If you spend any amount of time around the world of sports, you're bound to bump into a legend or two. One of the legends I've been fortunate enough to cross paths with celebrated a milestone on Saturday night when New Mexico State hosted Idaho in a WAC game.
Jack Nixon, New Mexico State's men's basketball (and football) radio play-by-play announcer was calling his 1,000th Aggie basketball game. It's a rare feat of longevity. Considering that teams are now jumping to conferences and then leaving that conference for another before even playing in said conference (ahem, I'm looking at TCU) it's amazing that a person has stayed with the same team long enough to call 1,000 basketball games.
The recap from William Harty Jr. has a ton of great details about Jack's travels while the radio broadcaster for the Aggies as well as some of the great players he's seen while "working." I've known Jack for about six years now and as you'd expect from someone who has witnessed over 1,000 men's basketball games in person, he's chock full of great stories and anecdotes. I've even had the opportunity to share the stage with him doing a little pre-game analysis for Aggies' NCAA Tournament game in 2010 against Michigan State as well as to share the radio airwaves with him earlier this season when the team came to play in the Great Alaska Shootout. Suffice it to say, Jack is a true professional in the radio broadcasting world and if your below-the-red-line team ever plays New Mexico State, take some time to wander down to radio table and introduce yourself.
In honor of the occasion another living legend was on hand, in the form of Lou Henson. A New Mexico State grad, Henson coached the Aggies to the 1970 Final Four where they finished third (raise your hand if you'd love to see the third-place game re-instated at the Final Four, you can't tell me you wouldn't have wanted to see VCU/Kentucky last year). Henson also led Illinois to the Final Four and despite being beloved and a legend at both New Mexico State and Illinois, he is somehow not in the college basketball Hall of Fame (and lest you think I'm tooting his horn just because he's a fellow alum, the Mid-Major Player of the Year award is named after him). Henson was the head coach when I was an undergraduate at New Mexico State and seeing him on the floor (which is named after him) with Jack was special.
Of course there was a game to be played as well and future Aggie legends Wendell McKines and Hernst Laroche, both seniors, made sure that the visiting Vandals did not spoil Jack's special night. Idaho held a 37-35 lead at halftime but New Mexico State would finally take the lead for good with 11:48 left to play. McKines (who is just 47 rebounds from becoming just the second NMSU player with over 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds) and point guard Hernst Laroche (who is just five points shy of the 1,000 point club) scored 21 of the Aggies' final 28 points to ensure victory. It was an important victory for New Mexico State who is trying to keep pace with Nevada (4-0) in the league race. The WAC, which has undergone more conference membership changes than commissioner Karl Benson can even remember, is playing a shortened 14-game league schedule this season due to the departure of Bosie State to the Mountain West (where they are playing just two seasons before departing for the Big East in football and sending men's basketball and their other sports back to the WAC in 2013-14).
Idaho will be a team to be reckoned with in league play but on this night the two future legends on the court made sure the two legends off the court left the arena happy.
at NEW MEXICO STATE 80, IDAHO 68 01/14/2012
IDAHO 9-9 (2-2) -- O. Czyz 11-14 0-1 24; D. Geiger 3-11 3-4 11; S. Madison 4-13 0-0 9; L. Tatum 2-6 0-0 5; K. Barone 4-7 3-5 11; D. Bandoumel 4-6 2-2 10; J. Kammerer 0-1 0-0 0; C. Hill 4-8 1-1 12; M. Habeeb 2-3 0-0 4; W. Faines 1-1 0-0 2; M. McChristian 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 26-59 9-12 68. NEW MEXICO STATE 13-5 (3-0) -- H. Laroche 5-10 7-9 20; W. McKines 8-12 7-8 23; D. Mullings 3-5 0-0 6; T. Watson 2-3 5-7 9; T. Nephawe 4-5 2-4 10; B. Sy 0-4 0-2 0; H. Rahman 5-7 2-2 12. Totals 27-46 23-32 80.
Three-point goals: ID 7-21 (D. Geiger 2-7; L. Tatum 1-1; S. Madison 1-8; C. Hill 3-5), NMSU 3-10 (W. McKines 0-1; H. Laroche 3-5; T. Watson 0-1; B. Sy 0-3); Rebounds: ID 20 (D. Geiger 4), NMSU 36 (W. McKines 10); Assists: ID 14 (D. Geiger 5), NMSU 11 (T. Watson 5); Total Fouls -- ID 25, NMSU 14; Fouled Out: ID-None; NMSU-None.