By Gabby Munoz
For NM State Media Relations
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (Dec. 10, 2013) - The moment Tshilidzi Nephawe, a.k.a. Chili, stepped foot on the campus of New Mexico State University back in 2010, he knew that he wanted to be an impact player for the Aggies, but in 2012 all that came to a screeching stop.
Being a 6-10 center, Nephawe started in 78 games over the past three seasons and recorded multiple double-doubles, hitting over 50 percent from the field and many double-digit scoring games since 2010.
As the 2012-13 season began, Nephawe was a prominent starter in the first nine games before he was sidelined with a season-ending hand injury during the game against Louisiana-Lafayette on Nov. 23, 2012.
“It was hard in the beginning but I separated myself from everything that was going on. In a situation like that, you have to do what is best for you.”
NM State went on to win the Western Athletic Conference and made it to the NCAA tournament falling to Saint Louis in the first round.
Nephawe said it was difficult to see his teammates playing and to find himself missing from the court, sitting on the sideline as a fan. Those two factors were enough motivation for him to overcome his injury and begin the 2013-14 season as a starter for the Aggies again.
“It feels good to be able to contribute and try to win every game with the team I love,” Nephawe said when asked how it feels to be back. “Playing with them on the court again is a great feeling.”
Having one of the nations tallest frontcourts and many returners this season, the Aggies have shown their dynamic as a team as well as their ability to showcase individually.
“I think with the benefit of having other good players around him, its his time to try to perform at a very high level,” head coach Marvin Menzies said about Nephawe’s return. “He was healthy going into the year and he has a strong compliment of talent around him.”
This season, Nephawe has started in all 11 games that the Aggies have played thus far and is second in rebounds for the Aggies averaging 6.8 per game. Nephawe has averaged 9.5 points per game, shoots 54.1 percent from the field and 64.4 percent at the free-throw line. He has five double scoring figures and notched two double-doubles since the season began.
“It’s been great having him back in practice again,” Aggie guard Daniel Mullings said. “He worked hard during the off-season in rehab. He just wanted to get better and it’s paying off.”
Nephawe has added to the dynamic of the NM State team since his return and plans on much more to come out of this season.
“Hopefully this season brings more wins during the regular season and the possibility of playing in the NCAA to have us win more games over there,” Nephawe said.
NM State and Nephawe have proven their strong talent can compete as the Aggies take on one of the toughest schedules the city has seen.
The Aggies will continue their four-game, 10-day road swing as they face No. 1 nationally ranked Arizona on Dec. 11, 2013 at the McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. at 7 p.m. It will be broadcasted on the PAC-12 Network with radio coverage on the Aggie Sports Network.