Ninja-tough UTSA women brace for new season as Jenkins continues rehabilitation

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

When I first walked into the UTSA Convocation Center today, I sensed some really strange vibes. I looked down on the baseline, and I could see that Roadrunners women’s basketball coach Karen Aston was wearing a Halloween costume. Her shirt was bright green, with a splash of gold on the front. For added flair, she was wearing red wrap-around glasses of some sort.

Jordyn Jenkins. UTSA beat Charlotte 60-54 in a Conference USA women's basketball game Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Slowed by an offseason knee injury, UTSA forward Jordyn Jenkins declined to speculate on when she might be ready to play. But she said she is feeling good and working hard in individual drills on the court. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Immediately, I thought the glasses might be goggles, and that she might have assumed some SpongeBob SquarePants-type alter ego. Not true, as it turned out. Officials confirmed that Aston was dressed as a ninja turtle. And not just any ninja. She was ninja sensation “Raphael,” a movie character who apparently never met a slice of pizza that he didn’t like.

Which I guess explains the slice of pepperoni pizza hanging off the front of the coach’s shirt.

As if any other craziness was necessary, Aston’s costume came complete with a plastic green and gold mask, though the coach didn’t wear it during the workout. After practice, I knew I needed to talk to her, because, well, how often do you get a chance to interview a successful Division I women’s basketball coach rocking a turtle mask?

But first, I approached star forward Jordyn Jenkins, to ask her opinion of the coach’s Halloween schtick.

Smiling, Jenkins explained that the coaches showed up last year dressed as the ‘Minions,’ of mini-movie fame. This year, she added, the Halloween silliness morphed into a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” theme. Smiling, she said, “I expect nothing but greatness from them.”

Expectations for the Roadrunners this year? Well, it’s time we started breaking it down, because on Wednesday night they’ll host the St. Mary’s University Rattlers in their one and only exhibition this fall. The preseason game will be played in advance of the regular-season opener scheduled for Monday night at Arizona State.

Jenkins, rehabilitating a right knee injury, likely won’t play in either the exhibition or the opener.

As reported in this space on Sept. 11, she suffered the mishap in postseason workouts in April and then underwent surgery. Officially, last year’s Conference USA Player of the Year is expected to be listed as “week to week” going into the Arizona State game, without any sort of estimate on when she can return.

Asked if she had a goal in mind on when she’d like to return, Jenkins declined to specify any point on the schedule, saying only that she doesn’t want to rush it.

Though she isn’t yet practicing with the team, Jenkins said she is doing well physically. “I’m kind of just dealing with an injury that I had in the offseason,” she said in her first public comments since taking up the rehabilitation process. “Rehab’s been good. Been working hard. Been on the court a lot. You know, just trying to keep it up.”

Elaborating, she said she’s working on offensive skills primarily and trying to stay sharp. “I’m moving around good and I feel good,” she said. “You know it’s just about getting shots up.”

Last year, Jenkins averaged 20.6 points and 7.5 rebounds. In tallying a school record 659 points, the 6-foot native of Kent, Wash., went on to become UTSA’s first Player of the Year in Conference USA. She was also Newcomer of the Year and first-team, all conference. Previously, she had played two seasons at USC and made the all-Pac 12 team in 2022.

As a team, the Roadrunners started slowly last fall and winter but came on strong in February and March to become a force, going 9-4 down the stretch and winning twice in the C-USA postseason.

Jenkins was a big part of all that, scoring in the 30s three times during the season, and hitting a season-high 40 at North Texas on Feb. 20. But even if she isn’t in the lineup immediately this fall, UTSA is talented at several positions and could be competitive in a November schedule that also includes a game against New Mexico State at home, followed by a string of road tests at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, UT Arlington, Texas Tech and Sam Houston, and then another home game against Texas State.

To start fast, UTSA will need Elyssa Coleman and guards Sidney Love and Kyra White to play well. They’ll also need help from the likes of forwards Maya Linton, Kyleigh McGuire, Idara Udo and Cheyenne Rowe to step up and play steady basketball in the position where Jenkins dominated last season.

“We seem a little more solid, a little more experienced, just more sure of what we’re doing,” Aston said. “So I think we’ll be better. Obviously, the elephant in the room is Jordyn not being available as early as we’d liked. So I think you have to take some shared responsibility.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily a huge factor. It’s something that’s noticeable when you see our team play right now (because) we did play a lot through her. But at the end of the day, we’re going to grow from this. There’s no question. Players will take some more responsibility in different areas, so, it bodes well for the long run of the season.”

Entering the American Athletic Conference this season, UTSA has been picked eighth in the 14-team league, a development that doesn’t seem to have fazed Jenkins at all.

“Wherever we are (in the polls), we just have to look at it and do something about it,” she said. “I think we can be in a really good spot in conference. We just got to work hard and be consistent. It’s really about us. As long as we’re good, we can really do whatever we want, eight more places better.”

Jenkins didn’t mention anything like a ninja mentality. Or a coach inspired by the ninja legend, Raphael. But she said she has hopes that the Roadrunners have enough fortitude to make a run in the AAC in February and March.

“I think it could possibly take us a little bit (of time) to get things going at the beginning of the season,” she said. “We have a tough preseason schedule, and it’ll set us up to be really great. Once again, we’re young, and we have a lot of dogs (with toughness, on our roster). Once we have our energy and our chemistry working, we can be dangerous. Last year, we showed that a little bit.”

