Jenkins scores a season-high 29 as the UTSA women beat first-place North Texas, 66-63

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Fast-improving forward Jordyn Jenkins scored 12 of her season-high 29 points in the fourth quarter Sunday as the UTSA Roadrunners defeated another first-place team in the American Athletic Conference women’s basketball race, downing the North Texas Mean Green 66-63 at the Super Pit in Denton.

Jordyn Jenkins. UTSA beat Florida Atlantic 77-61 in Conference USA women's basketball on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA forward Jordyn Jenkins scored a season-high 29 points Sunday afternoon in her third game back after sitting out the first 21 in rehabilitation for a knee injury. – Photo by Joe Alexander

With the victory, UTSA (13-11, 7-6) split a two-game AAC road trip and swept a two-game, regular-season series against North Texas (19-6, 9-4).

UTSA, aided by 16 points from freshman guard Aysia Proctor and nine points and nine rebounds from junior center Elyssa Coleman, also improved to 4-0 on the season against first-place AAC teams. The Roadrunners are 3-0 at home and 1-0 on the road against squads leading in the standings.

The Mean Green were in first place both times they played the Roadrunners and were turned away twice in close games. On Jan. 31, UTSA won in its on-campus arena, downing North Texas 75-67 in overtime.

In that game, Jenkins had not yet been cleared to play. She sat out the first 21 games this season while rehabilitating a knee injury. Since her return, the Roadrunners have won two out of three, claiming the two victories against AAC contenders Alabama-Birmingham and now North Texas.

UTSA’s road win against its in-state rivals, at the Super Pit in Denton, may have been the team’s best of the season. The Mean Green had been 10-0 at home this season. They were also 5-0 in AAC games at home — until Jenkins, a high-scoring forward from Kent, Wash., showed up to play.

Jenkins hit 11 of 17 shots from the floor, including three of five from three-point distance. In the fourth period, she was at her best, hitting four for four from the floor and knocking down her only three-point attempt.

On one of her shots, she had the ball on the right side of the floor, about eight feet from the basket, when she turned and flipped in a left-handed scoop shot. The bucket gave UTSA a three-point lead with 40 seconds remaining.

Coming out of a time out, North Texas guard Dyani Robinson hit a shot to cut the UTSA lead to one. On the other end, Jenkins was fouled and sank two free throws with 27 seconds left for the game’s final points.

North Texas called time with 20 seconds left needing a three to tie. The Mean Green failed to get off a clean shot, as Shamaryah Duncan’s three from the right wing was deflected by UTSA’s Kyra White, clinching the victory for the Roadrunners.

Six-foot forward DesiRay Kernal paced North Texas with 16 points and 12 rebounds. As UNT’s top offensive threat, she wasn’t as effective as she has been, making five of 12 from the field. Another Mean Green threat, center Tommisha Lampkin, was hindered by foul trouble and played only 20 minutes. She finished with six points and six rebounds.

In the second and third quarters, the Mean Green started to play better team basketball. They hit six of 11 from the field and eight of nine at the free throw line in the second, outscoring the Roadrunners 21-16 in the period and taking a 34-30 lead at the intermission. After halftime, they came out energized and once again got the better of the visitors, opening the advantage to 52-46.

North Texas guard Jaauckland Moore made a three with three seconds remaining in the third, lifting the Eagles into their six-point lead.

Records

UTSA 13-11, 7-6
North Texas 19-6, 9-4

Coming up

Temple at UTSA, Thursday, 6:30 p.m.

Notable

After missing so much of the season, Jenkins is fast improving her conditioning. In her first two games, she played 11 minutes against UAB and 14 in a Wednesday-night loss at Tulsa. Against both UAB and Tulsa, she scored 11 in each game. Combined in those two games, she hit seven of 25 shots from the field. Jenkins followed with 24 minutes against North Texas and finished 11 of 17 from the floor. Her 29-point performance left the Mean Green faithful with long memories dismayed, as she scored 40 in the Super Pit last February in UTSA’s 68-67 overtime victory. The two games were played nearly one calendar year apart — from Feb. 20, 2023 to Feb. 18, 2024.

Feeling disrespected: UTSA men open AAC play at home tonight

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners will play their inaugural American Athletic Conference game in men’s basketball tonight, intent on re-casting a narrative that has bothered them for months.

