First NCAA dance: UTSA made history in its seventh season

Texas Lutheran coach Mike Wacker (left) and UIW’s Ken Burmeister. (Soobum Im / The University of the Incarnate Word)

Quietly, and with very little fanfare, the 30th anniversary of an iconic moment in San Antonio’s college basketball history has arrived.

Not much has been written or said about it, outside of a few whispers among friends who experienced it first-hand.

But it’s hard to forget the 1987-88 season and the memories of UTSA’s first wild ride in March to an NCAA tournament.

Ken Burmeister. The Incarnate Word men's basketball team opened the season with an 87-71 victory over Southwestern on Friday night. (Joe Alexander / theJBreplay.com)

Incarnate Word’s Ken Burmeister coached UTSA to the 1988 NCAA tournament. (Joe Alexander / theJBreplay.com)

If you show the UTSA team picture from that year to Ken Burmeister and Mike Wacker, for instance, the nostalgia starts to flow freely.

Burmeister, recently fired after 12 seasons at Incarnate Word, served as UTSA’s head coach at the time.

Wacker, now leading the program at Texas Lutheran, worked under Burmeister that year on a staff that included Gary Marriott, Glynn Cyprien and David Oliver.

Burmeister and Wacker talked at length about the good times last December, before UIW hosted and defeated Wacker and Division III TLU, 91-63.

“It was just a dream come true for me, being part of coach Burmeister’s (UTSA) staff, and working with (assistant) coach (Gary) Marriott,” Wacker said. “I mean, those players were just so much fun to be around.

“They worked so hard, and for them to achieve that, under coach B’s leadership, I was just happy to be along for the ride.”

Tournament time

In only the seventh season in program history, UTSA finished third in the Trans America Athletic Conference regular season standings, behind both Georgia Southern and Arkansas-Little Rock, who tied for first.

But when the Roadrunners arrived at Daytona Beach, Florida, for the TAAC tournament, something clicked.

High-scoring forward Frank Hampton got hot, and UTSA won three games in three days at the Ocean Center, knocking off No. 2-seed Little Rock in the semifinals and No. 1 Georgia Southern in the finals.

The sweetest moment may have arrived on the day UTSA played Little Rock.

The Trojans, under Mike Newell, had been a nemesis of the Roadrunners for two seasons, winning all five games they had played.

That’s before Hampton, a UTSA senior from Chicago, erupted for 42 points in a 101-75 victory to eliminate Little Rock.

Another moment in time came a few days later, when No. 14 seed UTSA traveled to Cincinnati to play in the NCAA first round against third-seeded Illinois.

Battling against future NBA first-round draft picks Kendall Gill and Nick Anderson, the Roadrunners played the Big Ten school on mostly even terms before falling 81-72.

UTSA finished 22-9.

Even with those highlights, Burmeister said his most vivid memories of the season centered on the coaching staff’s chemistry and on a senior class that never gave up on itself.

“The staff got along really well together, and we had a really good, experienced team,” the coach said. “We had some older guys. We had four seniors that, when we got to the (TAAC) tournament, they all stepped up for us.

“Every one of them (including Clarence McGee, Lennell Moore and Todd Barnes) contributed to a victory.”

Players bought into a disciplined approach from the start.

Burmeister inherited the approach from his days as an assistant under Lute Olsen at both Iowa and Arizona.

Leaving Arizona, he arrived at UTSA in 1986 stressing attention to detail in practices and in the classroom.

Stressing discipline

Wacker, a former all-conference power forward at Texas, lived in the Chase Hill student apartments so that he could keep close tabs on the players.

“When I was there, that was my job, to get ‘em up (in the morning),” Wacker said. “You know, they couldn’t be in their apartments after 8 o’clock.

“I know (coach Burmeister) has got similar stuff in place now (at UIW), and that means he cares about these guys after basketball stops.”

Flanked by his trusted assistants, Burmeister posted a 72-44 record in four years at UTSA. His .621 winning percentage remains as the highest in the school’s 37-year history.

Almost inexplicably, he was fired following the 1989-1990 season after finishing 22-7.

The end of his tenure has been traced to a falling out with Bobby Thompson, the school’s athletic director at the time.

“If our staff had stayed intact, we’d have gotten into the top 20,” said Burmeister, who finished 311-280 in 21 seasons as a head coach. “We’d have gotten to the (round of) 16 (in the NCAA tournament).

“Unfortunately, there were administrators over there that didn’t want success, and they made a change.”

Hurt feelings aside, nothing will take away from the pride in what the coaches and players accomplished three decades ago.

“We were literally doing it on a shoe-string (budget), as you well know,” said Wacker, who coached 26 years at Judson High School, before taking over at TLU in 2016. “I just think we all had the right attitude for it. Coach B was driven, driven to push us to be the best we could be.