Night moves: Chandler Cuthrell records his second straight double-double for UTSA

Chandler Cuthrell. UTSA beat McMurry 125-84 in a men's basketball exhibition game on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA forward Chandler Cuthrell contributed 13 points and 11 rebounds off the bench Monday night as the UTSA Roadrunners downed the McMurry War Hawks, 125-84, at the Convocation Center.- Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA basketball players like to gather in the early-morning hours for extra work in the gym. Just about the time the sun rises, the Roadrunners hit the floor for individual drills. Forward Chandler Cuthrell confirmed that coaches sometimes refer to this group as “The Breakfast Club.”

“Certain days of the week, I’ll be here for Breakfast Club,” Cuthrell said. “(But) I’m more like a night person. I like to be here, like, at 1-2 in the morning. It’s weird timing with me. But I like to be here (late), when I’m here by myself. Nobody else in the gym. I can just work on whatever I need to work on. Get me some shots in. Free throws. Stuff like that.”

For Cuthrell, the routine seems to be working out just fine. After two exhibition games, he’s parlayed his nocturnal spirit and his love for the practice grind into two solid performances, both of them double-doubles off the bench.

Last week, the transfer from Odessa College had 10 points and 11 rebounds against Trinity. On Monday night, in UTSA’s preseason finale, the 6-foot-8 forward from Baltimore hiked his production, going for 13 points and 11 boards as the Roadrunners routed the outmanned and under-sized McMurry University War Hawks, 125-84.

“I feel like I played well,” he said of his two performances. “I got a lot of room for improvement. I just got to keep working on being ready. Always staying ready when my number and my name is called, so I can help my team win.

“I want to continue to rebound, which is my main focus. Like, I don’t think about how many points I’m going to get. I think about … rebounds. I try to help my team get more offensive possessions.” So far, so good. Cuthrell (pronounced Cue-trul) grabbed five rebounds off the offensive glass in each exhibition.

Coming up

Regular-season opener, Western Illinois at UTSA, Monday, 7 p.m.


UTSA completed its two-game exhibition schedule against non-scholarship, Division III competition with a 100-70 victory over Trinity and a 125-84 win over McMurry. The Roadrunners shot 55.1 percent from the field against the War Hawks, including 65.1 percent in the first half when they raced to a 69-38 lead. In shooting the ball so well, they did it with a flair, passing for assists on 27 of the team’s 49 field goals. Playing off the bench, Christian Tucker hit seven of nine from the field and led eight players in double figures with 16 points. Tucker wasn’t the only spark among the reserves. Nazar Mahmoud scored 15, Cuthrell had 13, Isaiah Wyatt 12 and Massal Diouf 10.

Adante' Holiman. UTSA beat McMurry 125-84 in a men's basketball exhibition game on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA sophomore guard Adante’ Holiman bounced back from 1-for-7, three-point shooting against Trinity to hit 3 of 8 from long distance against McMurry. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Among the starters, Adante’ Holiman and Dre Fuller Jr. scored 14, with Fuller adding 10 rebounds. Trey Edmonds had 12 points and eight boards. Starting the game were Carlton Linguard Jr. (12 rebounds), Edmonds, Fuller, Holiman and P.J. Carter. Holiman showed off his distance shooting touch late in the first half, scoring six points in 16 seconds. First, he knocked down a long one at the top with 3:06 on the clock and then another at 2:50. Cuthrell threw down a two-handed dunk just before intermission, rebounding a miss by Holiman and then forcefully snapping the rim and shaking the backboard.


“A lot of positives we can take from that one and continue to build on,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “I keep thinking about the game, as it goes on, just so many good unselfish plays were made by so many different people. You know, we really kicked it out of the post extremely well.

Continued Henson, ” … (We had) willing passers. Assist numbers were high. I thought we pushed it in transition better … Defensively, had some trouble guarding the dribble. That’s an important part of the game. We got to make some progress in that regard.”

Christian Tucker. UTSA beat McMurry 125-84 in a men's basketball exhibition game on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Christian Tucker led the Roadrunners with 16 points on seven of nine shooting against the War Hawks. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“I thought we played pretty well the first 10 minutes or so,” McMurry coach Zach Pickelman said. “We obviously want to get out and run and try to score a lot of points. To do that against a Division I program was good to see. Obviously, UTSA is a lot bigger than us, and I think that wore on us as the game went on. We struggled to keep them in front of us. We struggled to keep them off the boards. But I think it was a good experience for our guys as we move forward into our season.”

UTSA guard Adante’ Holiman, on the Roadrunners’ unselfish nature at this juncture of the preseason training camp: “I think we as a team really value getting each other the basketball in the right spots. Just, we believe in each other.” Holiman received birthday greetings (for his 20th) earlier in the day. Apparently, there wouldn’t be much of a celebration. He said he had to go and complete an exam as soon as he left the arena.


McMurry had two players from San Antonio, including Josh Alcocer, a 6-8 junior from O’Connor High School, and Tristan Holden, a 6-7 freshman from Taft. Alcocer started and finished with five points and one rebound in 14 minutes. Holden had eight points and four rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench.

Tristan Holden from Taft High School in San Antonio is a freshman forward on the McMurry men's basketball team. - Photo by Joe Alexander

McMurry freshman Tristan Holden came off the bench for eight points and four rebounds. Holden is from San Antonio’s Taft High School. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA wins 125-84, blowing out McMurry with eight in double figures

Guard Christian Tucker came off the bench Monday night to score 16 points, leading eight UTSA players in double figures, as the Roadrunners blew out the Division III McMurry University War Hawks, 125-84, at the Convocation Center.

Tucker hit seven of nine shots from the field, passed for a team-high tying five assists and pulled down four rebounds. Tucker and the reserves helped boost UTSA to a 51-26 splurge in the final 13:36 of the first half.

