Obituary: Former UTSA coach Stu Starner could always bring a smile to your face

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Stu Starner always seemed to have a knack for making people feel good.

I really think that might be his lasting legacy in college athletics, even though he won 194 games and four championships in 12 seasons as a Division I men’s basketball head coach.

Starner, who opened his career at UTSA with back-to-back regular-season championships in the early 1990s, died Wednesday. He was 81.

The news hit me hard this morning.

A friend of mine texted and told me that the coach had passed, and I immediately started to reflect on his personality and his charm, more than even the excellent teams that he put on the floor at the Convocation Center.

Starner, who won titles at both Montana State and UTSA, was just the kind of person a newspaper reporter wanted to cover. He never seemed to take things too seriously. He could say things to calm your nerves if something wasn’t going right.

He could make you laugh.

For example, at the outset of the 1992-93 basketball season, my world started to unravel when everyone at the old San Antonio Light learned that the newspaper might be closing.

At the time, I was covering Starner and the Roadrunners. I’ll spare you the details on the business transaction, but by January of ’93, the paper did indeed cease operations.

Pretty sure I talked to the coach after it happened and wished him the best, not knowing what I would do next. Fortunately, a few days into my unemployment, the phone rang. It was Barry Robinson, the sports editor of the San Antonio Express-News, calling to offer me a job.

Barry asked if I could continue to cover the Roadrunners, and it took me about a second to say yes. My wife and I were so happy, we put my one-year-old son in the car seat for a road trip to celebrate our good fortune. Also, to cover UTSA games at Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin.

After 15 years in newspapers to that point, you’d think I’d be unfazed by a road trip to cover two basketball games on the road. But, for some reason, I remember feeling really anxious on the drive to Huntsville. The coach, as I recall, was just the essence of cool about it all.

He greeted me with a high five as soon as he saw me. The next day, as his team practiced at SFA’s Johnson Coliseum, I brought my wife and my son to the gym. Little did I know that my son would be called out onto the floor by the coach near the end of the Roadrunners’ practice.

“Charlie,” Starner said in mock seriousness, as my son toddled around on the hardwood, “don’t you hurt my players.”

That was the coach, in his subtle way, always aiming to make someone laugh. His demeanor was just what UTSA needed in those days.

In 1990, Roadrunners’ basketball was in turmoil. Reportedly, Coach Ken Burmeister and administrators were at odds. Even though UTSA went 22-7 that season, it wasn’t enough, and Burmeister was fired.

Starner entered the picture and supplied immediate stability, guiding the Roadrunners to back-to-back, 21-win seasons and regular-season titles.

By the end of his first season, UTSA placed first in the Trans America Athletic Conference. Next season, the Roadrunners did it again, winning the crown in the Southland.

A native of Minnesota, Starner landed his first head coaching job at Montana State. He led the Grizzlies to the 1985-86 Big Sky Conference postseason title and to the NCAA tournament. A year later, he went 21-8 and claimed the Big Sky regular-season crown.

For his career, Starner went 194-153, including 84-58 at UTSA. But, as mentioned, the best thing about the coach was not the way he ran practices or worked the games. Oh, he was good at both.

Rather, I’ll always remember the guy who settled my jangled nerves in my first week at a new job. Pretty sure he was like that with just about everyone he met.

From the family’s obituary

Starner was predeceased by his parents, Allen Starner and Mildred Starner; and his daughter Susan Starner Plum. He is survived by his son Tom Starner (Kelly Ann); his wife Barb; his daughter Jane Hall (Dave); his grandchildren, Gordon Hall, Stuart Hall, Savana, Joey and Bailey Starner; and his siblings, Dick and Joanne Taylor.

A funeral service will be held on Monday (July 22) at 11 a.m. at the Bozeman’s Hope Lutheran Church (2152 Graf St, Bozeman, Montana, 59718).

In lieu of flowers, the family welcomes memorial donation in Stu’s memory to the Susan Starner Plum Memorial Scholarship Fund at the Montana State University Foundation, P.O. Box 172750, Bozeman, Montana, 59717.

UTSA women aim for an NCAA tournament run after a record-breaking season

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA women’s basketball program hopes to hang a new banner in the Convocation Center before the start of the coming season.