“Really, that’s what he’s always done. It’s what he’s doing here (at UIW).”

Thirty years ago, in the 1987-88 season, the UTSA Roadrunners reached the NCAA men’s basketball tournament for the first time. (Courtesy, UTSA)

Burmeister (bottom row, fourth from left, kneeling) and Mike Wacker (bottom row, far left) pose with the team that made history as UTSA’s first NCAA tournament squad.

1987-88 UTSA basketball
Record: 22-9
Trans America Athletic Conference: 13-5
Individual statistics
Frank Hampton, 18.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg
Clarence McGee, 14.2, 8.7
Eric Cooper, 13.8, 2.8
Lennell Moore, 8.9, 4.8
Todd Barnes, 7.5, 1.9
Bruce Wheatley, 6.0, 5.8
Dion Pettus, 3.8, 1.4
Grant Martin 3.5, 2.7
Scott Smith, 3.3, 1.1
Mike Bragg, 3.2, 2.0
Gary Durbon 2.3, 0.7
Tim Knowles, 1.6, 1.6

Coach Ken Burmeister is out at Incarnate Word

Ken Burmeister will not return as men’s basketball coach at the University of the Incarnate Word, athletic director Brian Wickstrom said in a news release.

A search for a replacement will begin immediately.

Ken Burmeister

The announcement comes three days after UIW finished 7-21 and 2-16 in the Southland Conference.

“I want to thank Coach Burmeister for his 12 years of service and for helping transition our program to the NCAA Division I level,” Wickstrom said in a statement. “As we evaluate the direction of UIW men’s basketball, we will search for the best candidate to fill the position and look forward to commenting further when that person is in place.”

Burmeister posted 10 winning seasons with UIW, including two Heartland Conference titles, a pair of appearances in the NCAA Division II South Central Region Tournament and a berth in the CollegeInsiders.com Tournament.

He accumulated a 311-280 (.526) record in 21 seasons as a head coach and a 183-156 (.540) record with the Cardinals.

New Orleans’ late surge knocks out Incarnate Word, 68-58


UIW center Konstantin Kulikov, with hands up, gets position under the basket to block a shot in the first half against the New Orleans Privateers.

Fans at the University of the Incarnate Word saw flashes of promising play from the home team Saturday afternoon.

The slumping Cardinals erased an eight-point deficit in the first half and made it a two-point game at intermission.

In the second half, a rally sparked by the presence of 7-foot center Konstantin Kulikov allowed UIW to come from six down to take a one-point lead on the New Orleans Privateers.

But in the end, the defending Southland Conference champions had too much athleticism and showed too much poise, winning 68-58 to hand the Cardinals their 11th straight loss.

“We just don’t have enough firepower, offensively,” UIW coach Ken Burmeister said.
“We go into lulls. I think in the first half we went eight straight times (scoreless).

“In the second half, we go seven straight times, (and) we didn’t get any baskets,” he said. “You got to get baskets. You know, the kids fought on defense. Rebounding was OK. New Orleans is a good team.

“You know, they got good shooters. Good athleticism. So, we just got to get that first one and get going.”

While UIW had Kulikov to defend and rebound in the paint, New Orleans (11-10, 8-2 in the SLC) unleashed significant talent across the front line and even in some of their big men off the bench.

In fact, reserve forward Macur Puou provided the difference for the Privateers against the Cardinals (5-14, 0-9) as he hit 8 of 9 shots from the field for 18 points.

Starting forward Travin Thibodeaux scored 14 and guard Troy Green nine.

Guard Cody Graham scored 11 and Sam Burmeister 10 for the Cardinals, who have been winless since Dec. 16.

But in Kulikov, from Oryol, Russia, UIW can see a glimmer of hope for the future.

He enjoyed one of his better games with six points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots in 29 minutes.

When Kulikov was on the floor, it changed the dynamic of the action. New Orleans had trouble getting to the basket.

Regardless, the junior transfer from San Jacinto College expressed some frustration at the lack of consistency.

“Most of the games we’ve had this type of thing, where we just play for 30 or 35 minutes and the last five minutes, we just let a team take the lead,” he said. “We just need to work on that in practices. I think it will be fine.”

Kulikov’s first few months at UIW have been chaotic.

The junior transfer from San Jacinto started practice, only to be told just before the start of the season that his eligibility was under review at the NCAA office.

He wasn’t cleared to play until a Dec. 22 game at Florida.

“I feel much better now,” he said. “Because when I came back after my eligibility status, I felt out of shape. Now I feel like I’m back in shape and I can play with these guys.”


A second-half, three-pointer by Shawn Johnson sparked cheers from the crowd and a demonstration from Speedo-clad members of the UIW swim team.

