduate transfer, Newton was second on the team in scoring in 2021-22, averaging 12.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game; he averaged 13.5 points in 2020-21.
Sources told KTSM that Newton completed a visit to UTEP on Monday morning. A cousin of Aaron and Alvin Jones and the brother of new UConn commit Tristen Newton, Jawaun starred at Burges High School until 2018.
UTEP had targeted both of the Newton brothers, in hopes of getting both of them to transfer home and play together. However, Tristen received high-major interest and eventually ended up at UConn. The Miners are hoping that they can land Jawaun and hand him the keys to the program in his hometown for his final year of eligibility.
Newton, Hardy and Sumlin’s visits to El Paso, along with former New Mexico State guard Mario McKinney committing to the Miners on Friday, shows UTEP is prioritizing its guard play in recruiting.
“I want guys that want to win basketball games,” Golding said. “I want guys that want to play together, tough guys. I don’t care about three stars, four stars, five stars, I don’t care where they come from. I don’t care about level. I want basketball players.”
The Miners currently have four players coming back for 2022-23 off of the 2021-22 roster: Che Evans, Kevin Kalu, Ze’rik Onyema and Jamari Sibley. All of those players are frontcourt players, although Golding told KTSM last week that they plan to move Sibley to the perimeter next season.
Che Evans transferred in from San Diego State in January, but did not play a minute for the Miners. Thus far, there’s no reason not to factor him into the math for 2022-23. The big player the Miners are still waiting on is Keonte Kennedy, the third-leading scorer a season ago, who has yet to make an announcement regarding entering the transfer portal or remaining at UTEP.
While the Miners await Kennedy’s decision, they also have to account for the loss of leading scorer Souley Boum; starting point guard Jamal Bieniemy; and Jorell Saterfield and Christian Agnew, both of whom were key contributors to the backcourt a season ago. There’s plenty of spots to be filled in the backcourt and UTEP is hoping to do so with some talented transfer players.
“I think the bigs are settled in there a little bit, but I would say guards is a big priority right now in recruiting,” said Golding last week. “It all starts at the point guard position. Bieniemy played 37-38 minutes per game, so for us finding a point guard who can come in and lead our team is priority number one.”
If Newton chooses to come to El Paso, he could fill that role. Time will tell who UTEP is able to get in recruiting, but expect some answers within the next few days and weeks.