As UTSA coach Steve Henson continues to tinker with different player combinations during preseason camp, he went with a small lineup more than a few times on Monday afternoon.
Jacob Germany played center. Isaiah Addo-Ankrah was the power forward. Erik Czumbel played the wing/small forward. The shooting guard, meanwhile, was John Buggs III. Initiating the offense at point guard was Japhet Medor.
Henson acknowledged that he has run with that lineup “quite a bit” through six practices of the team’s 30-practice preseason allotment.
In assessing the five-man combination, Henson said he likes having a guy like Addo-Ankrah to knock down threes, some of them from deep, which stretches the opposition’s defense and potentially could make an opponent’s big man come out from under the bucket.
With Czumbel and Buggs in the game at the same time, it gives the coach aggression and physicality on the perimeter.
Other positives? In Medor, the Roadrunners have a point guard who is emerging as a solid distributor.
The best shooters from distance in that group would be Addo-Ankrah and Buggs.
Granted, it is not the Roadrunners’ lineup with the tallest, longest-armed defenders, but the coach likes the way Czumbel and Buggs are playing defense with a physical style, fighting through screens and such.
“We’ve been messing around with that lineup quite a bit,” the coach said.
The drawback to that type of unit might be its size. Medor and Buggs, two standout newcomers, are 5-foot-11 and 6-2, respectively. Czumbel, who finished last season with a half-dozen solid performances on both ends of the court down the stretch, is 6-3. Then there is Addo-Ankrah at 6-6. Germany stands at 6-11.
Czumbel’s competitive fire apparently will give him a shot to start as a senior in spite of a spotty start to last year when he couldn’t hit shots.
“He’s doing kind of like he always does,” Henson said. “He (competes) like crazy. He took a knee in the thigh the other day and I thought he’d be out for a week. Shoot, practice started today and I forgot all about it. He’s relentless defensively. His teammates respect him. He just handles his business.
“We saw late in the season last year he started getting a little bit more aggressive (on offense). He’s continued to be that way offensively (in camp).”
At Monday’s workout, Czumbel’s outside shot looked good. Even the ones that didn’t fall. He seemed to be shooting with more confidence than early last season, when he struggled mightily.
“We need that (shot to go down),” Henson said. “We need him to get back the way he was his first two years. He was on a pretty good trajectory as a freshman and sophomore, and then, our shooting woes got contagious last year.
“He hasn’t been shooting it well up to this point but he had a good day today. Driving it. Driving it and kicking it.”
Czumbel’s calling card this year will be his defense.
“He just sticks his nose in there. He can blow up a dribble-handoff. He can help and switch onto bigger guys. He’s physical. He’s just relentless on that end.”