Jordan Ivy-Curry had 22 points and eight assists off the bench for UTSA in a 103-89 men's basketball victory over Prairie View A&M on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Jordan Ivy-Curry has averaged 11.7 points, 5.3 assists and 3.7 rebounds in three games since he was activated. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Projected for a last-place finish in the official AAC preseason poll, the Roadrunners (6-7) will host the UAB Blazers (8-5). Tipoff is at 8 p.m. at the Convocation Center.

“It’s a motivation thing,” UTSA guard Jordan Ivy-Curry said. “We’ve been picked last. That’s not our goal. I feel like they’re disrespecting us. I feel like we’re going to build off that. We’re going to motivate. We’re not going to get down. We’re going to keep moving forward.”

Recently-activated, Ivy-Curry has supplied a spark to the Roadrunners. The junior from La Marque, in his third game of the season, scored 22 points and passed for eight assists last Thursday night in a 103-89 victory over the Prairie View A&M Panthers.

All told, UTSA has lost two games and has won one since Ivy-Curry returned. But it easily could have been 2-1 for the Roadrunners considering they led for most of a game on the road at Oregon State before getting beat by one point in the final seconds.

After dropping the 66-65 decision to OSU, UTSA returned home and played perhaps its poorest game of the year in a 63-53 loss to Army.

Ivy-Curry struggled against the Black Knights, hitting only one for seven from the field and passing for one assist. But against Prairie View, the 6-foot-3 guard was on his game, making making seven of 11 shots while also creating for his teammates.

In three games, Ivy-Curry has averaged 11.7 points, 5.3 assists and 3.7 rebounds.

With the player nicknamed “Juice” in the lineup, the Roadrunners are clearly better equipped to match up with teams in the AAC. And yet, it’s possible that they also might be going through an adjustment phase in how they mesh his talents into their overall scheme.

UTSA coach Steve Henson said, overall, Ivy-Curry has handled the transition well.

“You have to give him a lot of credit,” Henson said. “He handled the first game very well. At Oregon State, (he) jumped in there and passed the ball, distributed the ball. He was not hunting shots. He’s a very good scorer. One of his biggest strengths is his ability to score the basketball.

“(But) I think he understood other guys had been playing (and we were) fairly deep into the season. I think He understood that he needed to make a good impact by doing other things in that ball game. The next two games, he really distributed the ball again. You know, his assist numbers are terrific now.”

Ivy-Curry has been practicing with the team since the summer when he transferred in from the University of the Pacific.

After starting his career at UTSA, moving to Pacific and then moving back, he was one of dozens of players nationwide who was deemed a “multi-time” transfer. He knew when he arrived in the summer that he would likely have to sit out the year as part of the NCAA transfer rule, which has been set aside in the wake of a court case challenging its legality.

Ineligible one day, eligible the next. Ivy-Curry and the Roadrunners have done their best to roll with it.

“I think he’s handled it very well,” Henson said. “You knew that (his presence) would impact someone or maybe more than one guy in terms of minutes or role. But that’s just the nature of it. I think he’s handled it pretty well. I think his teammates have handled it pretty well. I don’t think right now, there’s not much adjusting left.”

Led by fourth-year coach Andy Kennedy, the Blazers are coming off seasons of 22, 27 and 29 victories, respectively. The Blazers also finished in the top tier of Conference USA each season, winning 13, 14 and 14 games. Last season, they went 29-10 and 14-6 and then rolled to the finals of the NIT, where they lost to North Texas in the finals.

The Blazers have won five of six meetings, including four straight, against the Roadrunners during Kennedy’s tenure. Though this year’s squad will not have high-scoring Jordan “Jelly” Walker, who was in the Dallas Mavericks’ camp last fall before getting waived, UAB will come in with a talented squad featuring 6-2 point guard Eric Gaines.

While UAB is expected to finish in the upper division in the AAC, UTSA isn’t getting nearly as much attention at the moment. Tonight, however, the Roadrunners will get their first chance to start making some noise. To drive the narrative in another direction.

“We all have that chip on our shoulders,” forward Trey Edmonds said. “But, with us, we constantly have to be reminded of that. Like, OK. Remember what we’re here for. Remember that. This is the reality of the situation. The reality is, we’re not supposed to be doing anything.

“A lot of people think we’re not even supposed to be in this conference.”

Records

UAB 8-5
UTSA 6-7

Coming up

UAB at UTSA, tonight at 8
UTSA at Rice, Saturday, 2 p.m.

