Saturday will be a day for the last and the first at the Pit.
The University of New Mexico women’s basketball team will honor five seniors — its starting roster for the entire season — as the Lobos host Boise State for Senior Day. Jaedyn De La Cerda, Antonia Anderson, Shaiquel McGruder and sisters LaTascya and LaTora Duff will be recognized.
This is sure to be the last home game of the regular season for super seniors De La Cerda and Anderson, who will become the first Lobos to celebrate two senior days. The COVID-19 pandemic prevented fans from attending last season’s ceremony at the Pit, but it also granted players an additional year of eligibility, which De La Cerda and Anderson accepted.
Both look forward to a more typical senior day.
“Last year was so strange,” De La Cerda said. “It was like, who are we doing this for? This one is going to be really, really special.
“I don’t need gifts,” she said. “Jaedyn and I got framed shirts and everything last year. I just want one last home game with the fans.
Whether or not Saturday’s game is a final for McGruder or the Duff twins remains to be seen. All three still have an additional year of eligibility and could return to UNM as super seniors. None of them ruled it out.
“It could happen,” LaTora Duff said when asked if she and LaTascya had considered another season as Lobos.
McGruder smiled and said, “We’ll see.”
All three players expect to announce their intentions for 2022-23 in the coming weeks. For now, their focus is on finishing this season on a high, starting with Saturday’s home final.
UNM (21-7, 12-3 Mountain West) enters the game with plenty to play for, trailing first-place UNLV by two games and leading third-place Nevada by one game (in the defeats). The Lobos have three regular season games left, while the Rebels and Wolf Pack have four each, including one head-to-head.
Boise State (8-17, 4-10) struggled for much of the season, but the Broncos gave New Mexico everything they wanted in a 72-68 win over Lobos in Idaho earlier this season.
“They are really talented; they’re just young,” UNM coach Mike Bradbury said. “Their messages are good and we couldn’t stop them from showing up in Boise. I expect another tough game.
With that in mind, the Duffs said they don’t spend a lot of mental energy thinking about Senior Day festivities. “Just play like we’re supposed to and give the fans a win,” LaTascya said. “That’s the most important thing.”
Bradbury said Saturday would be the first time he had five starters recognized on a senior day. When asked what it was like coaching such an experienced group, he smiled.
“It was great,” he said, “and not because they’re all seniors or because they have talent. It’s great because they are people of character and altruism. They don’t care who the top scorer is or how many shots they take. They’re just trying to find ways to win. It is their state of mind. »
De La Cerda and Anderson, both in Bradbury’s premier UNM recruiting class, said they expected the second half of the senior day to be memorable.
“We came here together in freshman year and now we’re in graduate school,” De La Cerda said. “It’s pretty amazing. We talked about just trying to enjoy every game given to us. This one will be emotional but it will be fun.
Anderson, UNM’s career leader in games played, shared similar sentiments.
“When I think of the Pit, I just think of some games where the fans really showed up for us,” she said. “When they get loud, it’s such a great feeling. I’m gonna miss that vibe. I’m definitely gonna miss the fans.