New Mexico State forward Wendell McKines was a preseason all-WAC first team selection when he broke his foot last fall and needed to undergo surgery that forced him to redshirt the season.
The Aggies ended up finishing under .500 and falling short of a WAC tournament championship without their double-double threat and rebounding leader.
But if there was doubt that McKines would come back strong as a senior following his recovery, he put them to rest this summer with a dominating performance in the San Francisco Pro-Am near his hometown of Oakland. The 6-foot-6 McKines captured MVP honors by leading the league averaging 34.4 points and 15.1 rebounds.
McKines saved his best performance for last. In the deciding game that went into overtime and determined the league championship, he went off for 53 points and dunked the ball a whopping 14 times, according to the Oakland Tribune.
"This summer all I wanted to do was work hard," he said. "This was an opportunity for me to challenge myself, and I did. Life throws things at you. I just had to bounce back."
McKines has had bumps in the road since leading the WAC in rebounding as a sophomore. In the past two years, he has played a little more than a half season after being academically ineligible for a semester as a junior and watching last season end before it began.
His dominance this summer is big news in the WAC, which could be wide open this year. Perennial champion Utah State loses its core players and could lose its stranglehold on the league. That allows teams like New Mexico State, Nevada and Hawaii to give the defending champs their best shot.
A player with a vibrant personality, McKines might be the perfect foil for Utah State. He found a way to tweak the rival team even while sitting out the season, posting on Facebook, "Hate is a strong word..So that means I really hate Utah State."
These days, McKines is letting his play do all the talking.