UTSA’s Adokiye Iyaye making the most of his opportunities

On a first-half breakout Thursday night against Charlotte, UTSA reserve guard Adokiye Iyaye sped down one sideline and stationed himself in the corner.

He looked up to see a bullet pass coming his way.

UTSA freshman Adokiye Iyaye is averaging 5.7 points per game on 47.1 percent shooting for the season. –Photo by Joe Alexander.

After making the catch, he knew exactly where he wanted to go with the ball.

Straight to the basket.

Iyaye flashed down the baseline and scored on an easy layup before the 49ers’ defense had time to rotate.

Even though Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace have led the Roadrunners offensively all year, plays like this have started to happen much more frequently lately for the Roadrunners, who will host the Conference USA-leading Old Dominion Monarchs Saturday afternoon at the Convocation Center.

Iyaye has hit 14 of 19 shots from the field over his last five games, helping UTSA surge into a tie for second place in the conference race.

In an 88-43 rout of Charlotte, the program’s most lopsided victory in conference play in 28 years, Iyaye hit 5 of 6 shots from the field and tied a career high with 12 points.

Teammates say that Iyaye has always had the ability but is just now developing more confidence as he moves along in his first year of college basketball.

“We know that he’s going to make the right decision, make the right plays, take the right shots,” Wallace said. “In practice, he’s been picking it up. Better defensively, better offensively.

“We just expect good things out of Adokiye.”

Jackson said Iyaye has “stepped up big” in the team’s pursuit of a conference title.

“We want him to do that,” Jackson said. “He can do that every night, if he just plays the way he did (against the 49ers). He’s getting more confident. We just tell him to keep going. We tell him to take more shots if he’s open.

“He’s (also) helped us on the defensive end, putting pressure on the ball. Just making plays.”

Last year, Iyaye was the man for his high school in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He averaged 18 points per game and led Putnam to the Class 6A title.

This year, it’s been a new experience for him, both in coming off the bench and in facing bigger and faster players.

Now he’s picking up the nuances of the college game at a rapid pace, as evidenced by his recent statistics — 7 points per game and 73.6 percent shooting in his last five.

Not bad for a kid from Tulsa who just turned 19.

“I’m finding my groove a little bit,” Iyaye said. “My teammates, they’re always on me, telling me that I’m going to be fine.”

“I wasn’t making shots early, but they keep telling me to shoot and give me a lot of encouragement. They’re like my big brothers.

“Hearing that every day, it makes me feel like, if I have a bad game, I’ll do better next time.”

UTSA’s Steve Henson shows confidence in Adokiye Iyaye

Adokiye Iyaye. UTSA beat Mid-American Christian 104-74 on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA freshman Adokiye Iyaye has averaged 6.1 points in 19.1 minutes through nine games.

Two years ago, UTSA coach Steve Henson identified Giovanni De Nicolao and Byron Frohnen as two freshmen he could trust.

As a result, the two have started every game of their college careers thus far.

Last season, Henson unleashed two more freshmen — Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace — and they not only showed maturity beyond their years, but they also led the Roadrunners to a 20-win season.

This year, freshman Adokiye Iyaye has emerged as the latest example of Henson’s ability to find and sign players in high school who can produce immediately in college.

Unlike De Nicolao and Frohnen, Iyaye hasn’t started a game. Also, he hasn’t shown the explosive offensive skills of a Jackson or a Wallace.

Not yet, anyway.

But the 6-3 guard from Oklahoma City has won enough confidence from coaches to remain solidly in the playing rotation leading into a Saturday afternoon test in Little Rock against Arkansas.

Posssessing excellent defensive skills, Iyaye has played in all nine games, averaging 6.1 points in 19.1 minutes.

“We threw him right into the fire,” Henson said. “When Jhivvan was out (injured), certainly there were a lot of minutes available. We threw him in there, and he was pretty comfortable from the start (of the season).

“His IQ is very good. His feel for the game is very, very good.”

As a result, Iyaye has been either the first or second guard off the bench.

His shooting has been spotty — 2 of 22 on 3-pointers — but coaches are sticking with him, perhaps because of what they saw of him in high school.

“We watched him a lot in the summer,” Henson said. “There were AAU games when his team would be dominating … and you’d hardly notice Doke. (But) if there’s a close game and they needed a bucket, he’d take over.

Steve Henson, UTSA beat Mid-American Christian 104-74 on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Third-year UTSA coach Steve Henson.

“Same thing in high school. He played with another really good guard, and at times he deferred to the other kid. But when the game was on the line, he could step up and make the plays that needed to be made.”

For instance, Iyaye averaged 18 points and led Oklahoma City’s Putnam High School to the Class 6A state title last season.

In the title game, he was clutch, scoring the last six points to clinch the title.

Of course, UTSA’s fans have yet to see anything like that so far this season, with Iyaye shooting 36.5 percent from the field and .091 percent from three.

“It’s a little tougher here (compared to high school),” he said. “But that’s what I like. You just got to get in the gym and shoot all the time. In practice, you (have got to) get yourself really tired and then just shoot the ball, so, it can be like it is in the game.”

Henson recently had a heart-to-heart with Iyaye. Considering his shooting woes, he was encouraged to drive more to the basket, to try to create for himself and others.

Iyaye responded with a 4-for-6 shooting effort and 12 points last week against Mid-America Christian.

“(Coach) really helped me out on that,” Iyaye said. “Like, he came up to me and told me, ‘Your shots are going to fall. You’ll be a great 3-point shooter.

“‘Keep working on the shot. You’ll be fine. But, also attack and make plays.’

“(With) him coming up to me like that, (it) really helped. (It) really helped me feel better.”

UTSA vs. OU photo gallery

UTSA freshman guard Tamir Bynum. Oklahoma beat UTSA 87-67 on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA freshman guard Tamir Bynum.

Oklahoma beat UTSA 87-67 on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, at the UTSA Convocation Center.

UTSA vs. St. Edward’s photo gallery

St. Edward's beat UTSA 77-76 in men's basketball on Wednesday night, Nov. 8, 2018, at the UTSA Convocation Center. Keaton Wallace had 15 points for the Roadrunners. - photo by Joe AlexanderSt. Edward’s beat UTSA 77-76 in men’s basketball on Wednesday night, Nov. 8, 2018, at the UTSA Convocation Center.

UTSA basketball: throwing down a few dunks for the fans

The UTSA Roadrunners showed off for the fans Tuesday night at the Convocation Center.

Coming off a 20-win season, UTSA will open the new year on Nov. 7 at home against St. Edward’s.

The Roadrunners host the Oklahoma Sooners on Nov. 12.