ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The New Mexico men’s basketball program announced Tuesday the addition of Nelly Junior Joseph, a transfer forward from Iona. The 6-10, 240-pound native of Benin City, Nigeria will have two years of eligibility with the Lobos after playing the last three seasons for the Gaels.
During his career at Iona, Junior Joseph started 82 of the 86 games he appeared in, helping the Gaels to two Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season titles, two MAAC Tournament titles and a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances. He has earned first-team All-MAAC recognition in each of the past two seasons after being named the conference’s Rookie of the Year in 2020-21.
“I have been fortunate to have been able to watch Nelly over the last three years and have loved seeing his growth,” said head coach Richard Pitino. “Obviously he is a winner, who has been well-coached and will provide an immediate impact to our basketball program. He is a tough and physical veteran who will be terrific addition to our team as we continue to move our program forward.”
Playing for Hall of Famer Rick Pitino at Iona, Junior Joseph established himself as one of the nation’s top post players. In 2022-23, he ranked fifth nationally with 19 double-doubles as he averaged 14.9 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. He had six 20-point games on the season, including 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting against the Lobos at The Pit in December. Junior Joseph led the conference with five MAAC Player of the Week awards as he earned first-team All-MAAC honors for the second straight year. In addition to leading the conference in double-doubles, he also led the MAAC in blocks (52), free throws (136), free throw attempts (218) and rebounds (326).
In 2021-22, Junior Joseph earned first-team All-MAAC honors after averaging 13.0 points and 8.2 rebounds per game for the Gaels, while posting 11 double-doubles. He scored a career-high 28 points in a victory over Harvard in November, one of two 20-point games on the season. He ranked second in the MAAC with 62 blocks and led the conference by averaging 3.27 offensive rebounds per game.
Junior Joseph was named the 2020-21 MAAC Rookie of the Year after averaging 11.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game during his freshman season. He had four double-doubles and ranked fifth in the conference with 29 blocks as he was named MAAC Rookie of the Week on four occasions.
“The reason I chose New Mexico is that I wanted to be part of a program that has the potential for success in the long term,” said Junior Joseph. “With Coach Pitino at the helm, I am confident he can build upon the foundation that has already been established. He is known for his attacking style of play and the ability to develop players in a short amount of time. He also has an excellent track record of recruiting top-tier talent, which will be key to building this roster. In addition to Coach Pitino’s coaching pedigree, I chose New Mexico because of its commitment to academic success. I am confident that the players we will bring in will have the opportunity to balance their athletic and academic pursuits and be successful in both areas. The university also has a strong commitment to the community and will be able to provide unique opportunities for players to serve and give back.”
Prior to coming to Iona, Junior Joseph played at the NBA Academy Africa in Senegal.