Karen Aston. UTSA beat Northern Colorado 80-62 in the first round of the WNIT on Thursday, March 21, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Karen Aston is entering her fourth season at UTSA with hopes of leading the Roadrunners to the NCAA tournament. – File photo by Joe Alexander

“I’m hoping they put that up at an appropriate time,” UTSA coach Karen Aston said Monday. “I don’t know what the protocol is. I haven’t asked that question. But clearly, there’ll be one up there. No question about it. That’s a good thing. A step in the right direction.”

The banner will commemorate the team’s performance last spring, when coaches and players made program history with only the third trip to a national tournament in more than 40 years.

UTSA produced an 18-15 record in 2023-24 en route to reaching the second round of the Women’s NIT. A memorable moment came at home on March 21 when the Roadrunners claimed their first-ever national tournament victory with an 80-62 win over Northern Colorado.

Their season came to an end on March 28 with an 80-64 road loss at Wyoming.

With summer conditioning in progress, the idea that the athletic department is planning a function to hail the team’s achievement will be a point of pride for returning players, but also will serve as a reminder that they aren’t finished making history.

“No question we’re setting goals,” Aston said. “It’s the same goal every year. We want to go to the NCAA tournament. Period.”

UTSA roster

Siena Guttadauro, 5-6 guard, junior from San Jose, Calif.
Alexis Parker, 5-9 guard, junior from San Antonio (Brandeis High School)
Emma Lucio, 5-9 guard, sophomore from Edinburg (Vela High School)
Damara Allen, 5-10 guard, freshman from Aurora, Colo.
Mia Hammonds, 6-3 guard, freshman from Cibolo (Steele High School)
Nyayongah Gony, 6-4 forward, redshirt senior from Lincoln, Neb., transfer from Mississippi State, also formerly of the University of Miami
Nina De Leon Negron, 5-6 guard, graduate senior from San Juan, Puerto Rico, transfer from the University of the Incarnate Word, also formerly of Austin Peay
Sidney Love, 5-8 guard, junior from Cibolo (Steele High School)
Aysia Proctor, 5-8 guard, sophomore from Schertz (Clemens High School)
Taylor Ross, 6-1 forward, freshman from San Antonio (Brennan High School)
Maya Linton, 5-11 forward, junior from Duncanville
Cheyenne Rowe, 6-2 forward, junior from Ajax, Ontario, Canada; played for UTSA last season as a transfer from James Madison
Idara Udo, 6-1 center-forward, sophomore from Plano
Jordyn Jenkins, 6-0 forward, redshirt senior from Kent, Wash., played the past two seasons at UTSA, transfer from Southern Cal
Emilia Dannebauer, 6-4 forward-center, freshman from Berlin, Germany

Notable

Center Elyssa Coleman (medical retirement) and guard Kyra White won’t be back this year.

They leave big shoes to fill as Coleman averaged 10.4 points and led the team in rebounding and blocked shots, while White — a do-it-all senior — started all 33 games and led UTSA in minutes (averaging 34) and assists (160 total). She also ranked among team leaders in rebounds and steals.

Jordyn Jenkins. UTSA beat UAB 76-58 on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in American Athletic Conference women's basketball at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Jordyn Jenkins is healthy and working on returning to peak physical conditioning after sitting out all but the last dozen games last season in knee rehabilitation. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Scoring leaders among returning players include Jordyn Jenkins (17.1), Aysia Proctor (9.7), Sidney Love (9.6) and Idara Udo (7.4).

Others returners include Siena Guttadauro, Maya Linton, Cheyenne Rowe, Alexis Parker and Emma Lucio. Aston said Guttadauro continues to make significant strides in her development following a strong finish to last season.

The coach said she is looking for Udo to expand her skillset to boost the frontcourt following Coleman’s retirement. She said the sophomore from Plano is working on finishing around the rim with her left hand and is already looking better with her jump shot.

By losing Coleman “we lost experience,” Aston said, “of someone who would have been a four-year starter. You know, you can’t really replace that immediately, but I think we have enough bodies now that, on a given night, we’re going to probably be able to find somebody who’s going to do the work.”

In another development, Aston said she is looking at moving Love from point guard to shooting guard. Love, Guttadauro and newcomer Nina De Leon Negron are all working as combo guards, shifting between ball-handling and off-the-ball duties.

De Leon Negron, a transfer from the University of the Incarnate Word, might be a candidate to make the most immediate impact among newcomers.

Center Emilia Dannebauer, a 6-4 freshman from Germany, is the only player of the 15 on scholarship who is not on campus at the moment.

She is expected to report in August after working out overseas this summer in an attempt to make the German Under-20 national team.

