No NIT Bid for the Aggies

The New Mexico State men's basketball team will end the 2002-03 season at 20-9, after not receiving an NIT bid on Sunday night, March 16, 2003. NMSU recorded a 20 win season for the 21st time in school history, while beating two teams along the way that will play in this year's NCAA tournament. (Colorado and Western Kentucky) The Aggies will return 12 players next season including three starters; forwards James Moore and Kelsey Crooks and guard Jason Fontenet

For the second straight season, the New Mexico State mens basketball team won 20 games but was left out of postseason play. The 20-9 Aggies had hoped for a bid from the National Invitation Tournament Sunday night, but the call never came.

Instead, the Aggies now look to next season. "Its sad that we didnt get in," said guard Brandon Mason, whose career is now officially over. "But it happens. I thought we deserved a spot in the NIT. We beat Colorado, we beat Western Kentucky. I would think coach (Lou) Henson would get more respect in regards to what hes done. Two years in a row we have won 20 games and not gotten it." NMSU lost to Western Kentucky last Monday in the Sun Belt semifinals for the second straight season.

The Aggies went 9-6 in Sun Belt Conference play during the regular season. "With our record you have to be the second best team in our league," NMSU coach Lou Henson said. "We could have won 22 or 23 games and still not gotten in.

In our league, we probably wont get more than one team in the NIT." Louisiana, which went 20-8 and won the Sun Belt Western Division, was invited Sunday to play in the NIT for the second straight season.

The Ragin Cajuns lost in the first round of the Sun Belt Tournament. NMSU loses three seniors from this years team in Mason, center Chris Jackson and wing Will Morris, but only Jackson and Mason saw significant playing time in league play. Mason averaged 12 points per game and was second on the team in assists and steals.

Jackson averaged 10 points and 10 rebounds per game. The Aggies have two scholarships to offer for next year and both of those will likely go to big men.

The Aggies do return 6-foot-8 center James Felder, who will be a senior next season. Felder played in 17 games this season and averaged 4.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per game before injuring his knee against Western Kentucky in the regular season and missing the final 12 games. At the forward position, James Moore will also return.

The Sun Belt Player of the year averaged 18.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per outing. "We know where some of the big players are in the recruiting process," Henson said. "Well probably go for junior college players to fill both scholarships." NMSU will also rely heavily next year on returnees Jason Fontenet, Allen Haynes, Earl Calloway and James Fontenet at the guard positions and Kelsey Crooks at both wing and forward. The Aggies also had two wing players sitting out in freshman Robert Frazier and Missouri transfer Duane John, who will be a sophomore.

NMSU signed high school player David Fisher out of South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas during the November signing period. The 6-foot-6, 215-pound forward averaged 17 points and nine rebounds per game for the 29-8 squad.

"I think theyll be good next year," said Mason of the Aggies. "I think the guys coming back will be better and the guys sitting out have a lot of talent."

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