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New Mexico’s Jamal Fenton suspended first three games

Oct 29, 2012, 11:52 PM EDT

350x19 Reuters

New Mexico will be without guard Jamal Fenton for the first three regular season games after he was suspended by the NCAA for minor rules violations.

Fenton reportedly violated NCAA rules due to accepting some impermissible benefits.

The 5-11, 170-pound senior averaged 6.5 points per game in 2011-12. The Houston native didn’t play a ton last season — logging 16.7 minutes per game — but he was efficient, finishing second on the team with 84 assists, appearing in all 35 games last season with six starts.

Looks like the Lobos have fallen victim to the NCAA’s almost automatic “we’re watching you” preseason tactics. Every season, a few teams get hit with some sort of minor violation that hurts them in the beginning of their year. Last season, Vanderbilt’s Festus Ezeli sat the first six games of the season after he was found guilty of the same kind of issues. Warranted or not. It’s almost as if the NCAA wants to find something to send a message to teams that they still have an eye on them. It’s lame.

Fenton will be allowed to play in both of New Mexico’s exhibition games, against Victory University and New Mexico Highlands. However, he’ll miss the Lobos’ season opener against Davidson, at home, as part of ESPN’s always awesome “24 Hours of College Basketball” event and the first two games of The Paradise Jam, held in the Virgin Islands. Their first game of  that tournament will be against Illinois-Chicago, followed by either George Mason or Mercer.

As a result of the suspension, New Mexico’s guard depth will take a temporary hit. Kendall Williams will have to carry the load, along with Hugh Greenwood. Williams dished out 142 assists last season, Greenwood was third behind Fenton with 83.

It’s definitely not what coach Steve Alford wanted to start the season, but all three games are winnable and Fenton gets to play in both warm-up games, so he won’t be rusty when he comes back.

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

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