UTSA coach reflects on portal craziness and efforts to rebuild a basketball roster

Steve Henson. Louisiana Tech beat UTSA 66-55 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson applauded his assistant coaches for their work in a hectic summer of recruiting after losing 10 players in the transfer portal. — File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay

One thing I’ve always admired about Steve Henson is, when he fields a tough question, he keeps his composure and answers it honestly, without getting defensive.

It’s an admirable trait that I suppose comes from all the time he spent studying at the Lon Kruger school of college basketball.

In addition, it’s clear that Henson respects those in the media and the job that they do.

As for yours truly, I didn’t ask the embattled coach of the UTSA Roadrunners all the tough questions on Wednesday afternoon.

But in the interest of good, honest storytelling, and on the eve of Henson’s eighth season on campus, I couldn’t help asking at least one or two.

I asked about the way last season ended and then about the two or three weeks of transfer portal craziness that followed.

For a refresher, Henson’s Roadrunners were playing the Rice Owls in the opening round of the Conference USA tournament at Frisco.

The Roadrunners appeared to have advanced to the quarterfinals, as point guard Japhet Medor drove for what initially was scored as a buzzer-beating, game-winning basket.

In the moments that followed, elation turned to agony, as officials ruled that Medor didn’t get the shot off in time.

“Just a heart breaker,” Henson said of the 72-71 loss.

While the pain of having a season end on an official’s review was shocking enough, the aftermath was even worse.

Back home in San Antonio, nobody liked the idea of a second consecutive 10-22 record going into the UTSA basketball history books.

But, really, who would have imagined that the Roadrunners would ultimately have 10 scholarship players enter the transfer portal over the next few weeks?

“It was a hectic spring and summer,” Henson said in an interview at his office. “Some of those guys that entered the portal, it was mutual. It was expected in several cases. They wanted bigger roles, better opportunities.

“(We had) a couple of surprises. One or two, we were disappointed and (it) surprised us. But we weren’t shocked.

“One or two just jumped in (to the portal) to see what was happening. There were a couple that went in that didn’t want to go in. A couple that went in and wanted to come back.”

A common thread in roster instability around the nation today is related to Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) payments that are now available to all college athletes.

Combined with a one-time transfer rule that allows athletes to move from school to school without having to sit out a year, it’s not surprising that so many are taking advantage of it.

Surely, it’s one of the factors that contributed to UTSA players looking elsewhere. Who could blame them, really?

If you work hard at your job and you can get better compensation elsewhere, wouldn’t you at least take a look? Of course you would.

Henson, for his part, didn’t want to comment about any of the particulars on any of his former players.

But he did discuss with some emotion the efforts to rebuild his team and the job that his staff did to make it happen.

“It was a hectic recruiting (cycle), gosh, in April and May,” he said. “We had a lot of shorter visits this spring than we had in the past. We’d bring someone in on a Monday and get ’em out on Tuesday. Bring someone else in on Wednesday and get ’em out on Thursday.

“Our coaches really, really stepped up.

“(Mike) Peck and (Adam) Hood were involved in most of that recruiting early on before coach (Kurtis) Darden joined us. I thought they did a heck of a job. You know, we’ll see. We’ll find out with this roster, what it can do when it counts.”

It may count quite a bit, with this being the last year of Henson’s contract.

In analyzing his new roster, the coach emphasized that he will be able to play with three centers in 7-foot Carlton Linguard, Jr., 6-10 Trey Edmonds and 6-9 Massal Diouf in an effort to match up with opponents in the school’s first season in the American Athletic Conference.

“We’re excited with this group,” he said of the roster as a whole. “We’ve got a lot of versatility with this bunch.

“I don’t know that we’ve ever had three centers like we have right now, in terms of size and defensive mindset, really, anywhere I’ve been.

“It’s something that’s so noticeable in our workouts right now, to have that type of physicality and presence and size at the center position.”

UTSA roster

Nazar Mahmoud, 6-5 guard, freshman
Jordan Ivy-Curry, 6-3 guard, junior
Carlton Linguard Jr., 7-0 center, redshirt senior
Trey Edmonds, 6-10 center/forward, junior
Dre Fuller Jr., 6-6 guard, graduate student
Adante’ Holiman, 6-0 point guard, sophomore
Chandler Cuthrell, 6-8 forward, junior
Isaiah Wyatt, 6-4 guard/forward, redshirt junior
Massal Diouf, 6-9 forward, sophomore
PJ Carter, 6-5 guard, junior
Christian Tucker, 6-3 guard, junior
Blessing Adesipe, 6-6 forward, junior
Justin Thomas, 6-7 guard, junior
x-Josh Reid, 6-7 forward, junior
x-Juan Reyna, 6-3 point guard, junior

Roster notes

Henson said that Ivy-Curry, who played last year at the University of the Pacific, and Thomas, a multi-skilled guard from Milwaukee, are considered two-time transfers and must get waivers from the NCAA for eligibility to play this season. Ivy-Curry, from La Marque, played in 2020-21 and 2021-22 at UTSA and then transferred to Pacific.

