Addressing the media at the first of his weekly press conferences inside The Pit, New Mexico Lobos head coach Steve Alford was succinct with his comments about senior guard Jamal Fenton, who was suspended for the first three games of the 2012-13 season on Monday for minor NCAA violations.
"Jamal knows he made a mistake. It's a minor violation," said Alford. "I don't want to talk about it for two reasons, Van. I don't want to talk about it because I don't want to hurt the kid because I think he made a mistake. But I'm not in favor of what it warrants either. So just to keep me out of trouble and the University out of trouble, I'd just as soon not comment any further about it. But I'm not happy about him losing three games."
Alford said he and the University found out about the suspension "in the last 24-36 hours."
Fenton will play in both exhibition games this week - Wednesday against Victory University and Monday against N.M. Highlands, but will have to sit out UNM's opener against Davidson on Monday, Nov. 12 as well as the first two games of the Paradise Jam Tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Nov. 16 and Nov. 17.
Alford said Fenton's absence will affect the team's rotation and the lack of experience on the court will hurt.
"He's a senior who's going to be asked to do an awful lot for us this season," said Alford. "To lose him for three games is unfortunate. It is what it is. No really happy about it, but it is what it is. So we're gonna probably have to play the vets a little bit more in that stretch.
"He does come back for that third game in four days in the Virgin Islands. So at least we don't go that whole tournament with a light bench. But being a senior is what hurts. If it's a freshman it's one thing because they don't have that experience. But losing that experience with the competition we have to play early in the season, that's a tough blow."
Alford also addressed some minor injuries that cropped up in the first week of practice -- a minor concussion to freshman forward Nick Banyard, an ankle sprain to sophomore post Alex Kirk and a minor ankle sprain to junior Tony Snell.
"Hopefully Nick will be back by tomorrow, that would allow him to get some playing time on Wednesday which he needs because he's been out," said Alford. "Alex is probably doubtful for Wednesday. There's not a lot of swelling and it's not as bad an ankle sprain as what we've seen out of players. But from a cautious standpoint, as you know we're not real deep up front, so.. versus bringing him back to early for an exhibition game doesn't make a whole lot of sense. He's getting a lot of reps in practice, so his conditioning is good. We will probably hold him out Wednesday, don't know that for sure, but I would say he's probably hold him out for Wednesday. Then he'll resume practice sometime late this week.
It was scary.You don't want anybody going down. We would feel that way about any of our players, obviously. But we know we're thin up front. We have been for five years. We thought we'd be a little bit deeper this year and it didn't happen that way.
Kendall's was more of his leg that was more Cam falling on him. He's fine. He's practices the last few has. As has Tony, Tony did hit it (ankle) late in the scrimmage, real late in th scrimmage. We had a day off SUnday and he's gotten treatment for it so I don't think that'll hold him back from missing any practices.
I don't know if it's so much combinations this year as it is, kinda, sub pattern -of how we're going to substitution. If we end up going four guards, foul trouble will dictate a little bit of who that four layer are. But if we end up splitting the bigs, if it's Alex and Cam, how do we handle the four guards. Are we going to bring that fourth guard off the bench to sub for the four guards that are in? We've got the versatility where we can play Nick, you can play Chad, you can play some other guys in that four spot to where maybe you're not saying its' four guards - it's a forward three guards and a center.
It's really trying to figure out how we're going to substitute early. normally, traditionally, you have some games to figure that out. that's why we hope Alex is healthy for our second exhibition (because) we've got to figure that our pretty quickly.because of the opponents we're playing.
I saw a report today where our non-conference schedule is ranked 20th in the country. It was the highest ranked of any of the Mountain West schools. And we knew that going in, that this was going to be a very difficulty non-conference schedule.
We're going to get tested right away with Davidson. Their top seven are back - starting to watch them on tape - they won at Kansas last year. This is a very, very difficult opener so we've got to figure some things out very quickly here on the first of November.