New Mexico’s JT Toppin Named Freshman Of The Week

On Monday, the Mountain West Conference announced that JT Toppin of New Mexico has been named Freshman of the Week. 

This young Lobo quickly becomes a big-impact freshman for Richard Pitnos Lobos and a dominant player in the Mountain West Conference against formidable players. 

In the era of the transfer portal, Coach Pitino emerges as a strategic mastermind, skillfully recruiting high school players capable of making an immediate impact on the Lobos. 

This approach and the addition of transfer portal players showcase his forward-thinking and adept recruiting strategy.

This marks Toppin’s second consecutive week and the sixth time this season receiving the honor. His outstanding performance played a crucial role in the Lobos’ victory over No. 16 Utah State and their success at Air Force.

Toppin’s achievement is remarkable, as he becomes the first player to be awarded Mountain West Freshman of the Week six times within the first 11 weeks of the season. 

This places him in an elite group, alongside Tyson Degenhart (Boise State), Darrion Williams (Nevada), and Rytis Petraitis (Air Force), as one of the few freshmen recognized at least six times in a season.

In the previous week, Toppin contributed significantly to the Lobos’ triumph over No. 16 Utah State, scoring 99-86 at The Pit.

 He scored 12 points with an impressive 5-6 shooting from the floor and added five rebounds to his stat line. 

Toppin continued his stellar performance on Saturday in the 85-66 victory against Air Force, achieving a career-high 25 points on 12-15 shooting and securing 13 rebounds. 

This outstanding performance marked only the second 25 and 13 games by a freshman in UNM history. Kenny Thomas was the first in 1996.

Toppin’s remarkable achievements extend further as he becomes the first Mountain West freshman to record a 25 & 13 game since 2017-18 (UNLV’s Brandon McCoy) and the first to accomplish this feat against a conference opponent since 2015-16 (Nevada’s Cameron Oliver).

 With six double-doubles this season, he is tied for the most in the nation by a freshman. He is just one away from breaking Kenny Thomas’ school record of seven double-doubles as a freshman.

Toppin was crucial in New Mexico’s 2-0 record for the week, contributing to victories over No. 16 Utah State (99-86) and on the road against Air Force (85-66).

 He averaged 18.5 points and nine rebounds, showcasing remarkable efficiency with a shooting percentage of 81% (17-of-21) from the floor. 

In the game against Air Force, Toppin scored 25 points, grabbed 13 boards, and contributed with a blocked shot and a steal.

Entering Richard Pitino’s third season, UNM’s foundation has been predominantly shaped by Division I transfers, with the potential starting five for the upcoming season likely consisting entirely of players from the transfer portal.

 Despite this reliance on transfers, the Lobos strategically incorporate high school recruiting into their long-term strategy for long-term sustained success for the Lobo basketball program. 

Even as they secured three experienced Division I starters post the 2022-23 season, UNM has made waves by ensuring the top-ranked high school recruiting class in the Mountain West. 

The Lobos stand out as one of the few non-power conference programs rated in the Top 50 nationally, notably signing consensus four-star recruits Tru Washington, a guard from Arizona, and Jadyn Toppin, a forward from Texas.

Richard Pitino emphasized the importance of balancing high school recruitment with other avenues. 

He was committed to not altogether forgo recruiting high school talent, particularly when targeting players like Tru Washington and Jadyn Toppin from key regions of interest.

“We all have to make decisions on are we going to recruit high school kids or not?” Pitino told the Journal in a recent interview. “I don’t want to totally abandon high school kids”

 “And if we have a chance to get a kid like Tru Washington out of Arizona, or Jadyn Toppin out of Texas — two areas that we want to recruit hard — we’re gonna certainly go after those guys.” (courtesy Geoff Grammer of Albuquerque Journal) 

UNM’s high school recruiting class for the Class of 2023 earned recognition in the national rankings, with 247 Sports placing them at No. 41 and ranking them at No. 46. 

Tru Washington, a key signee for the Lobos, holds a position in the Top 100 in both 247 Sports’ composite rankings and’s rankings.

JT Toppin is ranked 102 by ESPN and 106 in the 247Sports composite rankings. UNM will add Guard Kayde Dotson (Beaumont, Texas) and forward Jovan Milicevic (Toronto, Ont.) for next season. 

 Both players are ranked among the top 250 players in the class of 2024 and will form the first-year class of next year’s team, so the future looks bright for Lobo basketball. 

Pitino emphasized his program’s comprehensive approach to recruiting, considering high school players, Division I transfers, international prospects, and junior college players.

 While UNM has brought in true freshmen in previous recruiting classes, Pitino acknowledges the challenges posed by players entering the transfer portal, emphasizing the need to build a sustainable program despite potential player movement.

Only time will unfold the narrative, yet UNM AD Eddie Nunez’s selection of Richard Pitino has ignited local fans, drawing them to the PIT each week to support their Lobos passionately. 

Combine the infusion of talented transfer portal players with the recruitment of top high school prospects and, of course, the advantage of having one of the finest venues in the PIT. This formula sets the stage for success in the wins and losses column.

Story originally appeared on Mountain West Wire