There is a lot of buzz in Loboland these days and no it’s not because of the upcoming Football season. It’s all about what former New Mexico Coach Brandon Mason and Lobo great Cameron Bairstow have done. Together they have organized an all-star game which has some of the greatest players that have stepped onto Bob King court in the last 15 years.
On Sunday, June 28, 2015, the PIT will be rocking and there will be something for all Lobo fans. The evening’s festivities will include a Slam Dunk contest as well as an autograph session. With all that goes in to planning a game, Coach Mason was able to spend some time answering questions about Sundays Charity event.
MWC: A Lobo All-star game has never been done, how did the idea for a game come up?
Coach Mason: "What happened first of all was Cam (Cameron Bairstow) had called me about running his camp. What he wanted was to get as many of the ex-lobos to work his camp. It just so happened that I am connected to a lot of these guys and once I started reaching out to them about coming back it was so easy to get them to come back to work the camp. I mentioned to Cam we should have an exhibition game for campers.
He said yeah that sounds like a good idea so my mind started running so I texted Danny Granger to see what he was doing and if he was interested in coming and participating .He responded right away and said he’ll come he was a good friend of mine and Cam and Tony (Snell) are on the same team so he asked Tony if he would come play and the next thing you know all these players, the bigger names started to click and so at that point me and Cam came together and said we should do a charity basketball game for New Mexico cause. New Mexico basketball is huge period and everybody loves their Lobos around here."
MWC: When you talk about professional players like Danny Granger and Tony Snell were there any issues getting them to play, being that they are under an NBA Contract?
Coach Mason: "At first you have to get the OK by their team and then make sure there is a waiver in place just because of the Paul George incident. UNM was very stern in making sure everything was cleared and done in the right way and that waivers were signed and that just because of the Paul George injury at UNLV you never know what could happen. We tell those guys that their career is more important than a game. We definitely had to take the proper precautions."
MWC: When choosing players, what was the reason you chose the last 15 years? Was it because those were the players you were more involved with?
Coach Mason: "What we tried to do was reach back into the era that was close to Cameron Bairstow’s that he was kind of attached to and just some other guy that I’ve known over the years. I played for New Mexico State and coached for the Lobos and I’m connected to Kenny Thomas and Eric Chatfield and Ruben Douglas and older guys as well. We wanted to try to get as many guys in as possible. All Alum basketball players get to come for free to the game and get tickets they’ll be recognized as well."
MWC: Is there any player that is not playing that you really wanted to see in the game?
Coach Mason: "There were some that just couldn’t work out Darington Hobson could not make it because he has something else he has going on in L.A and he can’t be here, Roman Martinez can’t be here because he just got married last weekend and this weekend is his honeymoon and Hugh Greenwood is in China. Chad Toppert is gone for the next month out of town. There were just some other names that we just couldn’t connect with because the day just didn’t work out but we felt that this would be perfect timing with post NBA draft and pre NBA Summer league and the days worked for a majority."
MWC: Since being announced the game has really generated a buzz initially 3,000 tickets sold, has that number increased?
Coach Mason: "It’s well over 5,000 now and it’s only going to grow you can expect it being in New Mexico you’ll get a ton of walk up. Initially you just hope you can get a couple thousand in there but once it hit the airwaves and you get a couple billboards and then on the news and all of the media ran away with it, it kind of skyrocketed."
MWC: What do you see happening long term with this game? Do you see it as a one off? Do you see it being every year?
Coach Mason: "I don’t want to speak on what’s in the future but there are plans already, one thing you can guarantee that there will be a Cameron Bairstow Camp next year but we do have other ideas and different things that will be attached to the camp, like this game. So, in the foreseeable future will have some great things to come, I just can’t speak on them but trust me next year there’ll be something real big."
MWC: Who do you think will win the slam dunk contest?
Coach Mason: "That’s tough, I don’t want to show favoritism just because I’m from Chicago and DeShawn Delaney is from Chicago but I don’t know what Tony Danridge can get he’s a little older a lot of years on those legs but I know J.R Giddens is more pumped up than anybody."
MWC: JR Giddens and Phillip McDonald are my dark horse candidates to win the contest. What do you think?
Coach Mason: "I saw Phillip McDonald 360 windmill (dunk) just a week ago so he still rising and flying he should still be playing professional basketball, it’s by choice he’s not playing but he should be."
Tickets start at $8 and can be purchased here or by calling 505-925-5627. Portions of the proceeds will go to the UNM Lobo Club and the Pink Pack Foundation for Breast Cancer research. For those not attending the game please follow @RJC1810 I will be live tweeting from the game. The game also will be on local radio with ESPN 101.7.