New Mexico State basketball’s strange season will finish with home games in a high school gym.
The Division I university in Las Cruces, N.M., announced Monday that the Aggies’ men’s and women’s basketball teams will play their final eight home games — four each — at Eastwood High School in El Paso, Texas. The move became essential due to the protocols New Mexico State has navigated while playing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The New Mexico State men’s and women’s basketball teams started their respective seasons in Phoenix, but were able to return home Jan. 20 after the New Mexico Higher Education Department eased the restrictions of the state’s COVID-19 Safe Practices for Intercollegiate Sports. While able to practice in Las Cruces, the Aggies still aren’t allowed to host games in New Mexico. Therefore, New Mexico State officials began to look for a home gym in El Paso, which is about 45 miles from Las Cruces.
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"We found a tremendous location in Eastwood High School. Our staff who toured their facility were amazed not only by the aesthetics inside the bowl but also the back-of-house infrastructure needed to host NCAA Division I teams," NM State director of athletics Mario Moccia said. "[Eastwood HS Director of Athletics] Julio Lopez and the entire school laid out the red carpet for us, and Aggie Nation is very appreciative."
New Mexico State’s first game in the Eastwood High School gym will be when the men’s team hosts California Baptist on Feb. 5. Eastwood High School's 2,000-seat venue was renovated before the 2019-20 school year after the Ysleta Independent School District received a $430 million bond.
"Thanks to the community's generous support of our bond program, the Ysleta Independent School District is fortunate to be in a position where we can accommodate New Mexico State University's request to use the state-of-the-art athletic facilities at Eastwood High School," superintendent Dr. Xavier De La Torre said. "Given that many Ysleta ISD graduates choose to attend NMSU to pursue a post-secondary education, it is our pleasure to assist the Aggies in their efforts to find a suitable venue to host athletic home games and provide a renewed sense of normalcy for their students and overall college experience.
"It's not every day that you get the chance to host Division I, NCAA tournament-caliber programs in your gym.”