AAC Standings

Memphis 11-2
Florida Atlantic 10-3
Tulane 9-3
Tulsa 9-3
SMU 9-4
South Florida 7-4
UAB 8-5
Wichita State 8-5
North Texas 7-5
East Carolina 7-6
Temple 7-6
Charlotte 6-6
Rice 6-7
UTSA 6-7

Tonight’s schedule

East Carolina at FAU, 6 p.m.; UAB at UTSA, 8 p.m.; Charlotte at SMU, 8 p.m.

NET ratings/AAC teams
Through games of Jan. 1, 2024

18. Florida Atlantic
40. Memphis
47. SMU
94. North Texas
107. Wichita State
112. Charlotte
126. Tulane
160. South Florida
189. Tulsa
201. Temple
215. UAB
225. Rice
239. East Carolina
289. UTSA

UTSA’s Trey Edmonds makes the most of a new opportunity

Trey Edmonds. UTSA beat Lamar 86-83 in non-conference men's basketball on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Trey Edmonds, averaging 8.2 points and 6.3 rebounds, has emerged as one of the most pleasant surprises among newcomers to the team this season. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA post Trey Edmonds admitted Sunday afternoon that he didn’t have any major plans for New Year’s Eve. “Just going back to the crib,” he said. Which is just about the norm in his life, anyway.

With most of his time committed either to basketball practice or school, not much of any day remains for other interests.

In less than a year since he moved to San Antonio to join the Roadrunners, the native Coloradan acknowledged that, yes, he spends time with some friends that he’s made outside the team.

He said he likes to watch movies, and he also is a music fan, particularly a rapper by the name of “Babyface Ray.”

“The team makes fun of me for listening to him, because they really don’t like him,” Edmonds said with a laugh. “That’s my favorite, but I also listen to R&B sometimes. I got some country sometimes. I got hip hop, rap. I mix it up.”

Where Edmonds really mixes it up is on the basketball court, particularly in the painted area, which has pleased his teammates and coaches immensely.

In fact, the 6-foot-10, 255-pounder has emerged as one of the most pleasant surprises out of all the team’s incoming transfers leading into Tuesday night’s American Athletic Conference opener against the UAB Blazers.

“He’s better than we anticipated, for sure,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said.

For the last two years, he was a reserve and didn’t play much for Dixie State University, which has since been renamed as Utah Tech. This season, Edmonds has started all 13 games for the Roadrunners.

Given the opportunity, he has made the most of it, averaging college career bests of 8.2 points and 6.3 rebounds in 21.1 minutes.

“We were extremely happy with what he has been able to do since he got here,” Henson said. “He works his tail off. He’s very conscientious. He’s coachable. Pretty high IQ player. Physically, just look at the guy, he’s just strong, and he has pretty good hands.”

Edmonds, a native of Aurora in the Denver area, said he enjoys living in San Antonio and attending UTSA.

“It’s been great,” he said. “When I was in the (transfer) portal, me and my dad came and visited here and we loved it. We came on one of the rainier days so it kind of reminded us of back home. The coaching staff made us feel great.”

UTSA announced Edmonds’ arrival in May, and he started school in June. Immediately, the UTSA front line looked better, with Edmonds joining 7-footer Carlton Linguard, Jr., and 6-10, 240-pound Massal Diouf.

“When we got here, we got straight to work,” he said. “Coach Henson introduced the vision he had for me on the team, what he wanted me to buy into, and I made the decision to come here.

“I think we have a special group. Everybody’s focused. Everybody’s locked in. Everybody takes care of their stuff off the court. Like in school, we handled our business this (past) semester. So, I’m proud of ’em.”

Making the decision to leave Utah Tech, located in St. George, Utah, was an easy one considering the numbers in the statistical record. As a freshman he played in 20 games and averaged about seven minutes. Last year, he played in 33 games, averaging nine minutes.

“Frustrating, for sure,” Edmonds said.

This season, he’s already played almost as many total minutes (275) in 13 games for the Roadrunners as he did all of last season for the Trailblazers (301). As a result, Edmonds is making progress.

He’s performing at a much higher level than his first two years in college, shooting a UTSA team-leading 58.6 percent from the field, including eight of 11 over his last two games.

“It’s beautiful to see that I’m growing so much here,” Edmonds said. “The coaches have a lot of trust in me. My teammates have trust in me. I love this team. We gel together on and off the court, amazingly. I couldn’t have made a better decision to come here.”

Edmonds said he sensed it would be a good situation for him when he made his campus visit.