Edmonds (Utah Tech), Fuller (Central Florida), Holiman (UT Rio Grande Valley), Cuthrell (Odessa College), Wyatt (Chadron State, Neb.), Carter (Georgia Highlands) and Adesipe (Miles College, Montana) are eligible immediately, as is Mahmoud, a freshman from Spring Creek Academy in Plano. Fuller is making a comeback after sitting out all of last season.

Reid and Reyna are walk-ons.

Linguard sat out at UTSA last year after transferring in from Kansas State of the Big 12. He played in high school at San Antonio Stevens. Diouf and Tucker are the only two players on the roster to play for the Roadrunners last season.

Where are they?

Guards Japhet Medor, John Buggs III and DJ Richards, along with center Jacob Germany and forward Isaiah Addo-Ankrah, all played major roles for the Roadrunners last year and then elected to transfer.

This coming season, Buggs and Germany are with UTSA opponents in the American Athletic Conference. Buggs is at North Texas and Germany, a 6-11 forward, will play at Wichita State. Medor is on the roster at Fordham University in New York. Fordham is in the Atlantic 10. Addo-Ankrah is with the University of Denver in the Summit League.

Richards was announced at McNeese State earlier this summer but was not on that squad’s roster as of Wednesday afternoon.

Others from last year’s UTSA squad whose names are on college basketball rosters elsewhere are two who will play in San Antonio, including forwards Lamin Sabally at the University of the Incarnate Word and Lachlan Bofinger at St. Mary’s.

Forward Aleu Aleu is set to play at St. Edward’s University in Austin. Forward Josh Farmer and guard Azavier Johnson also elected to transfer.

McKenzie Adams is touched by the call to UTSA’s Hall of Fame

Former UTSA volleyball All-American McKenzie Adams salutes the crowd Friday night before a home match against Missouri State. — Photo by Jerry Briggs

By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay

Volleyball star McKenzie Adams was in the house again Friday night at the UTSA Convocation Center, and, just like old times, the crowd cheered her presence.

This time, the former All-American for the Roadrunners was introduced as an honoree in the inaugural class of the UTSA Athletics Hall of Fame.

McKenzie Adams, a two-time All-American at UTSA, greets old friends at the Convocation Center. — Photo by Jerry Briggs

As the crowd stood and showered her with applause, Adams flashed the ‘Birds Up’ sign to fans who attended the pre-game ceremony on the first day of the season.

Later, the Roadrunners (2-0) completed their second straight-sets victory of the day, this one over the Missouri State Bears. Earlier, they dispatched the Texas Southern Tigers.

The scene in the pre-game lead-up to the Missouri State game was emotional, with Adams walking in, only to be greeted by former teammates and also by well-wishers who were fortunate enough to see her play in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons.

With the crowd filling most of one side of the bleachers on the lower level, considerable volume was produced. Adams was clearly moved by the cheers. She loved it especially that some of her former teammates had gathered to greet her.

From days gone by, Jordan Kotara, Elise and Brandy Huskey, Paige Hamilton and a few others were on hand.

“It means everything that they showed up,” Adams said. “I didn’t know that they were going to come. I wouldn’t be anywhere without them. You know, it takes six people on the court. To have them support me like this was a blessing. It was awesome.”

Adams, an athletic 6-foot-3 outside hitter, was humbled to get the call notifying her that she had made UTSA’s inaugural class.

“I’ve tried to put into words what it means,” she said. “To be a part of the inaugural class, it’s such an honor.”

Others who made the first class include former athletic director Lynn Hickey, former football coach Larry Coker, football player Marcus Davenport, basketball’s Devin Brown and track and field’s Tameka Roberts.

Adams, who grew up in Schertz and attended Steele High School, started her college career in the Atlantic Coast Conference at Virginia and then transferred to UTSA.

In her time with the Roadrunners, playing for former UTSA head coach Laura Neugebauer Groff, she earned honorable mention All-American honors as a junior in 2012 and then made the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America third team as a senior in 2013.