Incarnate Word hosts Sam Houston, hoping to end skid

Incarnate Word's Simi Socks (3) drives to the basket. The Incarnate Word men's basketball team opened the season with an 87-71 victory over Southwestern on Friday night. (Joe Alexander / theJBreplay.com)

Simi Socks (3) says he is preparing to play more on the wing to give UIW more flexibility in its rotation of big men. (Joe Alexander / thejbreplay.com)

After spending a lot of time during the past month on the road, members of the University of the Incarnate Word men’s basketball team relished a chance to return home last weekend.

To sleep in their own beds. To practice in their own gym.

“Just to re-focus and get our chemistry back in order,” junior forward Simi Socks said Friday.

Intent on snapping a four-game losing streak, UIW will host Sam Houston State in a Southland Conference game on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Convocation Center.

“We’re going to be picking it up on the defensive end,” Cardinals forward Simi Socks said. “We’re really going to be attacking.”

Coach Ken Burmeister said it will help playing at home.

“It’s going to be good to be home, playing on our own floor,” the coach said. “We’ve had a lot of travel with the UTEP and Florida games and then going out on the road, taking the bus, and then coming back.

“But we’ve got to move forward. We had a week at practice. Guys have gone hard (and) picked up our intensity on defense. We’ll see where it goes.”

Against Sam Houston State, UIW (5-7, 0-2) is looking for its first win in the SLC phase of its schedule.

It won’t be an easy task, as the Bearkats (7-8, 1-1) will bring in a trio of standouts in forward Chris Galbreath Jr. and guards John Dewey III and Jamal Williams.

Williams and Marcus Harris scored 15 apiece in an 82-76 victory Wednesday at home over Central Arkansas.

An ugly road trip

The Cardinals haven’t played since last Saturday when they lost in Thibodaux, Louisiana, to cap an ugly road trip, which included non-conference losses at UTEP and Florida and then SLC losses at McNeese State and Nicholls State.

UIW actually played well for long stretches against both UTEP and Florida. Against Florida, UIW trailed by only five with 12 minutes remaining.

But when conference play started, the Cardinals crumbled, getting schooled 85-62 at McNeese and 77-60 at Nicholls.

What happened? Well, it’s complicated. In both games, UIW fell behind early and shot the ball poorly as a team.

Just why they shot so poorly (32 percent against McNeese and 35 percent against Nicholls) might be up for debate.

It could have been the competition. It could have been the challenge of playing on the road.

But it also could be traced to UIW’s evolution as a team as it tries to mesh 7-foot center Konstantin Kulikov into the playing rotation.

Konstantin Kulikov (Soobum Im / The University of the Incarnate Word)

Kulikov, from Russia by way of San Jacinto College, played for the first time this season at Florida on Dec. 22 after being cleared by the NCAA.

In three games, he’s averaging 2.7 points in 12.7 minutes per game on 33 percent shooting.

Burmeister said Kulikov will come off the bench against Sam Houston State after starting against Nicholls.

“Kuli’s conditioning needs to get better,” Burmeister said. “He’s trying hard. But we ran into some good big people that took advantage of him, and he’s just got to learn from experience.”

With Kulikov and Charles Brown III in the paint, Socks moved more to a wing position, which didn’t work out so well.

Making adjustments

Against Sam Houston, the coach said he wants Socks to play more inside.

But the explosive 6-foot-7 junior, a native of Zimbabwe out of Coppell High School, said he wants to be as versatile as possible to help the team.

“I got to get used to playing on the wing more,” Socks said. “I was used to playing on the wing before I got here. But it’s been three years. I got to be able to adjust to what coach needs me to do.

“So if he needs me on the wing, I got to be ready to do that. Be ready to go, always.”

Socks plays a leading role with the Cardinals, averaging a team-high 12.7 points and 4.9 rebounds.

UIW also gets major production from redshirt freshman forward Christian Peevy, junior forward Charles Brown III and senior guards Shawn Johnson and Jalin Hart.

The mood in the UIW camp was down when the team returned home last weekend, Socks said.

“But we really picked it back up in the past week, getting ready for this game,” he said.

Burmeister, Wacker reflect on an NCAA dream season

Texas Lutheran coach Mike Wacker (left) and UIW’s Ken Burmeister. (Soobum Im / The University of the Incarnate Word)

Quietly, and with very little fanfare, the 30th anniversary of an iconic moment in San Antonio’s college basketball history is approaching.

Not much has been written or said about it, outside of a few whispers among friends who experienced it first-hand.

But it’s hard to forget the 1987-88 season and the memories of UTSA’s first wild ride in March to an NCAA tournament.

