ALBUQUERQUE — And now, this brief intermission to tease you with conference play.
A scheduling quirk has forced the Mountain West Conference to have each of its basketball teams play two of their 18 regular-season games in early December to accommodate the earlier start to the postseason league tournament in Las Vegas, Nev.
For the University of New Mexico, that means its men will be at home against Boise State on Wednesday while the women face the Broncos in Idaho.
By all accounts, the UNM men are fine with it. At 7-2, they are getting closer to realizing the potential they’ve had for months on paper. The 7 p.m. Wednesday tipoff in The Pit is another chance for one of their point guards to keep proving he belongs.
Zane Martin said he’s inching closer to feeling as though he’s completely at ease in coach Paul Weir’s system.
“Me, personally, I feel like I’m about 60 percent,” when asked just how settled in he sees himself. “I feel like our ceiling is just so high. I feel like I could get way more comfortable in the offense.”
Martin has reached double figures in five games this season. The backup at point to JJ Caldwell, he has started to carve out his own niche of being the guy who can penetrate the lane, absorb contact and score with slashing moves to the basket. The majority of his shots have come within a few feet of the basket.
“Me and JJ are some of the guards that can kind of beat our guys off the dribble, get to the hole and make plays for Corey [Manigault] and CB [Carlton Bragg],” Martin said. “I feel like there’s a lot to come with us later on, further down the road.”
Martin and Manigault have been a potent 1-2 punch in such situations. Neither one of them starts, but the pair is averaging 19.2 points between them despite the fact that each is getting less than 20 minutes of playing time a night.
Weir said he sees potential in players like Caldwell and Martin and the busy months of December and January will give each a chance to develop into the kind of players he feels are vital to the team’s success.
Finding the playing time to make everyone happy now becomes the goal as Martin and Caldwell share time at the point with JaQuan Lyle and Keith McGee.
“It’s tough picking who’s going to be in and out of the games,” Weir said. “There’s times Zane’s sitting there going, ‘Man I want to get in,’ there’s times Carlton sitting there, same thing. Sometimes it’s different guys that don’t happen to get in. It’s the beauty of my job and it’s also the hardest part of my job, having all these guys we can play but sometimes your number’s just not going to be called down the stretch.”