EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Exactly one year to the day after Joe Golding was officially introduced at UTEP, he and the Miners are in a similar spot as they were then: recruiting a roster for next season.
Golding’s first year at UTEP can only be classified as a success. The Miners won 20 games and went to the postseason for the first time since 2015. But as is the nature of college basketball in 2022, the offseason has brought a great deal of change despite the success.
The Miners have lost nine players – eight to the NCAA Transfer Portal or professional ranks, one to graduation – since the season ended in late March. That’s left Golding and his staff recruiting a new team again.
“It’s a different road map than what we’ve had, college coaches are trying to figure it out. But nothing’s changing, it’s the new era of college basketball,” said Golding. “We’re going to sign nine or 10 guys here this year and only have three or four returners. So it almost becomes like year one of guys we’ve recruited.”
Locked in to returning off the 2021-22 roster are forwards Jamari Sibley, Kevin Kalu and Ze’rik Onyema. San Diego State transfer Che Evans is also expected to be around.
The UTEP coaching staff has been crisscrossing the nation over the last few weeks recruiting; they’ll also be bringing in multiple recruits for official visits over the Easter weekend, as well as the following week. But perhaps their most highly-touted recruit is still in El Paso.
Redshirt junior guard Keonte Kennedy is, as of April 14, one of the holdovers from the 2021-22 season. The Miners’ third-leading scorer at 14.1 points per game, Kennedy has yet to announce publicly whether he will return to UTEP for the 2022-23 season, or enter the Transfer Portal.
Kennedy was seen going through workouts at UTEP’s practice facility on Thursday afternoon and joking around with the coaching staff. Whatever he decides, Golding is supportive, but the Miners want desperately to keep him around. Kennedy has already received his undergraduate degree and would have two years of eligibility left.
“Keonte’s trying to decide if he wants to start his Master’s program at UTEP, or go somewhere else. He has that right,” Golding said on Thursday. “We’re going to support him and if that’s what he wants to do (leave UTEP), then we’ll help him in any way we can. If he chooses to come back, we’ll take him with open arms and we’ll be excited that he’s back to be a Miner.”
Kennedy could be sold on remaining at UTEP and being the star of the team in 2022-23; he could also take his talents to a high-major school. Only he knows what he’ll decide and as of now, he’s still at UTEP.
Whether or not Kennedy is around next year, the Miners have some major irons in the fire in recruiting and if the roster Golding is hoping to put together solidifies, UTEP could be formidable.
Elsewhere on the UTEP front, Golding said on Thursday that Chief of Staff Bryen Spriggs would be moving into the assistant coach role vacated by Butch Pierre, who left to be an assistant at Wichita State.
Spriggs has been with Golding since they were at Abilene Christian and is good at cultivating relationships with players and prospective recruits.
The Miners are hoping he can bring in multiple players capable of helping UTEP rise even higher in Conference USA in 2022-23.