“I knew Virginia was not the place for me,” Adams said. “So I came back home, like a little lost puppy, not sure what I was going to do or where I was going to go. Laura reached out and kind of took me in and said, ‘We got a home for you here.’

“The rest is history.”

Not only did Adams reap all-conference honors each year she played in college, her teams won most of the time.

At UTSA, the Roadrunners went 67-28 overall and 40-8 combined in seasons spanning the Southland, the Western Athletic and Conference USA.

After UTSA lost to Texas A&M in the 2013 NCAA volleyball tournament, she answered the call and extended her college athletic career just a bit longer, playing basketball for former coach Luby Lichonczak.

“Obviously winning is going to be the best memory,” she said of her time on the UTSA campus. “But just being around the girls, being around the team, those were my best friends. I’m just grateful to them and everything that we got to do together.”

In the pros, Adams has pretty much seen it all, living in outposts such as Mayaguez, Puerto Rico; Aachen and Schwerin in Germany; Istanbul in Turkey and both Conegliano and Novara in northern Italy.

“Volleyball’s allowed me to travel the world,” she said. “Not even playing, after the season, I’ve been to Croatia. I’ve been to Greece. I’ve been to places in Turkey. I’ve been able to experience different cultures. It’s been absolutely amazing.”

Now, in a few days, she’ll have her bags packed for a trip to Japan to play another season on a one-year contract. Not bad for a 31-year-old gym rat.

“I’ve always said, until they stop paying me, I’ll keep showing up,” she said.


UTSA downed Texas Southern 25-19, 25-14 and 25-15 on Friday morning before returning for the nightcap and whitewashing Missouri State, 25-21, 25-12, 25-19. UTSA will host Texas A&M-Commerce on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Ivan Melendez cranks out three hits to boost Amarillo

Sod Poodles designated hitter Ivan Melendez. The Amarillo Sod Poodles beat the San Antonio Missions 4-2 on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, at Wolff Stadium. - photo by Joe Alexander

Sod Poodles DH Ivan Melendez, a former college Player of the Year for the Texas Longhorns, went 3 for 4 at the plate last night against the Missions. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The Amarillo Sod Poodles maintained a one-game lead in the Texas League South division’s second-half race Thursday night, downing the San Antonio Missions 4-2 at Wolff Stadium.

Former University of Texas star Ivan Melendez led Amarillo with three hits, a run scored and an RBI.

Melendez, from El Paso, is batting .288 in 33 games for the Sod Poodles since he was called up to Double A. He has 12 homers for Amarillo and 30 on the season, counting 18 that he hit for the Advanced A Hillsboro (Ore.) Hops in the Northwest League.

With the Missions holding a 2-1 edge on the Sod Poodles in the series, the teams will play three more games at Wolff this week, starting tonight at 7:05 p.m. The series wraps up with another 7:05 p.m. game on Saturday, followed by a 1:05 p.m. matinee on Sunday.

Sod Poodles designated hitter Ivan Melendez. The Amarillo Sod Poodles beat the San Antonio Missions 4-2 on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, at Wolff Stadium. - photo by Joe Alexander

Ivan Melendez holds his bat high as he prepares to hit for the Amarillo Sod Poodles. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Ivan Melendez of the Amarillo Sod Poodles playing against the San Antonio Missions on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023, at Wolff Stadium. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Melendez has played third base and has also been the designated hitter.. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Teen baseball prodigy delivers a walk-off winner in his San Antonio Missions debut

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Teenage baseball prodigy Ethan Salas popped out to the infield in the third inning and took a called third strike in the fifth. He walked in the sixth and then flied out in the eighth.

Ethan Salas gets doused by his teammates after his walkoff double in the 10th inning of his San Antonio Missions debut on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023, at Wolff Stadium. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Ethan Salas gets doused by his teammates after his walkoff double in the 10th inning of his San Antonio Missions debut. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Overall, the No. 5 overall prospect in the minors had not dazzled anyone in his first game with the San Antonio Missions to that point — until he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 10th.

After pinch-runner Connor Hollis stole second base, Salas sent a jolt of electricity through the home crowd at Wolff Stadium, stroking a line-drive double into the gap in right center.

Suddenly, the fans were on their feet. Hollis was churning around third and headed for home, clenching a fist just as he scored the winning run in an 8-7 victory for the Missions over the Amarillo Sod Poodles.

Salas, who turned 17 in June, had won the game in dramatic walk-off style. Afterward, Missions manager Luke Montz praised the ball player’s composure.

