For Wendell McKines, basketball remains the easy part.
Now a junior at New Mexico State, the 21-year-old Oakland native made his annual trip home Saturday for a game at San Jose State. The Aggies lost 93-84, but they are 8-2 since the return of McKines, a 6-foot-6 forward who is averaging 12.2 points and 10.0 rebounds per game.
"I've been playing this game for like 14, 15 years," said McKines, who averaged 35 points per game as a senior at Richmond High, totaling more than 3,000 in his prep career. "This is what I do."
Recently, McKines found life is a bit more complicated than that.
He missed the Aggies' first 10 games because he was academically ineligible after failing two classes last spring.
"He was crushed," said his mother, Stephanie Drake. "He also knew it was his responsibility, and he didn't carry through like he should have."
"The only person I can blame for that situation is myself," McKines said. "I let a lot of people down by not taking care of my business. It definitely won't happen again."
McKines passed 18 units last fall to become eligible and without basketball found time to regularly share his thoughts on his blog, "Everyday is Wens Day."
Because he plays the game with passion, McKines is one of the team's most popular players, according to Jason Groves, who covers the Aggies for the Las Cruces Sun-News. Not surprisingly, some NMSU fans became a bit riled
McKines posted the blog in response to what he considered disappointing home crowds for Western Athletic Conference games against Utah State and Nevada.
In part, the entry read, "It has taken me 2 and a half years to come to the conclusion that our fans are a bunch of frontrunners. Only coming when we are winning is horrible and in a way disrespectful."
On Saturday, standing in the hallway of San Jose State's Event Center, McKines said he has no regrets about his message, only his delivery.
"I regret how I said it. That was just all my anger about a certain game — bam," he said. "I said it wrong. Oh well."
McKines explained he merely is following the lead of some of his favorite athletes, including Ron Artest, Chad Ochocinco and Charles Barkley. "Outspoken guys who say how they feel," he said.
The drama wasn't over even when fan reaction to the blog incident subsided. McKines was arrested two Fridays ago on a warrant for unpaid fines stemming from a March 2009 charge of criminal property damage for kicking the fender of a car during an argument.
McKines had been ordered to either do community service or pay a fine. He did neither. His explanation — he thought the matter was resolved.
Stephanie Drake said her son's problems are not the result of others picking up after him.
"With Wendell, it's more him making excuses for himself," she said. "He has to face reality and stop trying to wing it."
McKines, who said he is in the process of paying the fines, played against Fresno State the same night he bailed himself out of jail at 4:30 in the morning. He had 13 points and 15 rebounds in the Aggies' victory.
Coach Marvin Menzies said he saw no reason to hold McKines out of the game. "I believe he's learning and growing up," the coach said. "I love him a lot."
McKines said he is trying to do the right thing.
"I just need to be an overall better person, take care of my responsibilities," he said. "Learning life lessons being a public figure is tough."
Contact Jeff Faraudo at firstname.lastname@example.org.