Chandler Cuthrell punctuated the half with a massive dunk off a missed three-pointer by Adante’ Holiman. Notching his second straight double-double, Cuthrell finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

Men’s basketball: UTSA hosts McMurry in exhibition finale

Trey Edmonds. UTSA men's basketball beat Trinity 100-70 in an exhibition game on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Trey Edmonds, one of 10 new scholarship players for the Roadrunners, scored 14 points and pulled down seven rebounds last week against Trinity. File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners host the McMurry University War Hawks from Abilene on Monday night to close out a two-game exhibition schedule. Game time is at 7 p.m. at the Convocation Center.

Center Carlton Linguard Jr. had 20 points and nine rebounds last Tuesday in UTSA’s preseason opener, a 100-70 victory over the Trinity University Tigers. UTSA hit 15 three-point shots and romped to a 60-34 edge in rebounding.

Both Trinity and McMurry play as non-scholarship programs in NCAA Division III. The War Hawks, led by ninth-year coach Zach Pickelman, finished 7-18 and 6-12 last year in the American Southwest Conference.

The Roadrunners and the War Hawks haven’t played in 10 years. In 2013, McMurry beat UTSA on a dramatic buzzer beater. Will Adams banked in a three at the buzzer to lift a then-Division II program to a 73-71 victory. UTSA is 5-1 against McMurry all time.

UTSA, a member of NCAA Division I since its inception in 1981-82, is stepping up a level this year as it transitions from Conference USA into the American Athletic Conference. The Roadrunners are playing with almost an entirely revamped roster featuring 10 new scholarship players.


UTSA opens its 43rd regular season a week from today, hosting the Western Illinois Leathernecks at 7 p.m.

UTSA students vote to reject a proposed athletics fee increase

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

UTSA students have rejected a proposed increase in the athletics fee, the university announced Friday morning. A little more than 70 percent of nearly 5,900 students voting over the past few days elected to turn down an increase that would have boosted the fee from $20 to $27.50 per semester hour.

The final results are:

For – 1,730 or 29.33%.
Against – 4,168 or 70.66%

“I want to thank all the students who voted in this referendum. Your voice is important, and we appreciate your involvement,” said Lisa Campos, UTSA’s vice president for intercollegiate athletics. “I don’t believe this was a vote against athletics. In fact, we see more and more students coming to our games and supporting our teams.

“For many, this was a financial issue. Cost of attendance is top of mind for many of our students and we respect that. Our desire is to make the value of a UTSA degree even greater, and we will continue to do our part to support the success of our students and graduates.”

“As we head into Homecoming weekend, I’m so grateful for all the support that UTSA Athletics has received from across the university including the Spirit of San Antonio, UTSA Cheer and ROTC. We’ve all been together since day one,” Campos said.

The athletics fee has been a foundation of the athletic department’s funding ever since the university elected to start the football program. In 2007, students voted to increase the fee from $10 per semester hour to $20 per semester hour, with the fee capped at 12 hours per semester.

The additional revenue allowed UTSA to kick off its football program in the 2011 season.

Students have now turned down efforts to boost the fee twice in the last five years. Initially, one proposal failed in 2018. The latest effort was defeated this week. The proposal called for the addition of $1.50 per credit hour, each year for five years, through the 2027-28 school year.

Use of student fees to fund athletics has been common for universities adding football programs over the past two decades. As for how UTSA’s fee compares to others, the university says on its “Everyone Wins” website that it currently has the lowest in-state tuition and fees of any Texas school in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

UTSA’s athletics fee, according to the website, “is currently in the middle when compared to schools with emerging football programs, which are those programs that were started in the last 20 years. Those programs generally do not have the same level of ticket sales, donor contributions, conference media rights payments and sponsorship revenue like more established programs.”

UTSA wins 100-70 with big men prominent in exhibition victory over Trinity

Carlton Linguard Jr. UTSA men's basketball beat Trinity 100-70 in an exhibition game on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Center Carlton Linguard Jr. produced 20 points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes in an exhibition game against Division III Trinity University. In his debut with the Roadrunners, the 7-footer had a sizable height advantage and used it to his benefit, rising up to knock down four of seven shots from three-point territory. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay

Center Carlton Linguard Jr. once suited up at Kansas State University for a basketball team that granted him only a minor role in the Power 5 program. It seems like a long time ago now, but in the 2021-22 season, he played 15 games and averaged only 8.1 minutes for the Wildcats.

On the nights when he did play, the 7-foot center from San Antonio’s Stevens High School played in short spurts and rarely took more than two or three shots before the final buzzer. Mostly, Linguard was an afterthought, as his 19 field goal attempts for the season would indicate.

Dre Fuller Jr. UTSA men's basketball beat Trinity 100-70 in an exhibition game on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Dre Fuller Jr. also made his UTSA debut, enjoying a productive night on a number of levels, with 12 points, eight rebounds and a team-high tying five assists. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Given the background, it would be easy to think that Linguard’s 20-point, nine-rebound debut for the UTSA Roadrunners on Tuesday night against Trinity University would have meant something special to him — and maybe it did.

But if that was the case, Linguard downplayed it after the Roadrunners rolled to a 100-70 exhibition victory over the Division III Tigers at the Convocation Center.

Afterward, Linguard did a round of interviews with the media and fielded more than a few questions. Once, he was asked whether it was important for him personally to score 20 in his first game back.

“Not really,” he said in response. “I told myself I had to come out here and dominate. That was kind of me and the other bigs’ goal tonight, and I feel like for the most part we did that.

“We still got stuff to work on. But, like, my mindset in my first game back was just to get my feet wet, get comfortable and just play my game.”