Aston is watching closely the development of freshmen guards Mia Hammonds and Damara Allen and forward Taylor Ross. She said Hammonds has had an injury this summer and has been limited.

Both Hammonds (from Steele) and Ross (from Brennan) were considered two of the best high school players in the San Antonio area last season.

“I think the freshman class is ahead of the curve,” the coach said. “They have come in with a really good mindset. They’re coachable, teachable, all of that. Taylor Ross is maybe the sleeper of the class.”

Despite the injury to Hammonds, Aston said she has potential “to fit right in” with the Roadrunners with her athleticism. However, she may need some time to get accustomed to the physicality of the college game.

Siena Guttadauro. UTSA lost to Western Kentucky 73-67 in Conference USA women's basketball on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Siena Guttadauro has shown marked improvement and may command an expanded role leading into her junior year. The native Californian hit a couple of three pointers in the fourth quarter of an AAC tournament victory over the South Florida Bulls. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Roadrunners’ talent level comes into sharper focus after roster release

Sky Wicks. UTSA defeated Incarnate Word (UIW) 90-80 in a non-conference men's basketball game at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Guard-forward Sky Wicks is now a member of the UTSA Roadrunners after playing last season for the University of the Incarnate Word. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Plenty of questions loom for UTSA men’s basketball as the program moves into the summer months armed with a new coaching staff and an almost completely revamped roster.

Perhaps the most important question being, can this team win? Can it have a winning season? Can it make a run in tournament play next March?

When first-year UTSA coach Austin Claunch met the media on Tuesday, he lauded assistants Nick Bowman, Joey Brooks, Trevor DeLoach and Joseph Jones for their work over the past three months in assembling a 13-player roster, including a 12-player signing class.

“I love this class,” Claunch said. “We’ve got size. We’ve got shooting. We’ve got athleticism.”

The Roadrunners will not be as big on the front line as last year, when they finished 11-21 for their third consecutive 20-loss season under the previous coaching staff.

Austin Claunch was introduced at the new UTSA head men's basketball coach at a public news conference on Thursday, April 11, 2024. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Austin Claunch says he’s looking forward to hosting full-roster workouts in coming weeks. – File photo by Joe Alexander

But they could present problems for opponents with size, skill and experience in the backcourt and on the wings, particularly with the likes of Primo Spears, Tai’Reon Joseph, Damari Monsanto and Sky Wicks, all of them double-digit scoring threats.

UTSA also promises to showcase some versatility and big-game experience on the wing with guard-forward Raekwon Horton, who has played in the NCAA tournament in each of the last two seasons.

All of those players potentially could pose matchup problems for Roadrunners’ opponents in the American Athletic Conference.

If there is a weakness in Claunch’s first roster, it might be found in a lack of size at the post positions, where AAC title contenders will likely trot out 7-footers and other assorted big men who will weigh in the 260-pound range or more.

UTSA will not have that type of athlete, at least not this season.

JaQuan Scott (6-8, 230) and Jonnivius Smith (6-9, 200) apparently will see a lot of time in the post, along with 6-7 Jesus Carralero Martin and 6-10 David Hermes.

“JaQuan and Jo are incredibly athletic,” Claunch said. “They can switch and guard every position. They can stretch the floor with their shooting. JaQuan can really score inside. Jo is probably our best rim protector and then David … he can really stretch the floor. He can really pass. He’s an incredible offensive player.”

Martin, who plays at 6-7 and 225, is another versatile talent.

“He can play make on the perimeter,” Claunch said. “When you’ve got shooting and speed like we do, I think him being able to initiate offense is important.”

Claunch said he’ll look to add a “true five,” or center, for the 2025-26 season. “But, to be honest,” he added, “I just think we got really lucky to add those four.”