“Just meeting the kid today, the guy wants to play baseball,” Montz said. “He wants to get after it. He tells you he wants to get better every day … He’s got a lot to work on, in his game and stuff like that, but he showed in his last at bat, there’s a lot of tools in there. He hits a walk off double. With composure, he controls the game in that situation and he puts good wood on the ball.”

Playing the opener of a six-game home series against the second-half leaders in the Texas League South division, the Missions fell behind 5-0 and 6-2 but didn’t give in.

“Any time you can come back and win a baseball game and walk it off in the bottom of the 10th, it’s always huge for your ball club,” Montz said. “It’s exciting. It’s an exciting moment for your ball club. You look at how we won. Down by five and chipped away. Got to give it all to those guys. They played hard from start to finish and came out on top at the end of the ball game.”

The game marked a new beginning of sorts for the Missions, who won the TL South in first half and then slumped, entering the regular season’s home stretch three games under .500. Five new players were promoted to their roster, including Salas, Nathan Martorella, Jakob Marsee, Graham Pauley and Robbie Snelling.

Trailing by a run entering the bottom of the 10th, a few of the newbies sparked the game-winning rally.

The inning opened as Pauley took the field as the designated runner at second base. Martorella, who had three hits on the night, tied the game with a single to center field.

Hollis, pinch-running for Martorella, stole second base with one out, setting the stage for Salas. Batting from the left side, he worked a 3-2 count against Mitchell Stumpo before stroking his first hit as a Double-A ball player.

In January, Salas was regarded as the top international prospect in the game by both Baseball America and MLB.com. A Florida native, the Venezuelan ball player signed a reported $5.6 million contract Padres.

After going through Padres’ spring training, he started his pro career at Single A Lake Elsinore in the California League and then moved up briefly to Advanced A Fort Wayne in the Midwest League. Between the two, Salas played 57 games and hit for a .257 average.

Salas was particularly impressive in 48 games at Lake Elsinore, hitting for a .267 average, while smashing nine home runs and driving in 35 runs.


Excited for a seventh season as editor after learning a few lessons in humility

Jerry Briggs (left) works as the editor of The JB Replay. His wife, Paula, teaches special needs children at Copperfield Elementary in the Judson Independent School District. – Photo special

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The hand with the crooked scar has mostly healed, thanks in large measure to the skill of the surgeon and the nurses and the physical therapist, not to mention the support of my family and the promise of a seventh season writing and editing The JB Replay.

I’ve known for years that I’d need to deal with an issue known as Dupuytren’s contracture.

Basically, it’s a condition that slowly crumples the hands, with fascia thickening around tendons and pulling fingers down and inward, toward the palm. Left untreated, the malady can lead to serious problems. In my case, the doctor recommended surgery. I had my left hand fixed four years ago. My dominant hand — the right — was repaired on June 15.

For the first few weeks I debated whether to say something about my predicament.

I mean, I had to drop coverage of Texas-based teams in the NCAA baseball playoffs after the first weekend of the tournament. Then, in the weeks after the operation, I didn’t really know what to say about whether I could or should try to continue in a writing career that has spanned 46 years.

I mean, it was weird enough trying to do simple things around the house, much less think about how I should go about covering the upcoming college basketball season. Now a little more than eight weeks post-op, I’m feeling pretty strong. The right hand is not all the way back, but it’s on a good trajectory towards normalcy.

The hand no longer folds over the side of the laptop when I try to write a story. Thank goodness.

Overall, I’m feeling much, much more like my old self after swimming regularly in the mornings over the past few weeks. Hey, I’m no Michael Phelps. But I’ve knocked out about 1,500 meters in each of the last two trips to the pool. Now I feel ready to start making trips to the UTSA campus. To say hello to coaches Steve Henson and Karen Aston. To get acquainted with all the new faces on the rosters.

Clearly, most of my enthusiasm stems from just feeling good again.

Additionally, I just feel like I have a better perspective on a lot of things. For instance, I’ve written hundreds of stories over the years about athletes facing health challenges. I’ve always empathized with the athletes who were held back by injuries. Now I know from personal experience what it really feels like for a ball player’s season to be in question.

Moreover, the value of personal relationships has also come into much, much sharper focus. My wife, Paula, bless her heart, pretty much gave up her entire summer looking after me. When she wasn’t around the house, my son Charlie was. To my friends, everyone who called and messaged, you all played a huge role in my recovery.

Finally, for the readers who might have wondered why I didn’t write a thing about the College World Series in June or UTSA’s recent transition to the American Athletic Conference, I want to thank you for your patience. You guys are the reason I continue to run this site. Hands down.