Staying Home: New Mexico colleges are signing many local hoop stars

Featured photo: Atrisco Heritage’s Dominic Rivas is one of a boatload of New Mexico seniors staying in state to play college ball. He signed with Hobbs’ University of the Southwest (Russell Gurule).

By Russell Gurule

For Enchantment Sports

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a trend of New Mexico boys basketball players taking their talents to local colleges and universities.

More opportunities have become available to New Mexico players over the years as local schools look to compete with homegrown talent. The state has a combined seven colleges and universities – either NCAA or NAIA — that have four-year programs and provide basketball scholarships.

Several New Mexicans are on those rosters as more and more New Mexico players are staying home to play college basketball.

Some of those schools will be adding more state talent next season, as will some colleges out of New Mexico. As of last week, at least fifteen high school seniors from the state signed to play college ball. And several others have offers but are still undecided.


New Mexico Highlands, led by head coach Michael Dominguez, has been aggressive in recruiting New Mexico players.

The Cowboys have eight on the roster and will be adding three more with the signings of Capital’s T.J. Sanchez, Magdalena’s Owen Olney and Del Norte’s Malik Barton.

Northern New Mexico College and coach Ryan Cordova have also shown a focus on recruiting New Mexicans.

With five currently on the roster, the Eagles have signed Las Cruces High’s Sal Nevarez, Las Cruces Oñate’s Jordy Moreno and Magdalena’s Kyle Julian.

Not to be outdone, new head coach Zane Gibson of Western New Mexico has signed Atrisco Heritage’s Joziah Ramos and Las Cruces High’s Rayshawn Brown. They join two other New Mexicans in what could be an exciting year for the Mustangs.

The University of the Southwest, located in Hobbs, has been hot on the New Mexico recruiting trial.unnamed Under the direction of head coach Cory Hitchcock, the Mustangs have signed Atrisco Heritage’s Dominic Rivas, Roswell Goddard’s Brandon Montanez, Lovington’s Christian Fitts and Cleveland’s Aidan Moreno.

As of last week, the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State and Eastern New Mexico had not signed players this year.

UNM does have a verbal commitment from Santa Fe High star J.B. White, a junior this season. He is expected to sign in November.

Two schools from outside the state have been recruiting New Mexico with some success. Lubbock Christian signed Cleveland’s Amer Mohammad last season and has signed Las Cruces High’s Gonzalo Corbalan for this season.

Top left: West Mesa’s Eloy Medina, Top right: La Cueva’s Derek Aeilts. Bottom: Las Cruces High’s Rayshawn Brown (Russell Gurule).

South Mountain Community College located in Phoenix signed Atrisco Heritage’s DeMarcus Sutphen last season and this year will be adding West Mesa’s Eloy Medina to the roster.

Highland’s Tommy Huynh was ready to play out of state with Holy Family College located in Wisconsin. But the school closed permanently, and last week Huynh said he was still undecided about where he might play.

Volcano Vista's Dion Battle
Volcano Vista’s Dion Battle signed at Northwestern Colorado (Russell Gurule).

Volcano Vista’s Dion Battle has signed with Northwestern Colorado University.

Bosque Prep star Elijah Davidson has also taken his talents north with his commitment to Western Colorado University.

La Cueva’s Derek Aeilts has signed at St. Edwards (Austin, Texas) University.

The state’s best player Ricky Lujan of Las Cruces Oñate will be playing for Dallas Baptist University next season.

But the cupboard isn’t bare, there are still a few more players who are undecided.

The classes of 2021 and 2022 promise to bring a bumper crop of recruits with the potential of several D-1 signings.

The trend is growing and the level of basketball is going up in New Mexico.

There are more opportunities for New Mexico players than ever before. The best is yet to come.

20200505_Russell Gurule was born and raised in Albuquerque and is a long-time resident. He graduated from Highland High and also attended Hope Christian. Russell is a long-time observer of New Mexico Lobo and high school athletics. Logistics is his day job. Basketball and politics are his passions. To contact Russell with comments of tips, please email


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