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Lobo coach scores with athletes

New Mexico men’s basketball coach Ritchie McKay spoke Monday to the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Clovis High School. (Staff photo: Rick White)

Ritchie McKay likens many Christians to youngsters during Halloween, a day in which children pull masks over their faces in the hopes of becoming — if only for a night — someone or something they’re not.

But he said to be passionate for Jesus Christ means the masks of sin must come off, that Christians need to follow God’s guidance in everything they do.

The University of New Mexico men’s basketball coach brought that message to Clovis on Monday night as the speaker at the first meeting of the school year for the local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

“I want you to be faithful. I don’t want you to put a mask on. I want you to live the life that you say, and none of us are going to be perfect. I’m 39 (and not perfect), but I know one thing: My heart’s desire is to walk with Jesus Christ,” the former professional basketball player said.

About 100 students gathered in CHS’ north gym to listen to McKay speak for about 25 minutes.

Incoming District Attorney Matt Chandler organized McKay’s appearance after calling the coach Wednesday. Typically, McKay said he wouldn’t have accepted the invitation on such short notice, but felt God had called him to speak in Clovis.

McKay was not paid to attend the meeting, Chandler said.

Clovis senior Ali Garrett said she was pleasantly surprised that McKay decided to come to Clovis, and was upbeat about his message.

“I think he did a really good job,” she said. “I think a lot of kids need to hear what he said, because there are a lot of pressures in high school.”

Senior Jacob Jones said he was familiar with parts of McKay’s message, but that other comments were new and helpful to his walk as a Christian.

Parts of the message that stuck: “Don’t live your life superficially. Don’t do things when it is convenient, do it when you should,” Jones said.

Like McKay, Jones believes Christians often live two lives.

McKay, who intertwined humor with his message, said the week before he was in Hobbs.

When the crowd shelled out a sullen “boo...” he said: “I’m just kidding, I would never go to Hobbs.”

McKay, who is married with three children, became a Christian when he was 18. Before that he said his entire life revolved around basketball.

He said when he was in high school he and friend would often sneak out of the house to cause trouble. Some nights they would throw eggs at cars, other nights they would hang out by the pool.

One night his friend — who McKay looked up to because he attracted good-looking girls and was a good basketball player — wanted the two to grab some beers together.

McKay denied the invite, and to this day is extremely happy he did.

He said his friend became an alcoholic.

McKay, on the other hand, found God.

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