In continuation of the New Mexico State men's basketball All-Decade series it's now time for the 90's.
During the 1990's the NCAA basketball rules changed: 1990-91 brought the 2 free throws after 10 fouls (double bonus) and 3 free throws on missed 3 pointer (previously was 2); in 1993-94 the shot clock was reduced to 35 seconds from 45, the game clock stopped after made baskets in the last minute of halves and OT, and the 5 second closely guarded rule was eliminated; 1997-98 the 5 second closely guarded was reinstated, and players could now call timeouts on the floor; and in 1998-99 a rule where a defense-initiated held ball was awarded to the defense was in place for only that year before being rescinded.
The New Mexico State Aggies teams of the early 90's were a great success. The late 80's teams started the momentum by going to the NIT and the NCAA Tournament as a 6 seed in 1990. The successive teams went to four straight NCAA tournaments and then an NIT. But problems with academic fraud and the questionable character of various players in the mid-90's started a downfall of Neil McCarthy, and placed the Aggies on probation. But once Lou Henson was hired the Aggies began to turn around and went to the NCAA Tournament in 1999 and the NIT in 2000.
Neil McCarthy's problems began after it was discovered that correspondence courses were done for players by assistant coaches. The Aggies were placed on probation in 1996 for three years, including a two year ban on recruiting JC players. And that year another questionable player transferred from Washington State - Donminic Ellison, who had faced a number of criminal charges. Things all came to a head when Jim Paul replaced Al Gonzales as the Athletic Director in August 1997. Just prior to the 1997-98 season, Antoine Hubbard was suspended indefinitely and left the team after altercations with Las Cruces police. It was also discovered that McCarthy's academic performance bonus was paid despite not being met -- approved by former President J. Michael Orenduff and former AD Al Gonzales. And then most of the New Mexico State coaching staff was fired in October 1997. McCarthy was to be replaced by Lou Henson just days before pre-season practice began. It was later discovered that JC-transfer players Louis Richardson and Antoine Hubbard, who joined the Aggies after their Jones JC coach Fletcher Cockrell was hired as an assistant by McCarthy, had their correspondence courses completed by coaches to keep them eligible to transfer to NMSU. Cockrell had previously committed an NCAA violation while an assistant at Texas A&M. This would eventually put the Aggies on four years probation again in the early 2000's.
New Mexico State All-Decade Team - 1990's
William Benjamin (1988-92) - 6'3" G - Santa Monica, CA (Santa Monica HS) - He averaged 8.0 pts/g, 2.7 ast/g and 1.7 stl/g over his four year Aggie career. He is 3rd in career steals. Benjamin was named to the New Mexico State All-Century Team. He helped the Aggies to the NIT in 1989, and to the NCAA Tournament in 1990, 1991, and 1992 (Sweet Sixteen).
Randy Brown (1989-91) - 6'3" G - Chicago, IL (Collins HS), (Houston) - Brown originally signed with Houston and played his first two years there before transferring to NMSU. He averaged 12.6 pts/g, 3.7 reb/g, 4.9 ast/g, and 2.7 stl/g over his two year Aggie career. He is the season steal leader and 5th in career steals. He was a 2-time First Team All Big West selection. He was named to the NABC Coaches All-Star game in 1991. He was inducted into the New Mexico State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1997, and named to the New Mexico State All-Century Team. He led the Aggies to two NCAA Tournaments - 1990 and 1991. He was drafted in the 2nd round of the NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings, and played 12 seasons including 3 NBA Championships with the Chicago Bulls.
Sam Crawford (1991-93) - 5'8" G - Los Angeles, CA (Westchester HS), (Moorpark JC) - Crawford was recruited by NMSU out of high school but didn't qualify academically, and so headed to JC. NMSU kept recuiting him and he eventually landed with the Aggies. He averaged 12.9 pts/g and 8.8 ast/g over his two year Aggie career. He is the game, season and career assist leader. He was named to the NABC Coaches All-Star game in 1993. He was named to the New Mexico State All-Century Team. He led the Aggies to two NCAA Tournament appearances in 1992 and 1993.
Enoch Davis (1995-97) - 6'7" F - Chicago, IL (Taft HS), (Eastern Utah JC/Iowa Western JC) - Davis originally signed to play for Idaho State, but ended up playing JC. After two outstanding seasons, he was amongst the highest rated and recruited JC players, and signed with Auburn. But he was released from his NLI on a technicality and signed with New Mexico State. He averaged 14.0 pts/g and 5.1 pts/g over his two year Aggie career.
Charles Gosa (1995-99) - 6'8" F - Phoenix, AZ (Carl Hayden HS) - He averaged 10.5 pts/g and 6.8 reb/g over his four year career. He is 16th in career scoring. He was named to the New Mexico State All-Century Team. He led the team to the NCAA Tournament in 1999.
