An injury changes Lobo Curtis’ mission

Lobo Mackenzie Curtis, second from left, cheers on her teammates during UNM’s victory over the Air Force January 1. (Chancey Bush/Journal)

Mackenzie Curtis’ name hasn’t appeared in this season’s boxing scores, but she’s definitely on the show.

Curtis, a 5-foot-9 sophomore for the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team, hasn’t played since the Lobos show won against West Texas A&M and Fort Lewis more than two months ago .

She’ll be back on the bench Wednesday night when UNM (9-7, 1-2 Mountain West) host Nevada (5-9, 2-1) in a 7 p.m. showdown in Mountain West. Curtis has opted for a redshirt season after a hard collision in practice knocked her out for several games.

“It was a head-on collision with Amaya Brown,” Curtis recalled. “I felt good and finished the training but the next day I was dizzy and we realized I had a concussion. Definitely not fun.”

To make matters worse, Curtis’ injury lasted into finals week.

“It was terrible timing the whole time,” she said. “Fortunately, my professors were willing to work with me and things are back on track.”

From a basketball perspective, it’s not the stretch Curtis had in mind this season, but she’s determined to make the most of it. Curtis trains with her teammates and mimics top opponents in Scout Team situations.

“Kenzie is great on the scout team,” said Lobos coach Mike Bradbury. “She studies our opponents and really makes it a game situation. She is doing an amazing job in this role and I appreciate how hard she works.”

Curtis also makes himself felt during games. In fact, fans can hardly miss them.

The endless chants of Curt’s “D-up, D-up, D-up” when the Lobos are on defense can be heard throughout the pit stands. When a teammate makes a key play on offense, Curtis is off the bench, enthusiastically pumping a fist, waving a towel or inventing a new dance move.

“I don’t really plan these things. They just happen,” Curtis said with a grin. “I love cheering for this team whether I’m playing or on the bench. That’s just what we are.”

Curtis said she and Bradbury discussed a possible redshirt season before her injury, but her stretch in the concussion log finally made the decision. Though she’d rather play, Curtis said her attitude hasn’t changed.

“Redshirting doesn’t drastically change my role,” she said. “My job is to be the best teammate I can be, keep getting better and be ready to play next year. That’s what I’m concentrating on now.”

SHORT PIT STOP: UNM is hoping to make the most of Wednesday’s game against Nevada — its lone home appearance during a grueling five-game stretch. After a 2-0 trip to Wyoming and Colorado State, the Lobos’ next two games will be at UNLV and San Diego State, currently ranked first and third in the Mountain West standings.

“We have to take care of this game,” Bradbury said after Tuesday’s practice session. “Nevada is a team that plays physically, gets in your face and puts a lot of pressure on you. We are 100% focused on that.”

The Wolf Pack has been a mixed bag this season, losing five straight games before the Mountain West game but winning two of their first three league games. Nevada defeated San Jose State and the Air Force and dropped an 80-70 decision at San Diego State.

The Wolf Pack doesn’t have a great scorer, instead effectively sharing the workload on offense. Forward Lexie Givens is averaging 10.2 points per game as team-best, and five of her teammates are averaging 8.6 points per game or more.

“They’re all shooting 3s well enough,” Bradbury said, “and they’re really attacking the offensive boards. We have to keep their guards in front of us and if they shoot, we have to get the ball.”

NOTES: UNM point guard LaTora Duff was under the weather and didn’t practice Tuesday but said she expects to play on Wednesday. Her twin sister LaTascya Duff needs three more 3-pointers to reach 200 for her career. LaTascya ranks third on the Lobos career list behind Katie Montgomery (221 from 2004-07) and Amy Beggin (218 from 2006-10).