Ken Burmeister. The Incarnate Word men's basketball team opened the season with an 87-71 victory over Southwestern on Friday night. (Joe Alexander / theJBreplay.com)

Incarnate Word’s Ken Burmeister coached UTSA to the 1988 NCAA tournament. (Joe Alexander / theJBreplay.com)

Show the UTSA team picture from that year to Ken Burmeister and Mike Wacker, for instance, and the nostalgia starts to flow freely.

Burmeister, now in his 12th season at Incarnate Word, served as UTSA’s head coach at the time.

Wacker, now leading the program at Texas Lutheran, worked under Burmeister that year on a staff that included Gary Marriott, Glynn Cyprien and David Oliver.

Burmeister and Wacker talked at length about the good times Tuesday night, before UIW hosted and defeated Wacker and Division III TLU, 91-63.

“It was just a dream come true for me, being part of coach Burmeister’s (UTSA) staff, and working with (assistant) coach (Gary) Marriott,” Wacker said. “I mean, those players were just so much fun to be around.

“They worked so hard, and for them to achieve that, under coach B’s leadership, I was just happy to be along for the ride.”

Tournament time

In only the seventh season in program history, UTSA finished third in the Trans America Athletic Conference regular season standings, behind both Georgia Southern and Arkansas-Little Rock, who tied for first.

But when the Roadrunners arrived at Daytona Beach, Florida, for the TAAC tournament, something clicked.

High-scoring forward Frank Hampton got hot, and UTSA won three games in three days at the Ocean Center, knocking off No. 2-seed Little Rock in the semifinals and No. 1 Georgia Southern in the finals.

The sweetest moment may have arrived on the day UTSA played Little Rock.

The Trojans, under Mike Newell, had been a nemesis of the Roadrunners for two seasons, winning all five games they had played.

That’s before Hampton, a UTSA senior from Chicago, erupted for 42 points in a 101-75 victory to eliminate Little Rock.

Another moment in time came a few days later, when No. 14 seed UTSA traveled to Cincinnati to play in the NCAA first round against third-seeded Illinois.

Battling against future NBA first-round draft picks Kendall Gill and Nick Anderson, the Roadrunners played the Big Ten school on mostly even terms before falling 81-72.

Even with those highlights, Burmeister said his most vivid memories of the season centered on the coaching staff’s chemistry and on a senior class that never gave up on itself.

“The staff got along really well together, and we had a really good, experienced team,” the coach said. “We had some older guys. We had four seniors that, when we got to the (TAAC) tournament, they all stepped up for us.

“Every one of them (including Clarence McGee, Lennell Moore and Todd Barnes) contributed to a victory.”

Players bought into a disciplined approach from the start.

Burmeister inherited the approach from his days as an assistant under Lute Olsen at both Iowa and Arizona.

Leaving Arizona, he arrived at UTSA in 1986 stressing attention to detail in practices and in the classroom.

Stressing discipline

Wacker, a former all-conference power forward at Texas, lived in the Chase Hill student apartments so that he keep close tabs on the players.

“When I was there, that was my job, to get ‘em up (in the morning),” Wacker said. “You know, they couldn’t be in their apartments after 8 o’clock.

“I know (coach Burmeister) has got similar stuff in place now (at UIW), and that means he cares about these guys after basketball stops.”

Flanked by his trusted assistants, Burmeister posted a 72-44 record in four years at UTSA. His .621 winning percentage remains as the highest in the school’s 37-year history.

Almost inexplicably, he was fired following the 1989-1990 season after finishing 22-7.

The end of his tenure has been traced to a falling out with Bobby Thompson, the school’s athletic director at the time.

“If our staff had stayed intact, we’d have gotten into the top 20,” said Burmeister, who is 180-138 at Incarnate Word. “We’d have gotten to the (round of) 16 (in the NCAA tournament).

“Unfortunately, there were administrators over there that didn’t want success, and they made a change.”

Hurt feelings aside, nothing will take away from the pride in what the coaches and players accomplished three decades ago.

“We were literally doing it on a shoe-string (budget), as you well know,” said Wacker, who coached 26 years at Judson High School, before taking over at TLU in 2016. “I just think we all had the right attitude for it. Coach B was driven, driven to push us to be the best we could be.

“Really, that’s what he’s always done. It’s what he’s doing here (at UIW).”

Thirty years ago, in the 1987-88 season, the UTSA Roadrunners reached the NCAA men’s basketball tournament for the first time. (Courtesy, UTSA)

Burmeister (bottom row, fourth from left, kneeling) and Mike Wacker (bottom row, far left) pose with the team that made history as UTSA’s first NCAA tournament squad.

Texas Lutheran coach Mike Wacker fist-bumps his players before Tuesday night’s game at Incarnate Word. Video: theJBreplay.