New Mexico’s Snell a scoring machine
by Lindsay H. Jones, USA TODAY Sports
SALT LAKE CITY — Tony Snell stepped silently from the New Mexico locker room before the Lobos’ practice Wednesday afternoon and gave a shy smile.
He isn’t used to the spotlight.
But as the third-seeded Lobos prepare to make what they hope will be a deep run in the NCAA tournament, there might be no player who embodies the New Mexico spirit than Snell, the 6-7 swingman.
Snell isn’t just good — he’s NBA-potential good, but he’s never even been considered the best player on his own team, not in high school in Riverside, Calif., and not at New Mexico.
And the New Mexico is good — probably deserving of more than a No. 3 seed — but is rarely picked to win its own conference, let alone make it past the tournament’s opening weekend.
This NCAA tournament, starting with Thursday’s West Regional game against Harvard, could be a chance to change all those perceptions.
“I’m just trying to play as hard as I can. I don’t care about the attention,” Snell told USA TODAY Sports. “People who know me know I don’t like attention, so I just try to play hard and move on to the next game.”
Snell made 12 three-pointers in the Mountain West tournament, including shooting 5-for-7 in the title game win against UNLV, and averaged 19.8 points over the Lobos’ last five games as they made a push for a high tournament seed. Snell was picked as the tournament’s MVP, an accolade that took too long to arrive, said teammate Kendall Williams
“I’m just happy that he’s been boosted into that category of one of the elites after the tournament,” said Williams, the Mountain West player of the year. “But he’s been doing it for us all season.”
Williams and Snell came to New Mexico together in 2010, three years into head coach Steve Alford’s tenure, and the two have developed a chemistry that Williams described as “fire and ice.” Ice is Snell, of course, for his quiet-yet-cool demeanor.
In the three years since, he has silently gone about building a reputation as one of his conference’s better shooters, while working on improving … [For more on West Regional (Salt Lake): New Mexico's Snell a scoring machine, click here.]