The Roadrunners, for the most part, handled business to the satisfaction of just about everyone in the arena. As anyone in the building could attest, UTSA thoroughly dominated early and late in running away with a 100-point game and a 30-point margin of victory for the first time in a couple of seasons.

In three-point shooting, UTSA showed some real firepower, with the team making 15 of them from distance. Moreover, UTSA big men turned out to be some of the better long-distance shooters, with the 7-foot, 220-pound Linguard making four of them and 6-8, 220-pound Chandler Cuthrell hitting two.

Rebounding was another area of dominance for the Roadrunners, who won the battle of the boards decisively, 60-34. In addition, team play and ball movement was generally good, with 22 assists leading to 41 field goals.

So, the game went pretty much to the liking of the home team except for some extended dry spells for the UTSA offense on shots from the field and in free-throw shooting. Oddly, the smaller Tigers hit 16 of 24 at the line to only three of six for UTSA.

“I felt OK (with the way we played),” Linguard said. “I felt we could have defended a little better and got to certain spots quicker. But, overall, I felt we played an OK game. That’s why we’re playing this game — to grow and get better. I think it’s a good little starting point for us.”

The Roadrunners did play well defensively, overall. They held Trinity scoreless for the first 3:08 of the ball game in jumping out to a 10-0 lead. And even though they allowed the Tigers to get on a streak early in the second half, they also closed the game by holding their opponent without a point for the final 3:37.

“I liked the way we started the game, defensively,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “When you don’t play a game for months, the excitement is generally going to be on the offensive end. We had parents drove in. (They) flew in. Guys want to play. They’re itching to play.

“So we kept challenging them. ‘Envision yourself playing. Envision yourself getting a stop. Getting a rebound.’ Not making shots. Defensively we opened with five straight stops. Set a really good tone there.. Very agressive. Very locked in. That probably excited me the most.”

Coming up

McMurry University at UTSA, exhibition, 7 p.m. Monday.


UTSA — Linguard, in playing 23 minutes, hit eight of 12 shots from the field. He also knocked down four of seven from beyond the arc. Six-foot, 10-inch Trey Edmonds, who weighs 255 pounds, also imposed his will with 14 points and seven boards. Guard PJ Carter scored 13 on three of five shooting from three-point range, while Chandler Cuthrell, a 6-8 power forward, came off the bench to record a double double of 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Trinity — Guard Tanner Brown led the Tigers with 15 points. Guard Dean Balo had 13 points and seven rebounds on a night when he worked inside to draw seven fouls and then converting nine of 10 from the free-throw line. Guard/forward Abdullah Roberts had 12 points and guard guard Jacob Harvey 10.


UTSA guard/forward Dre Fuller Jr. showed off a flashy all-around game with 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists. The former three-year player at Central Florida started the game in a lineup of two bigs — Linguard and Edmonds — plus Fuller, who checked in at 6-6 and 220. The guards were Christian Tucker and Adante’ Holiman, both with quick, with active hands.

Holiman sat out five days last week with Covid. It may have cost him a bit on the offensive end with 1 for 7 shooting from three. A few others who struggled in the game included power forward Massal Diouf and shooting guard Isaiah Wyatt. Diouf, who missed time this summer rehabilitating a knee injury, fouled out in 10 minutes. Wyatt, who has enjoyed good moments shooting the ball at practice, couldn’t get it going in the game. He missed all five of his three-point attempts.

A few other players played productive minutes off the bench, including junior college transfer Carter and freshman shooting guard Nazar Mahmoud. Mahmoud scored 11 points in 17 minutes in his first game after prepping last year at Spring Creek Academy in Plano. At 6-foot-5, he took advantage of his size with smaller defenders and knocked down four of seven from the field, including two of three from distance. Mahmoud was active on the boards with nine rebounds, four of them on the offensive end.


“I work on my craft a lot, so the nerves (weren’t) really too much for me. I really was just having fun out there with my guys.” — UTSA freshman Nazar Mahmoud.

Mahmoud also commented on Fuller’s passing ability, saying, “Dre is a spectacular talent. He’s going to be a big part of this team. Obviously he can score at three levels. One thing that doesn’t get talked about enough is his passing. He definitely sets up his teammates to get them involved, and also look for his shot when he needs to score, too.”

Carlton Linguard, on Trinity’s parade to the free throw line : “I feel like on defense, we got to stop fouling. We got to stay in front of our man. Little stuff like that. If we didn’t give ’em so many free throws, the game would have been a lot different.”

Linguard has been working through some aches and pains during preseason training, notably some stiffness in his back. “I’ve been doing a lot of rehab. I’m in rehab every day for an hour and a half. I’m trying to stay pro-active. Not reactive. (Trying to do) a lot of stretching, a lot of little exercises.”

New-look UTSA hosts Trinity tonight in exhibition opener

Adante' Holiman. UTSA men's basketball practice on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Sophomore point guard Adante’ Holiman, a transfer from UT Rio Grande Valley, is expected to play a major role in the backcourt this season for the UTSA Roadrunners. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Hoping for a fast start with a new-look roster, the UTSA Roadrunners will host the non-scholarship Trinity University Tigers in an exhibition opener tonight at the Convocation Center.

“I just want to see what we can carry over (from practices),” eighth-year UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “They’ve worked hard. I like the pace that we’ve had. There are certain actions that we’re defending pretty well.

PJ Carter. UTSA men's basketball practice on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Junior college transfer PJ Carter is perhaps the most improved newcomer on the team after coming in from Georgia Highlands College. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“It doesn’t mean we’ll see that from Trinity tomorrow. Probably will be some surprises. Always just curious about what will transfer. We’ll play a bunch of guys and see what our conditioning looks like.