“They only had a couple of people here at the time,” he said. “But seeing the stuff they had … With Carlton and Massal, the ball-handling they did every day, working on shooting jumpers every day, I thought, ‘This is a place where I could really improve my game.’ That was a grabbing point for me and my dad and my mother.”

Fred Edmonds, the UTSA post’s father, was a four-year standout for the University of Colorado Buffaloes in the 1990s. He played with Chauncey Billups on the 1996-97 Colorado team that reached the NCAA round of 32.

“Ever since we started this basketball dream, my dad has always put the idea in my head not to be boxed in,” Trey Edmonds said. “Like, ‘You can only do this, or you can only do that.’ He wants me to be able to expand my game in different areas. I feel like being here, that’s going to help me do that.

During the fall semester, Edmonds would work out with a group of players that would arrive with teammates to get in some shooting early in the morning. Combined with the official workout later in the day, he’s started to blossom.

“We’re working on a lot of areas of my game that I feel are really going to help me and my teammates be better this year, get that losing record to a winning one, and start to make something happen in the AAC.”

UAB (8-5) will come in Tuesday loaded with talent, including two 6-9 posts with one of them weighing 265 pounds and another 230. UTSA (6-7) lost three in a row recently but played well in its last outing, rolling past Prairie View A&M, 103-89.

“I feel like every day is an opportunity to grow, and I feel like, that’s what we’re doing,” he said. “We’re coming in here, motivated to practice and feeling like every day (there) needs to be an improvement. And we know that we’re picked last in the AAC. We know that we’re not expected to do much.”

The latest numbers in the NCAA’s NET rankings support that very narrative. The Roadrunners are rated 290th out of 362 teams in Division I. They are rated last among the 14 teams in the AAC.

“We all have that chip on our shoulders,” Edmonds said. “But, with us, we constantly have to be reminded of that. Like, OK. Remember what we’re here for. Remember that. This is the reality of the situation.

“The reality is, we’re not supposed to be doing anything. A lot of people think we’re not even supposed to be in this conference.”

For UTSA to prove the skeptics wrong, a lot will need to go well. Leaders such as Linguard and Christian Tucker and Jordan Ivy-Curry must step up their games. Edmonds and the other newcomers to high-level D-I competition will need to continue to progress.

“I’m excited for us,” he said. “The AAC is a great conference (with) great teams. But I think the sky’s the limit for us. I think the only limits are the ones we put on ourselves … I actually believe we can make something happen in this conference.”

UTSA students vote to reject a proposed athletics fee increase

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

UTSA students have rejected a proposed increase in the athletics fee, the university announced Friday morning. A little more than 70 percent of nearly 5,900 students voting over the past few days elected to turn down an increase that would have boosted the fee from $20 to $27.50 per semester hour.

The final results are:

For – 1,730 or 29.33%.
Against – 4,168 or 70.66%

“I want to thank all the students who voted in this referendum. Your voice is important, and we appreciate your involvement,” said Lisa Campos, UTSA’s vice president for intercollegiate athletics. “I don’t believe this was a vote against athletics. In fact, we see more and more students coming to our games and supporting our teams.

“For many, this was a financial issue. Cost of attendance is top of mind for many of our students and we respect that. Our desire is to make the value of a UTSA degree even greater, and we will continue to do our part to support the success of our students and graduates.”

“As we head into Homecoming weekend, I’m so grateful for all the support that UTSA Athletics has received from across the university including the Spirit of San Antonio, UTSA Cheer and ROTC. We’ve all been together since day one,” Campos said.

The athletics fee has been a foundation of the athletic department’s funding ever since the university elected to start the football program. In 2007, students voted to increase the fee from $10 per semester hour to $20 per semester hour, with the fee capped at 12 hours per semester.

The additional revenue allowed UTSA to kick off its football program in the 2011 season.

Students have now turned down efforts to boost the fee twice in the last five years. Initially, one proposal failed in 2018. The latest effort was defeated this week. The proposal called for the addition of $1.50 per credit hour, each year for five years, through the 2027-28 school year.

Use of student fees to fund athletics has been common for universities adding football programs over the past two decades. As for how UTSA’s fee compares to others, the university says on its “Everyone Wins” website that it currently has the lowest in-state tuition and fees of any Texas school in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

UTSA’s athletics fee, according to the website, “is currently in the middle when compared to schools with emerging football programs, which are those programs that were started in the last 20 years. Those programs generally do not have the same level of ticket sales, donor contributions, conference media rights payments and sponsorship revenue like more established programs.”

