Mike Powers | News-Bulletin photos
University of New Mexico basketball coaches, in the background, recently observed Los Lunas High School all-state basketball player Jalin Holland.

Los Lunas

As the recruiting process intensifies for Los Lunas High School basketball standout Jalin Holland, University of New Mexico coaches are among those keeping a watchful eye on the Metro Player of the Year.

On April 19, UNM head coach Richard Pitino and several members of the Lobos’ coaching staff stopped by the Tiger gymnasium to observe a basketball class featuring Holland, a sophomore at LLHS.

According to NCAA rules, Pitino is very limited to what he can say about a potential recruit, unable to even acknowledge why he was at the school. However, the reason was obvious.

Holland has already been offered a scholarship by UNM and was well aware of Pitino’s presence.

“It means a lot to have them here, coming from UNM,” Holland said.

During an interview with the News-Bulletin, Pitino talked in general about how recruiting is going, while emphasizing the significance of signing top New Mexico talent.

UNM’s Richard Pitino, left, and members of his staff watched Holland during an LLHS basketball class.

“For us, it’s so important to recruit the best players in the state,” Pitino said.

“We know that this program (UNM) is very important, not just to Albuquerque, but to the whole entire state of New Mexico,” the Lobos coach said. “So, if they’re good enough, we’re going to recruit them very, very hard.”

As for potentially playing in the Pit and close to home, Holland says, “It would probably be great, a great feeling.”

Even with interest from New Mexico, a final decision may not be easy. Holland recently received scholarship offers from Missouri of the SEC and TCU of the Big 12. New Mexico State University has also made a bid to keep Holland close to home, while Southern Utah has an offer on the table as well.

“I haven’t made up my mind — I don’t know yet,” Holland said while taking a break from his workout.

The 6-foot, 4-inch, combo-guard, who averaged 21 points for the Tigers, isn’t expected to make a final decision until the end of his junior season.

Right now, there are more chances for Holland to showcase his talent in front of college coaches at events across the country. The first NCAA “live period” is underway, allowing coaches to visit a prospects’ school or watch them play in-person.

However, coaches can’t communicate with prospects or their parents at this time.

The recruiting experience for Holland has been positive, although it can be stressful.

“Sometimes the nerves get to me,” Holland says about playing in front of coaches. “It’s pretty great having coaches coming here to see me play.”

Pitino and recruiting

During his visit to Los Lunas High School, University of New Mexico men’s basketball Pitino talked with the News-Bulletin about the state of the program as he enters his third season at UNM.

The Lobos finished with a 22-12 record, including a loss to Utah Valley State in the post-season National Invitation Tournament (NIT).

VCNB: Where does the program stand as you begin season number three?

Pitino: “Well, obviously the growth from when we got here to now has been substantial. Are we satisfied with the NIT? No, but we’re really proud of the fact that it’s the first plus season they’ve had (in several years.)

“Attendance is up 33 percent. Recruiting is going great. We love the direction that we’re trending and obviously with the transfer portal, and all that, you’ve got to add some really good guys. We feel like we’re doing that.

VCNB: With players coming and going because of the transfer portal, when will you know what your roster looks like?

Pitino: “Hah. We’ll see in November. It’s the new world we’re living in. You can’t fight it. You just have to embrace what it is. Before, when you took transfers, there were some character issues or whatever. Now you can get some really good kids who are just looking for a different situation.

“It’s evolving and changing every single day but we’re not, as a staff, going to complain about it. We’re just going to do the very best to adapt and see what we can do.”

VCNB: When will the 2023-24 schedule be finalized?

Pitino: “Oh, that’s another problem with the whole (transfer situation.) Nobody knows who is on what roster anymore. I think everybody is waiting to see who everybody gets to see how they can schedule. That’s fluid as well.”

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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.