Hobson tops Lobos in scoring, rebounds and assists
These days, New Mexico always serves the team meal with Butter.
Junior college transfer Darington Hobson - nicknamed Butter because of his smooth game - has added a versatile flavor to what is becoming a historic season for the No. 12 Lobos.
Hobson leads New Mexico (24-3, 10-2 Mountain West) with averages of 15.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. If he can make those numbers stand another month, he will become the first player in school history to lead the team in all three categories.
``He's been awful close to a triple-double now for the last two weeks,'' coach Steve Alford said. ``He's an outstanding player.''
The 6-foot-7 shooting guard picked up his nickname as a 15-year-old on the outdoor courts at a neighborhood park when he lived in Houston. Players in pickup games saw that he had a smooth game to go with his height and light-colored skin.
``Like a stick of butter,'' Hobson said. ``Fits me perfect.''
The left-handed Hobson was shorter and younger than nearly everyone on the court, so he usually played point guard. He calls it his most natural position, and it showed when Hobson made a highlight no-look pass to teammate Phillip McDonald for a layup earlier this week against Wyoming.
Yet it seems Hobson can do anything on the court.
His season high in scoring is 30 points during a November win over Louisiana Tech and he had 22 points and a season-high 16 rebounds when New Mexico beat Creighton in December. Echoing his teammates, he insists he's willing to do whatever's needed to win.
``I see a lot of balance. Guys know their roles,'' Hobson said. ``This is the most unselfish team I've ever played on. Nobody cares about their stats.''
It's humble talk, for sure, by the guy with the best statistics.
Going into Saturday's contest against Air Force (9-15, 1-10), Hobson has averaged 18.4 points, 10.6 rebounds and 6.6 assists over the past four games.
He has nine double-doubles this season, including a 20-point, 10-rebound effort in Wednesday's 83-61 win over Wyoming. Last weekend, he had 10 rebounds and 11 assists in New Mexico's 68-65 overtime victory at Utah, barely missing a triple-double with eight points.
The only Lobo to notch a triple-double was Luc Longley, who had 17 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists when New Mexico lost to Penn State in the 1990 NIT consolation game.
``I think I'll probably get one or two before the season's over,'' Hobson said, laughing. ``You can't really plan for it because that's when you try to do things you're not capable of doing or you try to do too much. You just play the way you play. If it comes, then it comes.''
New Mexico has won 10 straight, all in league play, with a chance Saturday to make it 11 conference victories in a row for the first time ever. One more win, and a 25-3 record would be the best ever after 28 games in the school's 107 seasons.
Hobson is a big part of the success. He spent the past two seasons at the College of Eastern Utah. New Mexico recruited him out of high school but he didn't qualify academically.
So he went to Price, Utah, enduring road trips in the Scenic West Conference where players packed into a van for seven- and eight-hour drives each way - the trip to northern Idaho was 12 hours. Meals usually involved fast-food restaurants.
It was a great experience, Hobson said, because he appreciates how good things are going now.
``You learn never to take anything for granted,'' he said. ``A lot of people don't realize how good it is in Division I. You fly everywhere. You eat at good restaurants. In junior college, breakfast, lunch and dinner was McDonald's, Sonic and Burger King.''
Hey, at least all those meals came with Butter.