Reggie Jordan (1989-91) - 6'4" F - Maywood, IL (Proviso East HS), (Southwestern JC) - He averaged 12.7 pts/g, 6.9 reb/g, and 1.9 stl/g over his two year Aggie career. He was named to the New Mexico State All-Century Team. He helped lead the Aggies to the NCAA Tournament in 1990 and 1991. Jordan was undrafted, but played parts of 6 NBA seasons.
Billy Keys (1998-00) - 6'2" G - Chicago, IL (Manley HS), (Northeastern Illinois) - Keys came to New Mexico State from Northeastern Illinois after the team dropped basketball, which really helped the Aggies after an NCAA ban of recruiting junior college players. He averaged 15.4 pts/g, 4.3 reb/g, 4.8 ast/g, and 1.6 stl/g over his two year Aggie career. He is 35th in career scoring. He was named to the New Mexico State All-Century Team. He led the Aggies to the NCAA Tournament in 1999 and the NIT in 2000.
Denmark Reid (1996-98) - 6'0" G - Portland, OR (Jefferson HS), (Portland/Arizona Western JC) - Reid was heavily recruited out of HS, but chose to stay home so his mother could watch the games rather than attend Nevada, where he originally committed. After a year there, he transfered the the JC and had an outstanding year and was again heavily recruited - and ended up with the Aggies. He averaged 14.0 pts/g and 2.7 reb/g over his two years as an Aggie. He is 4th in career 3-point FGs, FGA and percentage.
Louis Richardson (1996-98) - Louisville, KY (Moore HS), (Jones JC) - 6'8" F - Richardson led the state of Kentucky in scoring his senior year at 32 pts/g. He committed to Tennessee, but after head coach Wade Houston was fired he changed his mind, and attended Jones JC. Richardson and teammate Antoine Hubbard signed with the Aggies over many big schools that that wanted the pair. He averaged 18.0 pts/g and 6.9 pts/g over his two year NMSU career. He was a 2-time First Team All Big West selection. Richardson died in 2009 of a heart attack at the age of 34.
Rodney Walker (1993-95) - Decatur, IL (St. Teresa HS), (Glen Oaks CC) - 6'4" G - Walker was highly regarded out of high school but didn't qualify academically. He was very highly recruited out of junior college but chose the Aggies over dozens of big-time programs. He averaged 12.8 pts/g and 3.9 reb/g over his two years as an Aggie. He was selected for the Final Four Dunk Contest. He led the team to the NCAA Tournament in 1994 and to the NIT in 1995.
Tracey Ware (1990-93) - 6'7" F - (Lee JC) - Ware did not play high school basketball - he swam for his team - and did very well, reaching the Texas state championship and received a look from Arkansas to swim, which he declined. He wanted to play basketball, which he had recently started playing - but he was only 5'11" and 165 lbs. He began working in a bookstore, and grew to 6'3" by a year later, when he got a try at Lee JC. He continued to grow at Lee and played his sophomore year at 6'7" and averaged 28 pts/g, which led to his scholarship with the Aggies. He averaged 12.9 pts/g and 6.8 reb/g over his two year career. He is 2nd in career FG percentage. He helped the Aggies to the NCAA Tournament in 1991 and 1993.
Team of the Decade: The 1991-92 New Mexico State Aggies team was not necessarily the best of the decade, but it performed the best reaching the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament. It's only marquee victory was over eventual NCAA Tournament team UTEP. And after doing well in the Big West season, they had a clear path to the Big West Tournament championship because the dominating UNLV team was banned from post season tournaments that year. The team won the Big West Tournament and was seeded 12th in the NCAA Tournament - a reflection of their marginal season resume. In the first round they were matched against 5th seed DePaul, who was a dominating team in the former Great Midwest Conference. The Aggies defeated DePaul 81-73 in Tempe, AZ in a game that Aggies nearly led from start to finish, and Sam Crawford excelled - scoring 21 points and dishing 11 assists. The next round was against SW Louisiana (now known as Louisiana-Lafayette), who as a 13 seed defeated Oklahoma. This set up a 12 v. 13 seed game for a spot in the Sweet 16, which at that time was a rare event. The Aggies defeated SW Louisiana 81-73 behind Cliff Reed's 21 points and 11 rebounds, Sam Crawford's 14 point and 10 assists, and 18 points and 5 rebounds from Chris Hickman. This moved the Aggies into the Sweet Sixteen matchup with UCLA, who they hadn't faced since the 1970 NCAA Tournament's Final Four. The game was in The Pit in Albuquerque. The heavily Aggie-partisan crowd inspired the team to do well against an excellent #1 seeded UCLA team, but the Bruins defeated the Aggies 85-78. This team had All-Decade Team listers Sam Crawford and William Benjamin, and other key contributors were Cliff Reed, Eric Traylor, Malcolm Leak, Chris Hickman, Ron Putzi and Marc Thompson.