Come cheer the men’s team Nov. 20 and the women Nov. 25, and both teams for the Century Bank Classic Dec. 8 – 10
With strong rosters of new and returning players, Northern New Mexico College (NNMC) Men’s and Women’s basketball teams are eager to see the community turn out for the teams’ home games.
"From students, faculty and staff to our sponsors, the entire Northern community is thrilled to support the men's and women's basketball teams in this upcoming season," said President Hector Balderas. "The commitment of our coaching staffs and entire athletic department to growing our programs, particularly our women's program, and to spreading Eagle pride to youth and communities across New Mexico has been outstanding. We can't wait to support the success of our student athletes. Go Eagles!"
After some pre-game skirmishes, the official basketball season began Nov. 2 for the Eagles and Nov. 6 for the Lady Eagles, with away games against Florida College and Benedictine University-Mesa, respectively. The men have one win to date, scoring 72-66 over Oklahoma City University Nov. 4. The women are 3-0, besting Benedictine 55-54 and defeating University of the Southwest twice, 65-60 and 61-42.
The Eagle’s first home game is at 5 p.m. Nov. 20, 2023, versus New Mexico Highlands University. The Lady Eagles play their first home game against Western Colorado University at 6 p.m. Nov. 25, followed by a home game against Highlands at 5 p.m. Nov. 27. First games of the season will kick off with tailgate parties starting at 3:30 p.m., with Pollo Loco and Riley's Food Truck onsite during the games and various local car clubs staging community car shows. Northern’s Student Life is planning a free throw contest with prizes during the men’s halftime and are still planning events for the women’s first home game, which will open with the Peñasco High School JV and varsity teams.
Northern’s Athletics Department is working to enhance the fan experience. Improvements include new scoreboards and a new VIP section behind the bench.
“A lot of our fans are coming to watch their kids, many of them from out-of-state. When they come, we want them to feel like they’re at home,” said Women’s Basketball Head Coach Samantha Stukes. “The VIP section will give people an exclusive experience. We’re going to have food and drink there, and just an intimacy with feeling like they’re a part of the team.”
One of Athletic Director/Head Coach Jesus Aragon’s priorities for the past year has been community engagement. Coaches and athletes have been visiting local schools, giving demonstrations, coaching and talking about what it means to play for Northern.
“It’s generated a lot of excitement with the youth,” Stukes said. “We want to try to find a way to triple that with our adult supporters and community, to get them just as excited to come and check out what we have going.”
McCurdy Charter School, Tony E. Quintana "Sombrillo" Elementary and ETS Fairview Elementary students will receive free tickets to the first home game. The coaches are hoping to have local school bands perform during games and are working to organize special community events.
“I want to see the bleachers packed,” Aragon said. “When we ask for support, we’re not asking for donations. What we need is for people to show up at the gym and support us and enjoy the game.”
Fundraising this year will focus on sponsorships and playing Division 1 teams. Every time Northern plays a Division 1 team, that team pays the Athletics Department between $4,000 – $7,000. The men will play five Division 1 games this year and the women will play two, augmenting the department budget with between $25,000 and $30,000. Engaging with Division 1 teams also adds to the teams’ stature. Both performed well in their first Division 1 games, defying expectations. The men’s game against Northern Colorado University was broadcast nationwide on ESPN.
Aragon has also been enlisting sponsors. Century Bank, Z4 Enterprises, Inc., Espacio Graphic Design and Lovin Oven Bakery are all supporting Northern athletics this year.
Another goal for Coach Aragon is transforming the recruiting process so it is geared toward building a program, not a team. He has prioritized recruiting freshmen who will help to build the program over four years and has strengthened it with new coaches and a new trainer. Recruiting taller players to fill out the roster is another priority, with three seven-footers signed on this year.
Recruitment has been critical for the women’s team as well, which finished last year’s season with only 5 players. Now the team has 16 Lady Eagles.
“I’m really excited to see how we’ve meshed a cohesive unit with all these new personalities and positions. It’s a lot of young talent but we also have some pretty good experience with our transfers and our returns on this team,” Stukes said. “It’s been exciting to watch them play because I think it means a lot for these young ladies to have a solid team this year.”
As excited as Coach Aragon is to see the teams playing well, there is something that means even more to him.
“I’m really excited that I have three Dean’s List students in my men’s basketball program, and two in women’s basketball,” Aragon said. Players must maintain a passing grade point average (GPA) or they are out of the program. “They come to Northern to get educated, not to play basketball. Basketball is only a key that is going to open the doors. We’re changing the future with this.”
Stay tuned for more information on the three-day “Century Bank Classic” Tournament, Dec. 8 – 10, which will include an honoring ceremony for two former NBA players coaching for the event.
$103 VIP – season ticket
$63 GA – season ticket
$20 VIP – Single Game
$10 Gen. Admission – Single Game
$5 – 12 and under
Free – NNMC Students/Staff
Century Bank Classic Tournament:
Friday, Dec. 8: NNMC vs. University of Lincoln-OK. Women’s teams at 5 p.m.; men’s teams at 7 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 10: NNMC vs. Navajo Technical University. Women at 4 p.m.; men at 6 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 11: Lincoln vs. Navajo Tech. women at 1 p.m., men at 3 p.m.
Men’s schedule: https://nnmceagles.com/sports/mens-basketball/schedule
Women’s schedule: https://nnmceagles.com/sports/womens-basketball/schedule