The Pan American Center is shrinking!
NMSU recently announced the decision to reduce seating capacity for men’s basketball games at the Pan Am — formally seating around 13,000 fans, it will now seat just under 9,000. Essentially, the four “corners” in the upper deck will be blocked off.
First off, I can understand the reasoning behind it. The Aggies aren’t selling those seats — last year the team didn’t even average 4,000 fans — and it just doesn’t look good. I love the Pan Am, and it’s sad when its on TV and the entire east side seating is empty. The reality is that the seats that are blocked off, no one was sitting in them anyway. This is a move designed to condense the crowd and create supply and demand for the seats that are for sale.
But I will also say this: there have been times when Aggie basketball has drawn very well and the product should be THE ticket in town. It should be the buzz sport in town. I think there are a lot of reasons for fans not showing up to the Pan American Center — the economy, ticket prices, a new day and age for the young sports fan and a general disconnect between the fans and the program are a few. I also believe it can be cyclical and if fans can get into the program, they will support the team. AND that place can rock.
With all that being said, if I had to prognosticate I’d say the team isn’t going to average more than 9,000 fans per game this year. And if they did I think that’s a problem the Aggies would be willing to have.
As for the team, lets take a look at the squad with practice opening up later this week.
First off, I think the team has a good talent level.
The Aggies have put a lot on Wendell McKines, their senior forward who missed all of last season with a broken foot — he is their heart and soul, is extremely athletic, plays extremely hard and has charisma. Some players play better in the spotlight and with greater responsibility on their shoulders, and I think McKines is the type that can handle it. And I will say this: I would be hard pressed to find a better athlete to ever play in an Aggie uniform. Maybe there have been over the years, it's just hard for me to see it.
Outside of him, the team has bodies in the front court — Hamidu Rahman and Chili Nephawe are big while newcomer Sim Bhular is 7-foot-4!!! Still not sure if Bhular will play this year....Is the team going to get improved play out of Rahman this year? He was a non-factor in 2010 — injuries hurt here. I think Rahman can average a double-double but at this point he’s a role player.
I thought B.J. West and Renaldo Dixon showed flashes last year and wouldn’t mind seeing more playing time for them. Tyrone Watson has a role — a hustler who makes a positive impact on the game.
At this point the backcourt is thin.
Senior point guard Hernst Laroche is a steady player and will run the team. He isn’t flashy and he won't take your breath away, but he won’t turn the ball over either.
The Aggies do need a shooter/scoring punch next to Laroche and have some new players — Remi Berry, Eric Weary, Terrel de Rouen — who might be able to supply some help. Christian Kabongo, who brought intensity and fight to the court, returns at shooting guard.
I do want to say this: the Aggies have been a spotty defensive team the last few years and that needs to improve. They have had the athletes to be a better defensive and rebounding team and I think they HAVE to improve in this area. You know, teams win on the road with defense and rebounding. No reason the Aggies shouldn’t be better here. If a player can’t commit to playing on that end of the floor, just cut his playing time. That'll make him better, or you don't need him anyway. It's worked in basketball before….
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