“Hoping to see a great defensive effort. A great rebounding effort. Hope we’ve got some pace. The offense will take care of itself if we’re locked in on the other end of the floor.”

After tonight, the Roadrunners will continue practicing before hosting McMurry University next Monday to wrap up the exhibition schedule. The regular season opener is Nov. 6 at home against Western Illinois.

For the fans, the exhibition against Trinity will serve as an opportunity to take their first look at the Roadrunners since the roster was almost totally revamped during the offseason.

First-year players in the program who are expected to see action tonight include the likes of Adante’ Holiman, Dre Fuller, Jr., Nazar Mahmoud, PJ Carter, Isaiah Wyatt, Chandler Cuthrell, Trey Edmonds and Josh Reid.

Another player making his UTSA debut will be seven-foot center Carlton Linguard Jr., who is eligible for the first time after rectifying academic issues following a transfer in the summer of 2022 from Kansas State University.

Returning players from last year’s squad include Christian Tucker and Massal Diouf.

Jordan Ivy-Curry, Justin Thomas and Juan Reyna, who are all scheduled to sit out this season under NCAA transfer rules, are not expected to play against Trinity. It’s possible that they could be cleared at some point, but it would require a waiver from the NCAA. So, those three, along with guard/forward Blessing Adesipe, who is rehabilitating an injury, won’t be on the floor against Trinity, the coach said.

Initially, UTSA fans might notice lineup combinations in the frontcourt that will have more heft, if not more height, than last year.

In the interior, Henson might play Linguard (7-foot, 225 pounds) in the post along with Diouf (6-9, 240) or Edmonds (6-10, 255). A more traditional set could feature any of the three big men, paired with Cuthrell (6-8, 220) at power forward.

In addition, the Roadrunners also could go smaller on the front line with the versatile Fuller (6-6, 220).

In the backcourt, the Roadrunners believe they have some speed with the likes of Holiman and Tucker, both of them point guards, along with a grouping of wing players who will be tasked with running the floor, shooting and defending.

That group would include Carter, Mahmoud, Wyatt and also Fuller, a former three-year veteran from the Central Florida Knights who sat out all of last year following the death of his mother.

Henson said it’s possible that he might play both Tucker and Holiman, possibly one of the most natural scorers on the team, together.

“They both earned the right to be out on the court, so we’ll play them together quite a bit, I would anticipate,” the coach said. “Christian’s done a really good job for us. He’s taken a good step (forward) for us on both ends of the floor. He’s the (player) most familiar with what we’re doing, the most experienced in our program. So, yeah, both of those guys will play a lot.”

Asked to identify the newcomer who has made the biggest jump from his time of arrival earlier this summer, Henson didn’t hesitate in saying that it has been Carter, a 6-foot-5 wing player from Atlanta, who averaged 16.3 points and shot 43 percent from three last year at Georgia Highlands College.

“He’s doing now what we saw on film, what we anticipated,” Henson said. “When he first got here, he wasn’t in very good condition. I don’t think he did a lot in the spring. He was finishing up his academics. I don’t think he was on the court a lot certainly with intense game action of any kind.

“His condition (in the summer) prevented him from playing the way we anticipated. We were concerned early on, but his condition just got better and better. He’s been a good, solid player. Versatile. Good feel for the game. High IQ guy. He’s been really good since he got in shape.”

Another player who has made significant strides, the coach said, has been Wyatt. Last week, the 6-4 Ohioan who shot 46.9 percent from beyond the arc last year at Division II Chadron State, Neb., went on a six for seven, three-point shooting binge during a 15-minute full court, full-speed scrimmage.

“He had a lot to do academically this summer and that was wearing him down,” Henson said. “But once he got through that, we had to work on his conditioning. We knew he could shoot the ball well. He’s picked up on our schemes defensively. He’s improved on that end a lot.”

Players that have been better than expected? Henson talked about Edmonds, who played last year at Utah Tech. Edmonds is expected to be a defender and a rebounder, primarily. “He’s such a conscientious player who wants to do things right, on and off the court,” Henson said.

The coach also mentioned Mahmoud, a 6-5 freshman guard from the Austin area.

“We started recruiting him several years ago, Henson said. “I loved him when I first saw him. We were fairly aggressive with him, I guess, it was the summer before his junior year. I thought he had terrific upside. He’s a little better than I anticipated. He’s got some work to do defensively. But he knows (offensively) how to set his man up, make cuts, reads defenses and shoots it with confidence.”

After putting in all the work, UTSA players are anxious to test themselves against an opponent. Wyatt said that, with Trinity at the Division III level, he wants to see the Roadrunners win by at least a double-digit margin.

“We worked our butts off to get to this point, and now we’re heading into the season,” Wyatt said. “I already know, a lot of people have a different narrative about how UTSA basketball is, and we definitely want to change that.

“We’ve got quite a few new faces, and a lot of them have been through junior colleges, he added. “If anyone knows anything about junior colleges, we all have a chip on our shoulder. We all have something to prove.”


UTSA has played Trinity in exhibitions each of the past two seasons. Two years ago, the Roadrunners rolled to a 97-66 victory and last year, they shot the ball poorly but still won easily, 74-47.

The Tigers enter the game under the direction of fourth-year coach Jimmy Smith, who is expected to depend heavily this season on returning all-conference guards Tanner Brown and Jacob Harvey.

Harvey averaged 12.4 points per game for the Tigers last year. He hit 68 three-pointers and shot at a 42-percent clip from beyond the arc. Brown averaged 11.6 points and 4.5 rebounds. Trinity is 53-15 under Smith, who is entering his fourth season at the university.

