And then there was one scholarship left for UTEP basketball.

After securing the commitment from Tarleton State transfer guard Devon Barnes on Friday, the UTEP men's basketball program will turn their focus on securing one more player to take the final scholarship available for the 2024-25 season.

And they will also need a new assistant coach.

Time to catch up on some UTEP hoops news. Programming note: UTEP head coach Joe Golding and a few players will be on a special offseason MinerTalk podcast in the coming weeks. Stay tuned on our podcast channel moving forward.


Barnes is a Baller

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Getty Images

Barnes is coming off a productive sophomore season in the WAC where he averaged 13 points per game. He shot an impressive 43% from the field, 39% from 3-point range and 85.7% from the charity stripe, the latter being the second best in the WAC.

Across the 2023-24 season at Tarleton State, Barnes had seven different 20-point games and reached double figures scoring in nine of the last 10 games. He averaged 1.45 steals per game in league play, which had to be a selling point to the defensive-minded UTEP staff.

Prior to Tarleton State, Barnes starred at Triton College (2022-23) and averaged 15 points, 3.4 assists and 2.7 rebounds and shot 41.3% from from the perimeter. He graduated from Shiloh High (Snellville, GA) in 2021 and was a 3-star prospect by 247 Sports. 

He is related to 11-year NBA veteran Will Barton who has played for the Trailblazers, Nuggets, Wizards and Raptors.

Former CUSA Coach Hires Cox

Former Western Kentucky basketball head coach and new Oklahoma State coach Steve Lutz hired UTEP associate head coach Jeremy Cox on Monday, the school announced.

"I'm pleased that Jeremy and his wife, Cindy, will be joining us in Stillwater," Lutz said in a statement. "Jeremy is a friend, a family man and very well-respected throughout college basketball. He's won a national championship as a head coach and been an assistant at the highest levels. We'll benefit from his knowledge and more than 30 years of experience leading and mentoring young people."

Cox just wrapped up his third season at UTEP and brings three decades of coaching experience to Oklahoma State. Prior to UTEP, Cox was an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin (2017-2021), Southern Miss (2014-16), Texas Tech (2012-13), Nebraska (2011-12), South Florida (2009-11), Kentucky (2007-09), UTSA (1993-97) and Paris Junior College (1992-93).

Not only did he specialize in developing the bigs at UTEP, but Cox also was instrumental in implementing defensive schemes for the Miners. Sources tell 600 ESPN that the deal of Cox to Oklahoma State had been in the works for a while and wasn't seen as a surprise to the staff.

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Getty Images

So, What's Next for UTEP?

Atop the priority list, the Miners will need to hire an assistant coach and fill the scholarship. But, which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

Maybe the two can happen at the same time in today's age of college basketball. Maybe UTEP will be able to hire a bench coach that brings a player with him. This can be similar to what UTEP saw in the previous coaching regime under Rodney Terry. Assistants like Lamont Smith and Arturo Ormond brought in high-level prospects like Bryson Williams and Souley Boum. However, in the new era of NIL, those two-for-one package deals don't happen as often.

What if UTEP simply promotes from within? When Butch Pierre left the UTEP program after year one of coach Joe Golding, they simply promoted Bryen Spriggs to an assistant coaching role. The problem is, they don't have as many experienced coaches on their support staff to promote to the bench.

This might take a longer process too. Last summer, UTEP was patient with their final scholarship before awarding it to seven-footer Babacar Mbengue.

As far as what type of player UTEP recruits for the final scholarship, they could go multiple ways. They have their backcourt shored up for the upcoming season. The obvious answer is fill the void that Calvin Solomon leaves and recruit a forward. They could use more perimeter scoring, as they posted one of the lowest 3-point percentages across CUSA last season. Maybe they go with an in-betweener and get a combo guard/forward. Or, they can go the graduate transfer route and grab the 2024 version of Alfred Hollins.

There are many options for Joe Golding and his program. And, coming off a CUSA Tournament Championship run, the Miners hope to build off the positive finish to last season with a strong offseason.

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