Jun. 23—Richard Pitino does not know what the future looks like for the University of New Mexico men’s basketball team, but it’s slowly coming into shape.
Pitino, the recently hired head coach of the program, said during a virtual media conference Tuesday assessing his team is a work in progress, since it is only a couple of weeks into summer workouts.
Add to that a few missing recruits who have yet to report to UNM, including junior point guard Jamaal Mashburn Jr., who played under Pitino when he was at Minnesota last season before transferring. Pitino expects him to be on campus by the end of the month, as well as Birima Seck, a 6-foot-11 freshman forward from Glendale, Ariz.
So, assessing the team in the summer can be tricky, Pitino indicated.
He said he is in the early phases of implementing some of his offensive and defensive schemes, and the result is that the Lobos sometimes look sloppy in scrimmages. However, that is the process of putting his stamp on the program.
“The summer is about getting acclimated, getting comfortable, getting to know each other, doing things on the court, off the court; academically, getting comfortable, as well,” Pitino said. “We got a long way to go from a basketball standpoint to where we’ll be anywhere where we need to be, or where I have expectations.”
One area that has Pitino’s interest is shooting, especially since the Lobos shot just above 41 percent from the field overall last year and 27.5 percent from the perimeter. He said the team uses a program that helps the coaching staff monitor individual players’ shooting percentage in drills, but he cautioned that their shooting percentage should be high since they are not facing defenders.
Pitino also mentioned that volume, especially from the 3-point line, is something he is interested in trying to determine. He acknowledged the game has changed in terms of the overall percentage of shots taken and made from the line, but he wants to strike a balance.
“I don’t want to shoot them just to shoot them,” Pitino said. “I want to take great shots. Obviously, last year’s team was not very good at it, but maybe that’s by design. Maybe they just weren’t a great shooting team, and they just had to score a different way. You gotta get to the rim. You gotta get to the free-throw line and you gotta see if you can get some catch-and-shoot 3s.”
Scheduling update: Pitino said UNM is in the process of shoring up one series with an unnamed team that will start on the road. He said the recent recruiting period gave him opportunities to talk to other coaches, but it’s a common theme as programs try to get their 2021-22 schedules set.