UTSA forward Dre Fuller Jr. expects to feel a presence during practices, games

Dre Fuller Jr. at UTSA men's basketball practice on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Forward Dre Fuller Jr. hopes to honor the memory of his mother this season with a strong performance as a UTSA graduate senior. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA forward Dre Fuller Jr. doesn’t want a little pain to stop him from completing his daily routine in preseason training camp. Not now. No way. The 24-year-old Fuller, the oldest player on the Roadrunners’ roster, has been through way too much heartache over the past year to allow knee and shoulder soreness to slow him down.

He knows he needs to push through it. Besides, Fuller will have what he believes to be a heavenly force looking over him after his mother, Stephanie Johnson, passed away in March following a battle with breast cancer. After taking a year off from college basketball to help care for her, he says he thinks about his mom constantly.

Assistant coach Kurtis Darden at UTSA men's basketball practice on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

First-year UTSA assistant coach Kurtis Darden says he has known Dre Fuller Jr. for 13 years. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“Oh, yeah, every day,” the 6-foot-5 playmaker said after practice recently. “I have my necklace with her on it … She’s not leaving. I can feel her right now.”

With that comment, Fuller smiled, laughed a quiet laugh and shook his head slightly. Perhaps it’s a sign that Stephanie Johnson’s youngest child is beginning to heal emotionally.

Whatever the case, the UTSA graduate senior who last played in the 2021-22 season for the University of Central Florida Knights is definitely looking ahead to brighter days.

He said he thinks he will feel his mother’s presence constantly during his first season with the Roadrunners. “For sure,” he said. “I think she’s going to be right by my side. She’ll be telling me to work harder.”

First-year UTSA assistant coach Kurtis Darden doesn’t doubt that for a moment. Darden has known Dre Fuller and his family for more than 13 years.

The relationship began in 2010 when Darden was starting a new job as basketball coach at Village Christian Academy in Fayetteville, N.C. Much to the coach’s surprise, a kid much too young to be in high school would hang out constantly in the Village Christian gym.

It was Dre Fuller. “He was just always in there,” Darden recalled. “Whether we were having practices (or) whether we were not having practices, he was just always hanging around the gym. I always noticed him. He was a lot smaller than he is now.

“I’d just joke with him. I’d say, ‘Hey, you’re going to grow up and be a pretty good basketball player if you stick with it,’ and that’s what ended up happening.”

Fuller is now a strapping, 215-pound guard/forward. He is expected to play a substantial role for the Roadrunners, who will tip off in their exhibition season opener next Tuesday night against Trinity University.

A playmaker on the wing who likes to drive into the paint and create opportunities for his teammates, he once started 27 out of 67 games over three seasons for Coach Johnny Dawkins and the UCF Knights of the American Athletic Conference.

UTSA will open a new era in the American this season.

Back in the day in North Carolina, Fuller and his mother were a constant presence around the Village Christian basketball program. When Darden first met the mom, her daughters had already graduated, but she volunteered to keep the scorebook for all the team’s home games, anyway.

Her upbeat personality was infectious.

“She was very fiery,” Darden said. “She coached Dre hard. She basically was a basketball coach that was a mom, as well. She would coach him from the stands — in a good way. You know, you have parents who holler and scream and they don’t know nothing about basketball, but then you have those other parents who know about basketball and are able to coach ‘em up.

“That’s what kind of lady she was. Her kids were her everything. When I first got to Village Christian, I didn’t know anybody. But she kind of gave me the scoop. She just volunteered. Her son wasn’t even playing varsity, and she was keeping score for the varsity team. Just out of the goodness of her heart.”

After Fuller’s freshman year at Village Christian, his family moved to St. Petersburg, Fla. There, he played three seasons at Farragut Academy and became a three-star college prospect. He signed with Dawkins at UCF. With the Knights, Fuller’s career was up and down.

As a redshirt freshman, he barged into the starting lineup in UCF’s fifth game and started to make a major impact on a team that had been in the NCAA tournament the previous season. A highlight came in a 13-point, 8-rebound performance at Oklahoma in December 2019, when he hit a three with a minute remaining to pull the Knights within one.

At the end, he missed a three at the buzzer, as the Sooners escaped with a 53-52 victory. “Dre played well,” Dawkins said at the time. “He made plays for us…I was proud of him, as a freshman in this type of environment.”

Fuller’s success was uneven, at best, at UCF. Though he averaged 6.3 points as a freshman and 7.0 as a sophomore, by his junior year, his minutes were slashed. He was no longer a starter and his scoring averaged dipped to 4.0. Frustrated, he put his name into the transfer portal.

Once again, though, the stars just would not align for him. He briefly joined the program at Florida Atlantic University, enrolling in summer classes in 2022. But it was a short-lived stay in Boca Raton. In the infancy of the Owls’ preparation for what would be a startling run to the NCAA Final Four semifinals, he elected to exit the program after about a month.

By the end of July, Fuller was gone.

“That’s when I started taking care of my mom,” he said. “I called them and told them, ‘Thank you.’ I was like, ‘Ya’ll are good. Ya’ll are going to make it far.’ I didn’t know, Final Four far. I just told them I had some things to work out.

“They just said thank you for coming and, like, wished me the best of luck. They didn’t know my mom was sick at the time. They just wished me the best and asked me why. I told ‘em I (couldn’t) really say. I was just hurtin,’ you know.”

From there, Fuller’s basketball journey veered into some murky waters. He traveled back to Orlando, where he took one class at UCF to gain his bachelor’s degree. Not too long after that, Fuller tried to stay active, playing basketball recreationally wherever he could find competition.

But as the months advanced, his attention turned to his mom, who passed away on March 17. At the funeral, he encountered a friendly face in the gathering. It was Darden, who had coached him for a few years at Village Christian in North Carolina.

