LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KTSM) – The New Mexico State men’s basketball team will play Western New Mexico in an exhibition game on Wednesday in Las Cruces, the first chance to see first-year head coach Greg Heiar’s squad in action against another team.
However, as of Monday, the Aggies still don’t know if two players expected to play key roles will be eligible to play in that contest, or during the 2022-23 season.
New Mexico State submitted eligibility waivers to the NCAA for Arizona transfer Kim Aiken Jr. and LSU transfer Xavier Pinson a few months ago, but had not heard back on the status of either waiver as of Oct. 31, multiple sources told KTSM.
Until NMSU hears back from the NCAA, the duo can’t play in the exhibition game vs Western New Mexico on Wednesday, or in any game on the Aggies’ schedule. NMSU is hopeful they’ll hear back in the coming days, before the regular season truly begins on Nov. 7 vs. New Mexico Highlands.
According to multiple sources, Pinson’s waiver is related to academics; in theory, he should still have one year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic that provided all collegiate athletes with an extra season. Aiken Jr.’s, meanwhile, has more to do with his last school, Arizona, but still must be cleared through the NCAA.
Pinson averaged 9.8 points and 4.8 assists in his lone season at LSU in 2021-22, helping the Tigers to a 22-12 record and the NCAA Tournament. Before his lone season at LSU, Pinson played three years at Missouri. In 2019-20, the Chicago native averaged 11.1 points and 2.8 assists. In 2020-21, he scored 13.6 points and dished out 2.9 assists for Missouri.
Aiken Jr. played in just seven games at Arizona in 2021-22, averaging 5.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1 steal per game. He was absent from the team for a Dec. 8 game vs. Wyoming, after which Wildcats head coach Tommy Lloyd said he was gone for personal reasons. Aiken Jr. never returned to Arizona after that.
Before coming to Tucson, Aiken Jr. was an integral part of Eastern Washington’s team for three seasons. It culminated in Aiken Jr. averaging 11.3 points per game and being named Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year in 2020-21, as the Eagles made the NCAA Tournament.
Heiar told KTSM in late September that the team is preparing to have both Aiken Jr. and Pinson for the season opener vs. New Mexico Highlands Nov. 7 at the Pan American Center.
“I’m expecting to have them when we open the season. They’re in the process of taking care of their waivers. Obviously, that’s out of our control a little bit, but what’s in our control is what’s in that waiver,” Heiar said. “I feel confident in the waivers and I’m moving forward like we’ll have them at the start of the season and I don’t see why we wouldn’t.”