Court action could clear pathway for UTSA’s Jordan Ivy-Curry and Justin Thomas to play

Jordan Ivy-Curry. A&M-Corpus Christi beat UTSA 77-58 on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Developments in a West Virginia court case could crack open an opportunity for guard Jordan Ivy-Curry and forward for Justin Thomas both to play this season for the UTSA Roadrunners. As it is, both are sitting out under NCAA transfer rules, which are now being contested legally. Ivy-Curry is shown here in a photo from 2021-22. – File Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
News analysis for The JB Replay

Will UTSA basketball players Jordan Ivy-Curry and Justin Thomas be allowed to play this year? Will they perhaps make the road trip to play at Oregon State on Sunday afternoon? An athletics department spokesman says in a text that he can’t confirm the members of the traveling party.

Meanwhile, UTSA coach Steve Henson could not immediately be reached for comment.

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

Justin Thomas averaged 7.3 points and 4.4 rebounds last season for a 22-win team at Milwaukee, of the Horizon League. – Photo by Joe Alexander

But after a motion in a West Virginia-based court case was filed Friday to request an injunction allowing for multi-time transfers to compete in games through the end of the season, I suspect that the wheels might be in motion for the Roadrunners to suit up both athletes.

If it’s not this weekend, then it might not be long afterward.

Over the past few years, NCAA rules on transfers have changed. First-time transfers were given the chance to play immediately. But it was announced this summer that athletes transferring for a second time or more had to sit out a year in residence. In response, seven states including West Virginia have challenged the multiple-time rule.

The initial decision by Judge John Preston Bailey on Wednesday granted a temporary restraining order allowing multi-time transfers to play within a 14-day window. In the past few days, the states and the NCAA agreed to pursue an injunction that would extend the protections for athletes hoping to play while the case was being decided.

The NCAA said in a statement issued to ESPN and other media outlets Friday saying that, “given the unprecedented decision by the courts earlier this week, the NCAA has reached an agreement with the states to convert the temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction through the remainder of the 2023-24 NCAA championship season.”

Apparently, the judge has not signed off on the request yet. But if it indeed happens, it could be a huge development for the Roadrunners. UTSA (5-5) is scheduled to play at Oregon State (6-3) on Sunday and at home against Army and Prairie View A&M by the end of the calendar year.

The program’s first season in the American Athletic Conference begins Jan. 2 at home against the UAB Blazers.

Ivy-Curry, who played at UTSA for two seasons from 2020-22 before transferring to the University of the Pacific last season, is a 6-foot-3 guard from La Marque. He’s an offensive firebrand who can hit the three and can slash to the bucket. He averaged double figures in scoring each of his last two seasons, one at UTSA and then another at Pacific in California.

The 6-foot-7 Thomas is a versatile player who averaged 7.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists last season for a 22-win team at Milwaukee, in the Horizon League. The Baton Rouge, La., native hit 42.9 percent from three. He looks like he could play shooting guard, but he is apparently being viewed as a small forward or power forward at UTSA.

Multi-time transfers for the Roadrunners include Ivy-Curry (who has played at UTSA, Pacific, and UTSA again), Thomas (Division II Queens University, N.C., Milwaukee, Wis., and UTSA) and guard Juan Reyna (Alabama State, Campbell, S.C., and UTSA).

I do not think that Reyna, formerly of Antonian High School, will play at UTSA this season. He apparently enrolled with a plan to redshirt in 2023-24 to further some long-range academic goals, so he apparently will continue to practice with the team as a walk on, with a plan to start his Roadrunners playing career in 2024-25.

As for Ivy-Curry and Thomas, they both probably would have been on the floor this season had it not been for the NCAA rule that is now being contested. But when both arrived at UTSA this summer, they knew the only way they could get into games right away would be if they received a waiver.

Ivy-Curry applied for one but reportedly had it rejected by the NCAA a few weeks ago. Now, because of the lawsuit filed by seven states on behalf of some other college athletes, Ivy-Curry and Thomas now both could be in a position to resume their careers soon if everything falls just right.

The story broke on Wednesday afternoon that Bailey had granted a restraining order. UTSA coaches and players were already in Little Rock, Ark., when the news stories started to be published on social media.

That night, the Roadrunners built a 14-point lead in the first half and then faded, eventually losing to the Trojans, 93-84.

Naturally, since Ivy-Curry and Thomas weren’t eligible when the team left town, they weren’t on the trip. In addition, guard Adante’ Holiman wasn’t there, either. He stayed home because of concussion symptoms.

But the fact remains that the Roadrunners, who had won three straight, simply ran out of steam and lost a game they could have won.

Another unsettling issue as they returned home on Thursday centered on the restraining order and what it would all mean. Coaches and players around the nation were all left wondering.

Initially, there was both confusion and trepidation about what would happen if teams played athletes affected by the ruling. For instance, Little Rock apparently had one player who had been sitting out like Ivy-Curry and Thomas, and he was on site. But the Trojans, only hours after the judge issued the restraining order, did not use him.

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

Sophomore guard Adante’ Holiman has been out the last two games because of concussion symptoms. His status for Sunday’s game at Oregon State is uncertain. But he did work out on his own late Thursday night. – Photo by Joe Alexander

It might have had something to do with rumblings from the NCAA that athletes who played games during the 14-day period might face a loss of a year’s eligibility if the decision was reversed. The thought was that the court might reverse itself in a hearing that had been set for Dec. 27.

Now, with the request for the injunction, athletes approved to play nationally will have 20 games or so to compete, plus postseason tournament games It’s apparently uncertain whether the Dec. 27 hearing will even be held.

“This action provides clarity for student-athletes and member schools for the remainder of the academic year — any multiple-time transfer student-athlete who competes this season will be subject to the same eligibility and use of a season of competition rules as all other student-athletes,” the NCAA said in its statement published in Metro News of West Virginia.

The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels were among the first schools to take advantage of the reprieve.

UNLV played forward Keylan Boone, a multi-time transfer, in his first game of the season on Wednesday night shortly after the TRO was issued. Boone, whose twin brother is also on the squad, produced 10 points and six rebounds in the Rebels’ 79-64 victory over the eighth-ranked Creighton Blue Jays.

In the past few days, more teams including West Virginia have announced that previously ineligible players would become eligible to suit up for games.

As for UTSA, it’s not entirely clear what is going on in the Roadrunners’ camp. Apparently the call on Ivy-Curry and Thomas will be made collectively, decided by administrators, by the coaches and by the players and their families.

For Ivy-Curry and Thomas, the decision also needs to come fairly quickly. Because if conference play starts and a few weeks pass and their situations remain unsettled, then the two of them could be better off just waiting and starting over with a full slate of games in 2024-25.

I hope to learn more after a Saturday morning team practice.

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