“Just going there as a friend of the family,” Darden explained. “One of the last things he told me (after the service), he said ‘Coach I’m trying to play this last year for my mom.’ ”

Darden was determined to assist if he could. At the time, he was still working at Campbell University as the operations director for the basketball program, and he mentioned Fuller’s name to the Fighting Camels’ coaching staff as a potential prospect.

“But they weren’t recruiting him at the time, or whatever,” Darden said, “so I called some other schools about him, just trying to help him out. We would just talk and text. Then I land up here (at UTSA, in May) and as soon as I get here, he’s one of the first names I brought up to the coach.”

Not too much later, Fuller committed to Roadrunners head coach Steve Henson, and he was announced as a signee on July 11. “He’s a great kid,” Henson said. “We’re excited about him. He’s done a good job. We’ve got to get him 100 percent healthy. But he brings a great element to our team.”

Henson called Fuller an instinctive player whose best attribute is his ability to create.

“He seems to have a real joy for the game,” Henson said. “He seems to enjoy playing. Can’t really describe that real well. Told him a story. We coached Toni Kukoc and Shareef Abdur-Rahim (with the Atlanta Hawks). Shareef was a terrific player. An all star. We were trying to get them stacked up on the weak side. And tell them, ‘You pick for him. Shareef, you pick for Toni (and) just play.’ It was just fascinating. Toni loved it. Just the freedom to do whatever. You know, just play.”

Henson said Fuller reminds him of Kukoc, in that regard.

“It’s just, ‘Coach, let me go. Give me a little idea of where I need to start the possession and let me read (it),’ ” the coach said. “He’s a good cutter. A good penetrator. He wants to pass the ball. He just seems like he has fun playing. Drills may not be his favorite thing. But as soon as we’re actually playing, he just makes instinctual plays. (He has a) good (basketball) IQ and (is) very versatile.”

Perhaps more than anything, motivation may emerge as a key to his overall performance.

After all, it’s a powerful thing when a young man wants to honor someone who sacrificed so much for him. The words Dre Fuller once heard from his mother back in Fayetteville, N.C., will always be remembered during wind sprints at UTSA basketball practices in coming months. Said Fuller: “If I want to stop, I always have a little voice inside my head saying, ‘Keep going.’ And, ‘One more. You can do one more. You’re not tired.’ ”

Coming up

Oct. 24 — Trinity at UTSA, exhibition, 7 p.m.
Oct. 30 — McMurry at UTSA, exhibition, 7 p.m.
Nov. 6 — Western Illinois at UTSA, regular-season opener, 7 p.m.

Newcomers hope to make their mark in UTSA women’s basketball

Idara Udo at UTSA women's basketball practice on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman Idara Udo hoists a shot at UTSA women’s basketball practice Wednesday afternoon at the Convocation Center. Udo, a 6-foot-1 forward, played in high school at Plano East. – Photo by Joe Alexander

With less than a month remaining in preseason camp, the UTSA Roadrunners are hard at work. Here are some images of new faces on the team, including freshmen Idara Udo, Aysia Proctor and Emma Lucio and also sophomore transfer Cheyenne Rowe, all first-year players in the program. Nissa Sam-Grant was with the team last year but did not play, and so she, too, hopes to make her debut as the Roadrunners work toward a Nov. 1 home exhibition game against St. Mary’s University and a Nov. 6 regular-season opener on the road at Arizona State.

Aysia Proctor

Aysia Proctor at UTSA women's basketball practice on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Aysia Proctor, a 5-foot-8 freshman guard from Clemens High School in Schertz, emerged last year as one of the top players in the San Antonio area. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Emma Lucio

Emma Lucio at UTSA women's basketball practice on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Emma Lucio, a 5-9 guard, arrives at UTSA coming off a standout career in the Rio Grande Valley at Edinburg Vela High School – Photo by Joe Alexander

Cheyenne Rowe

Cheyenne Rowe at UTSA women's basketball practice on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Cheyenne Rowe, a 6-2 forward who played in high school in Ontario, Canada, spent last season at James Madison University. She transferred to UTSA in the spring. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Nissa Sam-Grant

Nissa Sam-Grant at UTSA women's basketball practice on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Nissa Sam-Grant also played her high school basketball in Canada. She comes from Toronto. Sam-Grant played at Arkansas-Pine Bluff for two seasons and at Panola College for one before coming to UTSA, where she practiced but did not play in 2022-23. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Idara Udo

Idara Udo at UTSA women's basketball practice on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Forward Idara Udo was an all-district player four years in a row at Plano East, including first-team in her last three years. She was defensive player of the year twice, once as a sophomore and again as a senior. – Photo by Joe Alexander

AAC men’s basketball gets an infusion of talent from Conference USA

Florida Atlantic coach Dusty May. No. 24 Florida Atlantic beat UTSA 83-64 in men's basketball on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Dusty May and his FAU Owls won the Conference USA title and advanced all the way to the NCAA Final Four last spring. The Owls are now picked to win the American Athletic Conference in their first year as a member of the league. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

With the departure of Houston, UCF and Cincinnati from the American Athletic Conference, a compelling question looms. Will the glory days of AAC men’s basketball soon fade into the frayed and yellowed pages of history?

Or, with the arrival of six schools from Conference USA, including Final Four darling Florida Atlantic, has the AAC actually started to trek down a road to become a better league — from top to bottom — than it has been in recent years?

Steve Henson. UTSA lost to UAB 83-78 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson talked to reporters Monday in Dallas at the AAC media day. – File photo by Joe Alexander

“I think we’re going to have the best roster of coaches in men’s and women’s basketball that we’ve ever had,” Commissioner Mike Aresco said at the televised AAC media day on Monday morning in Dallas. “I think this conference is deeper than it’s ever been.

