Chris Jans inherited a talent roster at New Mexico State, but lost a key part of it on Thursday.
Junior guard Braxton Huggins will leave the program, according to a report from Mark Rudi of the Las Cruces Sun-News.
NMSU's Braxton Huggins has been granted his release and will transfer, per a source.— Mark Rudi (@mrudi19) April 28, 2017
Huggins saw a big uptick in minutes last season, and responded by more than doubling his scoring average (13.7 PPG) and leading the WAC in three-point percentage (42.0%). He had a career high 31 points against UMKC on Jan. 5, and fueled the Aggies’ halftime lead against Baylor in the NCAA Tournament, finishing with 19 points in a game NMSU would ultimately lose.
Had Huggins stayed, he would’ve been tied with Sidy N’Dir - who missed two-thirds of the season with a foot injury - as the team’s returning leading scorer.
Even with WAC POY Ian Baker having exhausted his eligibility, the Aggies figured to have a dangerous backcourt next season. Huggins joins redshirt freshman Jermaine Haley - who averaged 21.2 minutes per game - as the second player from that group to leave the program since Paul Weir bolted for Albuquerque.
As of now, Jans should still have plenty to work with.
Talented Ohio State transfer A.J. Harris becomes eligible, and should get the first crack at replacing Baker. N’Dir, who scored in double figures in seven of the nine games he played, should be healthy. Experienced senior guards Matt Taylor and Jalyn Pennie will also be in the mix. [Ed. Note: Taylor signed with an agent after entering the NBA draft and will not return for his senior season]
And then there’s incoming four-star wing L.J. Figueroa, the jewel of Weir’s recruiting class. As of now, the talented Orlando native appears to still be in the fold.
Nonetheless, losing Huggins stings, especially since he likely would’ve been in the discussion for preseason WAC POY. His three-point shooting will be particularly hard to replace. In Jans’ lone season at Bowling Green, his team finished in the top-third in the country in three-point attempts per field goal attempts.
It’ll now be fascinating to see if any conditions are attached to Huggins’ release.
It would seem unprecedented with the Lobos out of conference, but joining Weir at UNM would add gasoline to a fire already burning hot. The coach that originally signed him, Marvin Menzies, would also seem to be a logical fit at UNLV.