UTSA roster

Zach Gonsoulin, 6-1 G Hometown: Houston, formerly of TCU
David Hermes, 6-10 F-C Hometown: Stockholm, Sweden, Indian Hills CC
Raekwon Horton, 6-6 F/G Hometown: Santee, S.C., formerly James Madison
Tai’Reon Joseph, 6-3 SG Hometown: Baton Rouge, La., formerly of Southern University
Paul Lewis, 6-2 CG Hometown: Woodbridge, Va., formerly of Vanderbilt
Marcus Millender, 5-11 PG Hometown: Houston, formerly of South Alabama
Jesus Carralero Martin, 6-7 F/C Hometown: Malaga, Spain, formerly of Missouri
Damari Monsanto, 6-6 SG Hometown: Pembroke Pines, Fla., formerly of Wake Forest
Jaquan Scott, 6-8 F/C Hometown: Dallas, formerly of Mississippi State
Jonnivius Smith, 6-9 F/C Hometown: Selma, Ala., formerly of Buffalo
Primo Spears, 6-3 CG Hometown: Hartford, Conn., formerly of Florida State
Skylar Wicks, 6-6 G/F Hometown: Jersey City, N.J., formerly of Incarnate Word
Nazar Mahmoud, 6-4 G Hometown: Leander, UTSA returning player

Riding the wings

UTSA’s backcourt and wing players are expected to be the team’s strength as the Roadrunners enter their second season in the AAC.

Primo Spears, Tai’Reon Joseph, Damari Monsanto and Sky Wicks all bring credentials as explosive scorers. Raekwon Horton will come in with a long wingspan, defensive prowess and big-game experience. Paul Lewis and Marcus Millender can both handle the ball.

So, who plays where?

Asked to talk about his point guard group, Claunch mentioned several players. He started with Spears, Millender, Lewis and Joseph. Likely 6-foot-1 Zach Gonsoulin is also part of this group, as well. In terms of ball handling, the coach also said he can see Horton taking on some of the load.

He described the South Carolina native as an athlete who can push it after clearing the defensive glass. And, what about the shooting guards/small forwards?

Again, the coach sees multiple options. Spears and Joseph both apparently can play off the ball. Nazar Mahmoud, who played a limited role with the Roadrunners last year, likely is a true two, or, shooting guard. As for two-guard types who can also play the three, or the small forward, that would likely include Monsanto, Wicks and Horton.

It’ll be worth watching during the preseason workouts to see if Horton, who reached the NCAA tournament with the College of Charleston in 2023 and with James Madison in 2024, can also play the four position, as well.

A comeback kid

Florida native and Wake Forest transfer Damari Monsanto comes to UTSA with solid credentials at the highest levels of NCAA Division I, despite two serious injuries in three seasons with the Demon Deacons.

In his first year at Wake in 2021-22, the transfer from East Tennessee State suffered a torn Achilles. After battling through rehabilitation, he emerged the following year in as one of the best shooters in the ACC, averaging 13.3 points for the season and 14.8 in conference.

He hit six or more treys in five games, once in non-conference competition and four times in the ACC. He rained a season-high eight threes from distance in a 28-point performance against Notre Dame. It was one of his six 20-plus point outbursts of the season.

Monsanto couldn’t finish the season healthy, as he went down again, this time with a knee (patella tendon) injury in February 2023. He returned to the court for the Demon Deacons in January 2024 and finished his three-year FSU career in a limited role.

In 11 games last spring, he averaged 5.1 points. Claunch is extremely high on Monsanto, who was the 12th and final commitment in UTSA’s class.

“People say that he might be the best shooter in the country,” the coach said. “I mean, he’s (almost) 6-8, with incredible range. He shot a super-high percentage in college every year. Forty one percent at Wake two years ago. Played extended minutes. So we’re really excited about him.”

The UTSA roster lists Monsanto at 6-6 and 225 pounds

“He’s still got some work to do, getting back in shape,” Claunch said. “We’re going to throw him in the fire (in workouts). But we’re going to be cautious at the same time.”

Notable

Primo Spears, who has played at Georgetown in the Big East and most recently at Florida State in the Atlantic Coast Conference, might be the most accomplished scorer in UTSA’s signing class.

Two years ago at Georgetown, the 6-3 combo guard who grew up in Connecticut led the Hoyas in scoring at 16 ppg, once scoring 37 on the Xavier Musketeers. Last year at FSU, he averaged 10.6 and dropped 17 on the North Carolina Tar Heels in the ACC tournament.

Sky Wicks had a big night playing against UTSA at the Convocation Center last season. He led the University of the Incarnate Word Cardinals with 24 points and 11 rebounds. He also had five assists and four steals in a 90-80 loss to the Roadrunners.