“We’ll lose Houston, and they obviously did a lot for the conference. When you really think about what Kelvin Sampson (the Houston men’s coach) meant and what he did for the conference, I want to really applaud him. But this conference is now deeper, and it will be better, than it was before.”

On a local level, another weighty question is being asked.

Can UTSA, picked to finish last in its first season in the AAC, ever contend on a consistent basis in what officials hope will become a conference that annually sends multiple teams to the NCAA tournament? Or, are fans of the Roadrunners destined to feel more misery than euphoria in the years ahead?

UTSA coach Steve Henson, whose teams have finished 10-22 in each of the past two seasons, brushed off the poll results and said he’s energized with a roster of players that turned over almost entirely from last year.

“We’re excited about those new guys,” Henson told an ESPN media crew. “We set out this summer, tried to get ’em in as early as possible. It was a little bit of a challenge to get ’em signed, to get ’em all committed, get ’em on board and get ’em to class.

“But the majority of them were around (campus) in the summer. We anticipated needing to do some team bonding, to facilitate some chemistry. But they kind of handled all that on their own. So that was exciting. That was issue No. 1, getting those guys to gel.”

Once coaches started to work with the new group, which features three strong post defenders, a few quick point guards and some wings that can run the fast break, the identity of the squad came into sharper focus.

“We like our versatility,” Henson said. “We’re an older group. We’re not alone in saying that, in this day and age. There’s a lot of older teams right now. But we think this group’s got a chance with our versatility and hunger and desire to do something special.”

Asked about the program in general, Henson said it’s an exciting time to be in UTSA athletics.

“It’s just an exciting time to be at UTSA,” he said. “We’re a young university. A young athletic department (with) a young football program that’s absolutely crushing it. Football in Texas — it’s kind of a big deal. We just try to piggy-back off that momentum. It’s a good basketball city with the Spurs traditionally. Renewed interest there with (rookie Victor Wembanyama) coming to town.

UAB coach Andy Kennedy. UTSA lost to UAB 83-78 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Andy Kennedy and the UAB Blazers are picked to finish fourth in the AAC. – File photo by Joe Alexander

“So, it’s a great place to live. It’s a thriving university. If you drive near our campus, (there’s) construction everywhere. It’s one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. People don’t realize we’re the seventh-largest city in the country. Sounds like we’re closing in on No. 6. It’s just a fun place to be right now. A lot of excitement.

“People talk about the River Walk, which is great. If you visit San Antonio, you’re going to go to the River Walk. We’ve got our own separate area around our campus, which is thriving like crazy.”

At one time, Roadrunner basketball was thriving under Henson, who is entering his eighth season at the school. The team posted winning records in three of four seasons in one stretch and finished in the upper division of C-USA with Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace leading the way. Despite the Roadrunners’ recent struggles, Henson firmly believes UTSA basketball can become a contender again.

“Our kids are going to play extremely hard,” he said. “You know, the polls (picking UTSA for last place) are out. We’re not going to have to do a lot of putting that up on the walls. You know, our kids are going to see it. They’re going to use that as motivation. We won’t over-do that with them.

“They’re going to be hungry. They’re motivated. We literally had one kid cry when we offered him a scholarship, he was so thrilled to come in. (But) this group’s going to play hard. We’ve always played fast. This team is built to play fast. We have shooters. We’ve got three big guys on the interior that are all defensive-minded and talk. We’re excited about it.

“Again, this group will use the polls as motivation.”

Last year, the postseason tournaments served as a reminder that Conference USA teams entering the American would be competitive. For instance, after FAU won the C-USA, it turned around and beat AAC champion Memphis in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Columbus, Ohio. Then it went on to win 35 games en route to the school’s first berth in the Final Four.

Furthermore, both North Texas and UAB won berths in the National Invitation Tournament, and both kept winning until they met in the finals in Las Vegas. Once in the title game at the Orleans Arena, North Texas downed UAB, 68-61. In addition, Charlotte won the College Basketball Invitational, downing Eastern Kentucky, 71-68, in the finals at Daytona Beach, Fla.

Combined, the four teams posted a combined record of 117-35. In the AAC preseason poll, FAU was picked to win, with Memphis second, Tulane third and UAB fourth. UAB Blazers coach Andy Kennedy told ESPN on Monday afternoon that the new-look AAC will need to earn its respect in November and December.

“Ultimately, you make your hay in the non-league (games),” Kennedy said. “We’ve certainly challenged ourselves, and I’ve looked around at the other schedules around the league, and a lot of our teams are going to challenge themselves early. We have to win some of those games, so that when we get into the gauntlet of league play …

“People ask me all the time, I’ve coached in the Big East. I’ve coached 12 years in the SEC. And they say,
What’s the hardest league in the country?’ I say, ‘It’s the one you’re in.’ That’s how coaches look at it. So the league is going to be very, very challenging.

“I think if we can do what we need to do as a group, heading into conference play, we’re going to put ourselves into a position to be a multi-bid league.”

AAC Preseason Coaches Poll

1. Florida Atlantic (11) 167
2. Memphis (3) 159
3. Tulane 142
4. UAB 128
5. East Carolina 105
6. North Texas 100
7. SMU 97
8. Wichita State 90
9. South Florida 62
10. Tulsa 59
11. Rice 56
12. Temple 49
13. Charlotte 46
14. UTSA 14

Notes: First-place votes in parentheses. Florida Atlantic, UAB, North Texas, Rice, Charlotte and UTSA are set to play in the AAC for the first time this year after splitting away from Conference USA.