After eight games, UTSA’s Henson sees ‘so much room for improvement’

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

Guard Christian Tucker, a junior from Chandler, Ariz., averages team-bests of 12.5 points and six assists for the UTSA Roadrunners. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Winners of two straight games and three in their last four, the UTSA Roadrunners have plowed through final exam week, and now they’re looking ahead to a home game on Sunday at noon against the Arkansas-Fort Smith Lions.

It’ll be the first outing for the Roadrunners (4-4) since they rallied in the second half on Nov. 30 to score an 86-83 home win in men’s college basketball against the Lamar Cardinals.

Since then, the emphasis off the floor has been on finals for the fall semester. On the floor, the Roadrunners have been through five practices, and they’ll work out one more time on Saturday afternoon before hosting the Lions of the Lone Star Conference on Sunday.

“We’re trying to get more activity defensively,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said following a Friday afternoon workout. “I feel like our defensive numbers should be better. Not bad breakdowns. Just feel like there’s opportunities to be more active. More deflections. Covering more ground. Ball pressure and deflections, primarily.”

At one stage of the workout, Henson stressed the importance of his players getting out to the shooters at the three-point line — without fouling.

“Yeah, all of that,” he said. “Ball pressure. Activity off the ball. Getting to the shooters and exaggerating the contests. The difference between a good contest and a great contest helps your field goal percentage. Just do a little more. A little more on each possession.”

Trying to mesh a massive influx of newcomers to the team since June, the Roadrunners started off the regular season slowly, losing three of their first four games. All three of the losses were on the road, at Minnesota, Lamar and Texas State.

They’ve since won three of four, including recent home wins against Incarnate Word (90-80) and Lamar (86-83). In both games, UTSA fell behind but cranked up the offense enough to win.

Fueled by two three-point buckets from center Carlton Linguard, Jr., the Roadrunners went on a 12-0 run late in the second half to take down the Lamar Cardinals.

Regardless, the losses to Lamar on the road and another loss to Jacksonville State (Ala.) at home did not sit well with Henson and his coaches. In both of those games, extra effort could have made a difference in the outcome.

“We should have a better record right now,” Henson said. “We should have done some things to give ourselves a chance to win a couple of those ball games that we didn’t. Disappointed with that. Obviously, (there’s) no panic from a players’ standpoint. We feel like there’s just so much room for improvement.

“We’re seeing improvement in certain areas. We need drastic improvement in other areas. I think players are taking a pretty mature approach to it. They understand that we got to do things better. I think they’re a little more comfortable with each other … We’re learning more about each other.”

The learning process continued this week, with only one glitch. Starting point guard Adante’ Holiman was hurt at practice on Thursday and had to sit out Friday’s workout with concussion symptoms, the coach said. His status for Sunday is uncertain.

Other than Holiman’s mishap, the week went pretty well as far as the coaches were concerned. Competition at practice on Friday was fierce at times between athletes who have been playing consistent minutes in the first eight games going against others who, for a variety of reasons, are not in the rotation at the moment.

One of those players who stood out was Blessing Adesipe, a 6-foot-6 power forward from Alief-Hastings in the Houston area, who played the last two seasons at Miles College in Montana. Last year, Adesipe averaged 21.6 points and 9.9 rebounds to earn honorable mention junior college All America honors.

In his first season with the Roadrunners, he hasn’t played yet after starting the season rehabilitating a minor knee injury.

On Friday afternoon, however, Adesipe made his mark on a few plays, in particular. Once, he flashed inside and went airborne to rebound a ball in traffic among taller players. On another possession, he pulled up and drained a three from about three feet behind the arc.

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

Power forward Blessing Adesipe hasn’t played yet this season, but he had a strong workout Friday afternoon at the Convocation Center. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Others who had good days were Justin Thomas, Juan Reyna and Jordan Ivy-Curry — all of them out this season because of NCAA transfer rules.

“The second unit, guys that are trying to simulate the opponent, they’re doing a good job,” Henson said. “It’s a good talent level. You know, Juan does a heck of a job in a lot of areas. Juice (Ivy-Curry) obviously can score the basketball, and he’s a handful. Justin is so natural (of a talent), and Blessing’s getting some of his explosiveness back. Massal (Diouf) is feeling good again.”

Henson said he has had conversations with Adesipe (pronounced A-Day-sha-Pay) about whether he would be open to sitting out as a redshirt. “We’ve had conversations about it,” the coach said. “I think he could help us. It’s just a matter of, is he going to get enough minutes? We’ve had open conversations about it.”

On one hand, Adesipe is a good player. He has talent. But since part of the season has already been played and since UTSA has assembled significant depth at the power forward position, sitting out to save eligibility could be helpful to him in the long term.

“Blessing is a guy who really seems to enjoy being here,” Henson said. “I don’t think he’s got any real resistance to it. Most guys, when it’s all said and done, typically are glad when they do redshirt. Rarely have we had someone redshirt and said they wish they hadn’t.

“A lot of guys, you talk to them and they say they don’t want to do it, and then when their career is over, they say they wish they had (redshirted). So, it’s an ongoing conversation.”

Coming up

Arkansas-Fort Smith at UTSA, Sunday at noon.


Arkansas-Fort Smith 1-7
UTSA 4-4

December schedule

12 — Arkansas-Fort Smith at UTSS, noon
13 — UTSA at Little Rock, 6:30 p.m.
17 — UTSA at Oregon State, 2 p.m.
21 — Army West Point at UTSA, 7 p.m.
28 — Prairie View A&M at UTSA, 7 p.m.


UTSA plays its first American Athletic Conference game on Jan. 2 when it hosts the UAB Blazers at the Convocation Center. The first AAC road game is Jan. 6 in Houston against the Rice Owls.

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