I thought I'd provide a little off-season retrospect on New Mexico State Aggies basketball. How about some All Decade teams? I set out to put a list of 11 for each decade. Comparing players across teams is difficult to do - but I believe the lists are solid.
I'd love to see any introspect/stories about these players/teams. And certainly if you've got other players not on the list that you think belong there.
Let's start with the 1960's.
The 1960's rule changes were rather simple - dunking was made illegal during warmups and the game in 1967-68. But many modern rules such as the 3 point line, shot clock, freshman eligibility, fouls away from the ball, double bonus at 10 fouls, and elimination of jump balls were not in place.
The 60's was a decade of highs and lows for the Aggies. The early 60's New Mexico State was coming off NCAA Tournament teams, and was successful. Presley Askew had been coach since 1953 and had built a program that competed well in the Border Conference, which included Arizona, Arizona State, UNM and UTEP. But a decline seems to be linked to the end of the Border Conference in 1962, which the Aggies had been part of for 30+ years. The early 60's teams started declining. Presley Askew resigned as coach and hired an international basketball promoter and coach named Jim McGregor. This was a dismal failure - the Aggies finished 4-22. He was fired after only one year. History says this was a turning point in Aggies basketball. Lou Henson, a converted local who coached Las Cruces HS to several state titles, and had played for New Mexico State in the early Askew years, was hired from Hardin-Simmons and the Aggies fortunes began to turn. His initial freshman recruiting class included Sam Lacey, Jimmy Collins, Charlie Criss. The late 60's teams all went to the NCAA Tournament, culminating in the 1969-70 team that went to the Final Four. The 1967-68 Team and 1968-69 teams went to the Sweet Sixteens.
This list includes Billy Joe Price, that belongs on the 1950's team - but I've decided not to do an All-Decade Team for the 1950's - so he's included on the 1960's team.
New Mexico State All-Decade Team - 1960's
Jimmy Collins (1967-70) - 6'2" G - Syracuse, NY (Corcoran HS); Collins was a multi-source All-American in 1970 and led the Aggies to three NCAA tournament appearances, including two Sweet Sixteens and a Final Four. He was an NCAA All-Tournament Regional selection in 1969 and 1970, and a All Final Four Team selection in 1970. He averaged 19.5 pts/g and 4.3 reb/g in his three seasons. He is 3rd career scoring and his 42 point games in 1970 against Montana State and Air Force are 2nd in single game scoring. Collins was drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft and played 2 seasons for the Chicago Bulls. He is a member of the NMSU All-Century Team. He wore the #22 and #30 jerseys and was inducted into the New Mexico State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1975, and the Ring of Honor in 2009.
Charlie Criss (1967-70) - 5'8" G - Yonkers, NY (Gorton HS), (Hobbs JC); Criss quit the team at winter break of his first season (1967-68) because of personal reasons. But eventually played the next two seasons helping the team to reach the NCAA tournament's Sweet Sixteen the first year and the Final Four the next. He was an All American in 1969. He averaged 13.3 pts/g in his three seasons. He is a member of the NMSU All-Century Team. He wore the #14 jersey and was inducted into the New Mexico State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1975. Criss played 8 seasons in the NBA.
Mike Dabich (1964-66) - 7'0" C - Lander, WY (Lander HS), (Sheridan JC); The Aggie teams these years were not very good - but Dabich was the best player on them. He led the team in scoring and rebounding in his two seasons and averaged 16.3 pts/g and 9.6 reb/g over his career. He is 5th in career rebounding average, wore the #44 jersey, and played one season in the ABA.
Rob Evans (1966-68) - 6'1" G - Hobbs, NM (Hobbs HS), (Lubbock Christian); He averaged 11.3 pts/g and 5.2 reb/g over his two year career and was the 3rd best player on each of those teams. Both seasons his teams were invited to the NCAA Tournament with a Sweet Sixteen in 1968. Evans is a long-time college coach with head coaching stints at Ole Miss and Arizona State. He wore the #10 jersey and was inducted into the New Mexico State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1994.
John Gambill (1965-67)- 6'1" F - Seattle, WA (Evergreen HS), (Olympic JC); He averaged 12.9 pts/g and 6.6 reb/g over his two year career and was the 2nd best player in each of his years. The 1966-67 team was Lou Henson's first team, and after defeating several ranked teams was invited to the NCAA Tournament. He wore the #23 and #42 jerseys.
George Knighton (1959-62) - 6'8" C - Cuthbert, GA (Randolph Clay HS); Knighton was discovered at Fort Sill, Oklahoma playing for the 17th Army Group in tournaments. He was highly recruited after his Army time was over, but chose New Mexico State. He averaged 22.1 pts/g and 11.5 reb/g in three seasons of play - with 3 Border Conference titles and 2 NCAA Tournament appearances. He is 5th on All-Time scoring list, 2nd in career scoring average, 2nd in career FTs made, 4th in career rebounds, 2nd in career rebounding average, and his 40 point game against BYU in 1961 stands tied for 6th in single game scoring. He was a three-time First Team Border Conference. He is a member of the NMSU All-Century Team. He wore the #24 jersey and was inducted into the New Mexico State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1970.
Sam Lacey (1967-70) - 6'10" C - Indianola, MS (Gentry HS); Lacey originally committed to play for Jackson State, but Lou Henson recruited him after a colleague told him about Lacey and his skills. Lacey helped lead the Aggies to three NCAA tournament appearances, including two Sweet Sixteens and a Final Four. He was a First Team All American in 1970. Lacey was the most prolific rebounder in Aggie history and is the leader in single-game, season and career rebounding; he is also 11th in career scoring. He wore the #44 jersey and was inducted into the New Mexico State Ring of Honor, Hall of Fame in 1975, and is a member of the NMSU All-Century Team. Lacey played 13 seasons in the ABA/NBA and has his #44 jersey retired by the Sacramento Kings.
Charles Lindsey (1962-64) - 6'2" G - Colorado City, TX (Colorado HS), (Trinidad JC); Lindsey averaged 14.0 pts/g and 5.2 reb/g in his two years. Those two teams weren't good but Lindsey was the best player on them. He wore the #34 for the Aggies.
Billy Joe Price (1957-61) - 6'8" C - Oakwood, TX (Oakwood HS); Price averaged 14.5 pts/g and 10.6 reb/g. He was All Border Conference First Team in 1959 and 1961. He is 15th in career scoring. He was drafted in the 6th round of the NBA draft by the Syracuse Nationals, but never played for them. He wore the #31 jersey and is in the Ring of Honor, and was inducted into the New Mexico State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017.
Jeff Smith (1968-71) - 6'8" F - Camden, NJ (Camden HS); Smith averaged 12.0 pts/g and 8.7 reb/g and was on teams that went to the NCAA Tournament each year including a Sweet Sixteen and a Final Four. He is 30th in career scoring and 9th in career rebounds. He wore the #40 jersey. He was draftd by the Indiana Pacers of the ABA and the Seattle Supersonics of the NBA, but never played.
Ernie Turner (1964-68) - 6'1" G - Grand Prairie, TX (Dalworth HS), (Howard County JC); He averaged 13.3 pts/g and 6.2 reb/g over the course of two total seasons - early 1965, 1967 and early 1968. He was the best player on the 1967 team that went to the NCAA Tournament - the 1968 team also went, but Turner had used his eligibility 19 games into the season. He wore the #34 and the #40 jerseys.
Team of the Decade - 1969-70 Final Four team which included from this list Jimmy Collins, Sam Lacey, Charlie Criss and Jeff Smith. Other key contributors were Chito Reyes, Roy Neal, John Burgess, and Milton Horne.