EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – In Joe Golding’s first year at the helm of UTEP, the Miners won over 20 games made the postseason for the first time since 2015.
Fair or not, that’s now the expectation for Golding as he and his coaching staff prepare for year two in El Paso, with a team that will look vastly different than it did in 2021-22.
Just three players return from the team that advanced to the Basketball Classic in March: Kevin Kalu, Ze’rik Onyema and Jamari Sibley. Losing 90 percent of the offensive production from a year ago, Golding and his staff recruited 13 new players to El Paso and although it’s early, so far, so good.
Golding quietly appears to like the team UTEP has put together. He spoke ad nauseum in the spring of recruiting “his guys” to play in El Paso and that may be exactly what he’s done. He won an NCAA Tournament game over Texas while he was at Abilene Christian; building a team capable of doing that at UTEP will continue to be his goal.
“We’re not into winning social media awards or four star or five stars or where guys transfer. We want guys that we want to coach, coachable guys that play hard, are good teammates and who we can win with. I think our staff has done a great job of identifying those guys,” Golding said. “I really like where we’re at right now with them.”
The Miners could play as many as 11 or 12 players in 2022-23; they’re now a roster that possesses as much depth as any team in Conference USA, after struggling to find depth a season ago.
They’ve also put together an experienced roster using the transfer portal. Guards Shamar Givance (Evansville) and Tae Hardy (Southern Miss) averaged double-digits at their last stop and Givance was an all-conference selection in the Missouri Valley.
“I feel like we’re all aggressive and really hard workers. We’re all gritty and just getting the time now to fight for what’s ours,” said Givance.
It’ll be a guard-heavy roster in year two under Golding. Other transfers like Malik Zachery (South Plains), Carlos Lemus (Chipola), Mario McKinney (New Mexico State) and Jamal Sumlin (Rhodes High School in Ohio) all could factor into the rotation, as will Sibley, one of the three returners who will play mostly at small forward in 2022-23.
In the frontcourt, Jonathan Dos Anjos (Florida Southwestern College) and Calvin Solomon (Stephen F. Austin) give the Miners a pair of versatile players that can guard multiple positions and also have proven to be able to score the ball at the collegiate level.
UTEP’s ability to defend with its depth will be a change of pace from a year ago. Golding told KTSM on Monday that while they weren’t bad defensively in year one, it wasn’t up to his standards. 2022-23 could be their chance to get there.
“Depth helps us on defense because we’re able to throw bodies at people and play harder and be aggressive. That’s where the depth helps,” Golding said. “Offensively, we’ll figure it out. I really like our guards, we’ve got experienced guards. We’ve gotten experience guys in the portal. They’re older, they understand what it takes to win. That excites me.”
UTEP will open the season on the road Nov. 7 at Texas, in what will be the first game in the brand new Moody Arena. The Miners’ home opener will be Nov. 12 vs. rival New Mexico State in the first Battle of I-10 of the season.