One of my favorite moves in basketball is the pump fake. Not only does a good fake usually lead to an easy basket, it also makes the opposing player look like an idiot.
One of the all-time best Aggies at the pump fake was Gilbert Wilburn, who played from 1984-86 and was all-Big West Conference in his senior season.
Wilburn was only about 6-5 and built a lot like current Aggie Tyrone Watson. He was a great scorer, averaging 23.6 points his junior year and 19.1 as a senior.
A lot of his scoring prowess was due to his faking ability.
One fake – out of their shoes.
Two fakes – out of their socks.
Three fakes? You bet – maybe four sometimes.
Sadly, during his time at NMSU, Wilburn lost his mother, and after traveling home to California, he struggled through his first few games back in Las Cruces. It seemed to me that the pump fake was missing from his game.
Wilburn didn’t know me from Adam, but one evening at a restaurant on El Paseo we passed by each other.
“Gilbert,” I said, “don’t forget the extra fake,” hoping to plant a little bug in his ear.
The next game he was back in form, leaving opponents’ sneakers all over the court – figuratively speaking. I’ll probably never know if our chance encounter actually made a difference, but as an Aggie fan, it’s a memory I’ll always cherish.
One current Aggie who has the knack for pump faking is Troy Gillenwater, but since his recent injuries I haven’t seen as much of it.
I asked him about it at the Aggies’ press conference on Tuesday, abandoning my role as a journalist in favor of a shameless bug planter.
“The ankle has kind of slowed me down from jumping the way I want to jump, I’m not as explosive as I can be,” Gillenwater said. “I think the more games that we play it will get better.
“You’ll start seeing some more up fakes and finishes,” he said with a grin.
The Aggies faced Nevada at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 20, and travel on to play league-leading Utah State at 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 22. The games in on ESPNU.
You can bet that during both games, I’ll be listening to Jack Nixon’s call and hoping to hear the sound of Wolfpack and Utag sneakers hitting the floor.
Oh how I love those pump fakes – excuse me “up fakes.”
Now, if I can just get Watson and Wendell McKines to watch some old film of Wilburn …
Oh well, I guess that’s enough bug planting for now.