Under-rated? UTSA women picked to finish eighth in AAC preseason poll

Kyra White. UTSA women's basketball beat Florida International 85-79 for Senior Day on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Former Judson standout Kyra White played a key role in UTSA’s resurgence at the end of last year. Entering her senior year, she says she wants to see the team finish with a winning record and play into March. — Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA women’s basketball team is a bit of a mystery entering its first season as a member of the American Athletic Conference. Coach Karen Aston’s third team at UTSA is picked eighth out of 14 teams, according to the AAC’s preseason poll.

Last year, UTSA started slowly but finished strong and completed records of 13-19 overall and 9-11 in Conference USA. Aston’s team played well at the end, beat some of the C-USA’s top teams and won twice in the postseason tournament to reach the semifinals.

Based on the strong showing at the end and the fact that just about all of her players are returning, it was a bit of a surprise to see the AAC coaches pick them so low. But it may be because the jury is still out on Jordyn Jenkins, the Roadrunners’ top player, who suffered an offseason knee injury.

Because of the injury, her status is one of the unknowns going into the last month of practice, though the coaches did vote her onto the AAC’s preseason all-conference second team. In a televised interview Monday morning on ESPN Plus, UTSA coach Karen Aston addressed a variety of topics:

On Elyssa Coleman, the coach said the 6-foot-3 junior from Atascocita High School is growing into a leadership role.

“She’s three years into my system now and she really understands what my expectations are. Part of that is relationship,” Aston said. “You have a relationship with someone that goes back a long way and they trust you. She’s just become an anchor for us. Her shot blocking ability is really good.

“She’s become much better offensively just through growth. But I think if I had to say one thing, it’s that she committed to us, to helping us move the needle in the program, and she has stayed committed to that. That’s been the most valuable to us.”

On Jenkins, the coach was asked about how a power forward coming out of Conference USA as Player of the Year did not receive that type of recognition in the AAC’s preseason awards.

“People didn’t necessarily, I would say, maybe respect what she did last year,” Aston said. “Or recognize (it), so to say. But she’s enormously talented. I mean, there’s no question about it. I’m excited about seeing what we do with Jordyn this year. I’m excited for her. She’s one of those types of players — and I’ve had several — that really loves the gym. She has a passion for the game, and she’s really a joy to coach.”

On how it takes time for young players to communicate on defense:

“There’s not a magical tool for that one,” Aston said. “They grow into that. For example, I have a sophomore point guard (Sidney Love) who started for me last year as a freshman. (Sidney) is a very talented player that has started to come into her own. Sidney, you can hear her voice a little bit this year. She started at the point all of last year. Probably never heard her more than twice. Now you’re starting to hear her more. It’s a maturity process.”

UTSA senior Kyra White was one of Aston’s players who traveled to Dallas for the media function. She talked to an ESPN reporter about the process of transitioning from the C-USA into the AAC.

Said White, “The experience has been really solid so far. Since we’ve got our core team back, it’s just (been) focusing on the next step, trying to find our identity on the floor. Whatever it is. Defense. Offensive rebounds. Running the floor in transition. Just focusing on the little things, to be productive and efficient in the conference this year.”

White, who played in high school at Judson, also was asked about goals. Both personally and for the team. White said she’d like to be all-conference and for the team to come out and post a winning record and keep playing in the month of March.

“For the team, we’d like to have an above .500 record and have some type of postseason play,” she said. “Obviously, the NCAA tournament is the main goal. But really, like I said, with this being my last year, just trying to get over that hump and being able to play in March anyway.”

Preseason Coaches’ Poll

1. South Florida (10) 166
2. East Carolina (4) 159
3. Rice 135
4. SMU 118
5. Memphis 115
6. Tulane 110
7. Tulsa 104
8. UTSA 75
9. Temple 72
10. Charlotte 62
11. Wichita State 53
12. North Texas 47
13. UAB 30
14. Florida Atlantic 28

x-First-place votes in parentheses

Preseason Player of the Year

Danae McNeal, Gr., G, East Carolina

Preseason All-Conference First Team

Amiya Joyner, So., F, East Carolina
Danae McNeal, Gr., G, East Carolina*
Madison Griggs, Gr., G, Memphis
Sammie Puisis, Sr., G, South Florida
Temira Poindexeter, Jr., F, Tulsa

