A year ago,
Last month, the pair was slogging through Albuquerque's sand dunes during a brutal workout with the rest of the New Mexico Lobos, both eager for a second chance to restart their college careers.
Such is the life of Division I transfers. Here today, there tomorrow.
The tandem's arrival fits into the current theme of redemption that's emanating from New Mexico's program. Last season, after a mostly mediocre decade-plus since
Still, the Lobos' second-round blowout loss to 11-seed Washington means the program has never won more than one knockout game in any NCAA tournament. Despite the loss of Mountain West Player of the Year
Gordon's transfer story is the more common of the two, but a player with his potential doesn't often drop into the Mountain West. A tantalizing 6-foot-9 talent who never fully found himself in
Gordon, who will be eligible in December, says the break from competition has been a plus for his development, even as it pained him to watch the Lobos' stirring run last season from the sidelines.
"I think [the time off] has been nothing but a benefit for me," he said. "Being able to relax and get better at my game without being criticized or applauded and what not has really helped me out. It's just been me and my teammates. It's made me really appreciate the game and realize how much I love it."
Love for the game also is the driving force behind Negedu's controversial return to the court. He essentially was brought back from death by the Tennessee training staff after collapsing following a weightlifting session and now has a defibrillator in his chest as a safeguard. While extensive medical exams found no evidence of an underlying condition, neither Tennessee nor Indiana (his first-choice transfer spot) was willing to accept the risk of letting him play.
In stepped New Mexico and Alford, who recruited Negedu when he was at Iowa. The whole Lobos staff has been trained in CPR as part of an overall plan that, according to Alford, should include school medical staff traveling with the team to road games. Negedu will be eligible immediately after the NCAA granted him a hardship waiver since his former team refused to allow him to play.
"Nobody has been more medically evaluated that Emmanuel has," Alford said. "He looks great, he feels great, I don't know if there are any more challenges with him than anyone else, other than he's had a previous medical situation. At least that has the attention of everybody."
Last season's sharpshooting Lobos were shockingly competent on the glass (including the nation's ninth-best defensive rebounding rate), and Negedu knows he will play a crucial role in maintaining that performance.
"I don't care about points," Negedu said. "I just want to be the top rebounder on the team, and the league, too. That's what I love doing. If I need the ball, I go get it."
This all should be welcome news for Alford, who joked that last season the Lobos probably made three entry passes all season and they could do that on every possession in league play this year. Don't expect New Mexico, which shot 739 three-pointers last season, to look like a Big East team anytime soon, though. Alford doesn't intend to change his system all that much and likely will still play four guards at times, especially before Gordon becomes eligible.
A more balanced approach on both ends could make the Lobos more imposing. The added size also should help New Mexico weather the grind that eventually caught up to last year's team, which had a thin bench and no one over 6-8 in the rotation.
"Just looking at our team on paper, and evaluation by eye as our guys are here this summer, this will be our biggest, most athletic team we've had," Alford said. "If you're big and you're athletic, you can impose a little bit more presence defensively, and I hope that's what we develop into."
There are no
The skilled 6-9 forward had a rocky freshman season at Florida in 2008-09, seeing his minutes dwindle as the season progressed and finally being suspended in the postseason for an argument with the team's strength coach. He is poised to join up with buddy
The surname helped create the buzz, but
The Missouri Valley is in for a rude awakening in December when the former Big East beast becomes eligible. Echenique came to Omaha to play for
Fontan was one of the highest ranked point guards in 2008 and was supposed to be the centerpiece of a basketball rebound at Fordham. The St. Anthony's (Jersey City, N.J.) product was named the A-10 Freshman of the Year in 2008-09 after averaging 15.3 points and 4.7 assists per game, despite the Rams' 3-25 overall record. The school refused to give him a release last summer, but after another bad start last season led to the firing of coach
The athletic Oklahoma transfer signed with the Hilltoppers after being dismissed by the Sooners after playing just half a season. He averaged 6.2 points and 3.6 rebounds off the bench for Oklahoma and should fit in nicely in the undersized-but-active Sun Belt.