Austin Claunch unveils his first UTSA men’s basketball roster

New UTSA men's basketball coach Austin Claunch was at the Roadrunners softball game on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, at Roadrunner Field to throw out the first pitch. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Austin Claunch announced on Tuesday a 13-man roster for his first season at the helm of the UTSA men’s basketball program. ‘We’re really excited about the group as a whole,” the coach said. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

First-year UTSA men’s basketball coach Austin Claunch has released his roster for the 2024-25 season. Twelve players are newcomers and one, guard Nazar Mahmoud, returns from last season. Here they are:

Zach Gonsoulin, 6-1 G Hometown: Houston, formerly of TCU
David Hermes, 6-10 F-C Hometown: Stockholm, Sweden, Indian Hills CC
Raekwon Horton, 6-6 F/G Hometown: Santee, S.C., formerly James Madison
Tai’Reon Joseph, 6-3 SG Hometown: Baton Rouge, La., formerly of Southern University
Paul Lewis, 6-2 CG Hometown: Woodbridge, Va., formerly of Vanderbilt
Marcus Millender, 5-11 PG Hometown: Houston, formerly of South Alabama
Jesus Carralero Martin, 6-7 F/C Hometown: Malaga, Spain, formerly of Missouri
Damari Monsanto, 6-6 SG Hometown: Pembroke Pines, Fla., formerly of Wake Forest
Jaquan Scott, 6-8 F/C Hometown: Dallas, formerly of Mississippi State
Jonnivius Smith, 6-9 F/C Hometown: Selma, Ala., formerly of Buffalo
Primo Spears, 6-3 CG Hometown: Hartford, Conn., formerly of Florida State
Skylar Wicks, 6-6 G/F Hometown: Jersey City, N.J., formerly of Incarnate Word
Nazar Mahmoud, 6-4 G Hometown: Leander, UTSA returning player

Notable

Claunch signed a versatile group. Seven of his new players — including Primo Spears, Jaquan Scott, Damari Monsanto, Jesus Carralero Martin, Paul Lewis, Zach Gonsoulin and Jonnivius Smith — have played for teams in power conferences. At least two of the players — including Scott and Raekwon Horton from James Madison — played on teams that reached the NCAA tournament last year.

Sophomore guard Nazar Mahmoud is the only player returning from last year’s squad. Steve Henson stepped down as UTSA’s head coach after eight seasons on March 14. Three days later, the Roadrunners announced that Claunch had accepted the job.

Claunch grew up in Houston. He made a name for himself as a head coach at Nicholls State University, where he won two Southland Conference regular-season titles, and then spent last season as an assistant on the staff at the University of Alabama. The coach credited new UTSA assistants Nick Bowman, Joey Brooks, Trevor DeLoach and Joseph Jones for their work in assembling the staff’s first class at UTSA.

Quotable

“Obviously, it’s been a long couple of months,” Claunch said Tuesday afternoon. “We had a lot of work to do. I really want to thank my staff. These guys did an incredible job identifying guys that we thought fit into what we’re trying to do here from a talent standpoint, from a character standpoint. You know, and, we went out and got our guys.

“I love this class. We’ve got size. We’ve got shooting. We’ve got athleticism. I think we have collective rim protection with our mobility. Again, we have good length at the rim. We also have toughness on the perimeter that’s tough to break down on the bounce. So, just, overall, really excited to get everyone here for once and start practicing as a unit.

“We’ve got a good amount of guys here right now. It’ll be good to get the whole team here and start working. So, it’s been a long, productive couple of months, and we’re really excited about the group as a whole.”

Where are they?

Members of the 2023-24 Roadrunners have scattered in all directions since the end of an 11-21 season and the coaching change. Former UTSA head coach Steve Henson is at Baylor, working as an assistant on Scott Drew‘s staff. Point guard Christian Tucker is at Cal, preparing to play for the Golden Bears in their first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Shooting guard Jordan Ivy-Curry has landed on the roster at Central Florida, playing for the Orlando-based Golden Knights in their second season in the Big 12. Power forward Trey Edmonds is at Minnesota, ramping up in preparation to play with the Golden Gophers of the Big Ten. Center Carlton Linguard Jr., a 7-foot center who played in high school at Stevens, has signed with the University of San Francisco. Guard PJ Carter, who came on strong at the end of last season, has signed with the Rice Owls to play for first-year coach Rob Lanier. He’ll play against the Roadrunners this season in the American Athletic Conference. Forward Justin Thomas reportedly committed to Florida State of the ACC in May but has not been mentioned in any of the school’s news releases yet. Guard Adante’ Holiman has signed with Georgia Southern of the Sun Belt. Forward Chandler Cuthrell is on the roster at Purdue-Fort Wayne.