NMSU coach Jason Hooten, in the background wearing maroon, observed highly recruited Jalin Holland Friday at Los Lunas High School.

Los Lunas

The pursuit of Los Lunas basketball standout Jalin Holland by major colleges continues.  Texas recently offered a scholarship to the junior combo guard, while coaches from Utah and Colorado recently took an in-person look, as did New Mexico State’s Jason Hooten on Sept. 15.

First year NMSU head coach Hooten stopped by the Tigers’ gymnasium during a basketball class. While Hooten was unable to confirm the reason for his visit because of NCAA rules, Holland did say the Aggies have offered him a scholarship.

During his visit to LLHS, Hooten talked to the News-Bulletin about recruiting in general and about changes made after his hiring following two scandals that rocked the NMSU men’s basketball program.

VCNB: You have only been on the job several months. How has it been going?

Hooten: Great. It’s just a really great place with a lot of people who care about basketball. It’s been a lot of fun to see the passion in the program. There is a lot of history there, a lot of great coaches in the past. Coach (Lou) Henson obviously, but he’s not the only one. There’s been some other guys who have done great. Coach (Chris) Jans, very recent, did a tremendous job. We’re just excited to have the opportunity.  It’s been a lot of work and we have a lot to do, but I do feel we’re on the right path and headed in the right direction.

NMSU men’s basketball coach Jason Hooten is working to stabilize the program after several scandals.

VCNB: Part of that was cleaning house?

Hooten: For sure. When we came in, we definitely started over from scratch. We brought in 15 new players, new coaching staff. So, everything is pretty new, pretty fresh. We started this summer a little bit. We had a few guys there and got some things done. Then we started back at it in the fall. Our real practice starts here in a couple of weeks.

I’m really looking forward to getting out on the floor and having that time with the guys so we can start doing a lot more X’s and O’s and game situations.

VCNB: After the problems, is trying to change the culture a priority?

Hooten: It is. It’s the culture that needed to be changed, but I think the culture is always different for every coach. Even 13 years ago, when I got the job at Sam Houston State, the coach prior to me had just gone to the NCAA tournament. I was on that staff. Even when I took over, I had a different philosophy in different things. When a new coach steps in there’s going to be a change in philosophy, and just a different way of doing things.

VCNB: As far as getting a late start in recruiting, are you behind the eight ball?

Hooten: We feel that way. When we got there, we had to sign 15 guys, so there was a huge concentration on this team, this year. We went to the (transfer) portal a little bit more than we probably will. We’re really getting after our 2024 classes and our 2025 classes now. We’re just trying to do a good job catching up and getting our name out there for sure.

VCNB: What about recruiting New Mexico prospects?

Hooten: Anytime you’re at a state school, I think it’s extremely important that you put your foot down and you make a big statement in your state. You want to try to get the best players out of your state if you can. I think there’s a really good brand of basketball here.

I think the one thing I noticed is everybody is so engulfed in the game of basketball that if you have one of your own in the state, it’s going to make people pull for them even more. I’m excited and looking forward to it.

VCNB: It sounds like you’re ready to go.

Hooten: I’m ready, we’re ready for practice. I think every coach is this time of year.

(This article has been updated to show that coaches from Utah and Colorado recently observed Holland while at LLHS.)

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Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.