LAS CRUCES, N.M. — New Mexico State men’s basketball head coach Chris Jans told the media at WAC Basketball Media Day that his team was battling injuries. Well, on Monday morning, Justin Martinez of the Las Cruces Sun News put out a tweet that confirms Jans’ statement.
New Mexico State senior guard AJ Harris has a fractured finger and will undergo surgery. Head coach Chris Jans expects him to be out for eight weeks.
— Justin Martinez (@JTheSportsDude) October 15, 2019
AJ Harris is the catalyst that makes the New Mexico State offense go. Harris averaged 9.4 points and 3.4 assists per game in 2018-19. The senior point guard was a preseason selection to the 2019-20 All-WAC Second Team.
“The most unfortunate thing for us is we’re just so beat up,” Jans said at WAC Media Day. “We had a great summer. I anticipated our guys to be highly motivated after the loss to Auburn and how it went down. And we weren’t disappointed. We had an awesome summer. They worked their tail off. It was exciting. And then in the fall, just for whatever reason, we got hit hard with the injury bug. We haven’t practiced full strength one time since school started.”
If the eight weeks stands, Harris will miss a significant portion of the Aggies’ non-conference schedule. During the time Harris will be in street clothes, the Aggies play rival UTEP twice and New Mexico once. It is possible Harris could return to action when New Mexico State heads to Albuquerque on Dec. 14. The Aggies also travel to the Cayman Islands for the Cayman Islands Classic which Harris will miss. New Mexico State will also be without Harris against Arizona on Nov. 17 in Tucson.
Harris will be back when WAC play begins in January. However, it’s still a big loss for eight weeks.
Now, fellow senior Shunn Buchanan will have to step up. Head coach Chris Jans isn’t concerned as he knows Buchanan has become a vocal leader in the Aggie locker room along with Harris and guard Terrell Brown.
“True leaders are hard to find now,” Jans said. “Not many of them are willing to get up on a locker or the soapbox and be critical of one another. It’s just hard to find. We’ve had some kids that have emerged recently. Specifically Shunn Buchanan, AJ Harris, and Terrell Brown … those three have risen to the top in terms of being leaders and it’s really nice to see and nice to hear when some of your players are using the terms and phrases that us coaches use with them. That’s when you know you have a program.”
Harris’ injury may possibly open the door for redshirt sophomore guard Jabari Rice to get reps at the point guard position. Chris Jans is high on Rice and what he has done in the offseason. The Harris injury may create more depth for a team with the deepest roster in the WAC. The Aggies host Western New Mexico on Nov. 5 before traveling down I-10 to El Paso to take on rival UTEP on Nov. 12.