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October 12, 2012

Several returnees to men's basketball team

The annual Lobo Howl for the men's and women's basketball teams will be held 6-9 p.m. Friday at the Pit.

While the women will be rolling out a lot of new players, familiar faces will be carrying the load for the men.

``I think everybody has gotten better and improved,'' says men's coach Steve Alford. ``The Howl is start of our season. I just want to see a lot of enthusiasm for our season.''

The Lobos have three starters returning, but the two who are missing were the two big men. Gone is Drew Gordon, who averaged a double-double last season with 13.7 points and 11.1 rebounds. Center A.J. Hardeman also graduated. While his numbers weren't impressive, he was a mainstay in the paint and was UNM's best inside defender.

Ready to step in are 6-9 Australian junior Cameron Bairstow and 7-0 sophomore Alex Kirk, who sat out last season with a back problem.

But the two big men might play one at a time. UNM is loaded at guard with Kendall Williams, Tony Snell and point guard Hugh Greenwood. Guard Demetrius Walker, who is not afraid to go into the paint, might be the fourth guard starting.

``We think we're going to be pretty good again,'' Alford admitted. The Lobos were 28-7 last season, beat San Diego State in the championship game of the Mountain West Conference Tournament and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to Louisville 59-56.

``The key is what we have up front. There are new challenges because guys have different roles. We've been first or second in the conference in rebounding for the last five years, that's key. We've been very successful playing four guards.

``We have a lot of experience at guard. Guys who needed to get stronger got stronger. There is no question that Cameron and Alex will play together. But we don't have a lot of subs there,'' Alford continued.

The Lobos play Victory on Oct. 31 and New Mexico Highlands on Nov. 5 in their exhibition games. The season officially begins with a midnight game against Davidson in the Pit on Nov. 12, a game that will be part of ESPN's 24 hours of basketball.


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