Preseason All-Conference Second Team

Dazia Lawrence, R-Jr., G, Charlotte
Aniya Hubbard, So., G, Florida Atlantic
Malia Fisher, Jr., F, Rice
Aleah Nelson, 5th, G, Temple
Jordyn Jenkins, Sr., F, UTSA

UTSA’s Linguard dreams of a ‘packed’ home arena setting as he embarks on a career comeback

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

Center Carlton Linguard Jr. says he hopes to see the UTSA Roadrunners start to win, generate excitement and attract crowds to the Convocation Center this season. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay

At this time a year ago, seven-foot center Carlton Linguard Jr. arrived on the UTSA campus ineligible to play but with a positive outlook and a desire to kick-start his college basketball career.

As the season progressed, he made the most of a tough situation, trying to be a supportive teammate, practicing when he could and, perhaps most importantly, staying focused and committed to rectifying his ineligibility with hard work in the classroom.

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

Hoping to rebound from a 10-22 season last year, the UTSA men’s basketball team has completed five sessions since official workouts began on Sept. 25 – Photo by Joe Alexander

Still, in spite of his efforts, the former San Antonio schoolboy from Stevens High School never got clearance to play, as he had hoped, after transferring into the UTSA program from Kansas State.

Consequently, the Roadrunners never realized the dream of inserting Linguard into a lineup that could — and probably would — have benefited immensely from his presence.

What has changed for Linguard since last summer? Well, just about everything, actually. Most importantly, unlike last year, he is now fully eligible. Also, 10 new scholarship players have entered the program to replace 10 that decided to leave in March.

But with Year 2 of his Alamo City homecoming upon us, one basic tenet of his basketball life remains the same — if the Roadrunners hope to bounce back and become a winning team in NCAA Division I, he will need to play a leading role in the resurgence.

Linguard, a 2019 Stevens graduate, leaned into his new leadership role Friday by discussing last year’s frustrations, his hopes for a brighter day for the Roadrunners and his dream of packing the Convocation Center with supportive fans.

“We’re showing that we’re in shape and that we can run and really get the ball up (the court),” he said. “We’re moving the ball. We’re not selfish. We’re disciplined and buying in — buying in way more. So, we just got to keep doing that.”

Linguard can’t hide his excitement at the prospect of playing in games for the first time since his last season at Kansas State in 2021-22. His eyes lit up a bit when asked if the Roadrunners would employ a more fast-paced attack.

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

Baltimore native Chandler Cuthrell, a transfer from Odessa College, is competing for playing time at power forward. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“Oh yeah,” he said. “We got guards who can push it. We got guys who can fill in spots and move, actually attack, too. We got (centers and power forwards) who can do the same. So I feel like we can play the fast pace.”

UTSA coach Steve Henson isn’t necessarily looking for breakout offensive numbers from Linguard, but he said the Roadrunners will need him to impose his will as a defensive presence.

“You just notice his wingspan,” Henson said. “He’s not the quickest guy in the world, but he’s quick enough. He’s agile and he looks so natural in all of his movements. You just notice his hands, his (long) arms, his length.

“(Offensive) players get to a spot in a ball screen and try to make a pass out of there, he impacts it with his length. He’s got pretty good anticipation, and he gets to the spot … Carlton, being in that (Kansas State) system, it helped him.

“He’s skilled, he’s talented … We don’t want to put any extra pressure by over-selling him, but he’s a great teammate and he wants to help us win.”

Last year’s 10-22 record was a frustration for everyone in the Roadrunners’ camp. For Linguard, it was rough on a number of levels. For one thing, he wasn’t academically eligible initially.

He had to show a commitment in the classroom just so UTSA could put him on scholarship at the semester break. In addition, he wasn’t fully healthy until late in the season.

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

Freshman Nazar Mahmoud, who grew up in Leander and last played at Spring Creek Academy in Plano, is expected to give the team length on the wing and three-point shooting. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Initially, it was a knee that slowed him. Subsequently, by December, he started to flash potential, taking over in some practices with his athleticism and above-the-rim capabilities. Just about that time, though, he suffered a concussion.

Though Linguard had progressed past all the physical challenges by February, he still wasn’t eligible to play. So, with the team struggling, UTSA officials elected to drop the appeal to the NCAA, so that he could return in 2023-24 with two full seasons of eligibility remaining.

As it was, the Roadrunners went into the Conference USA tournament with a healthy 7-footer on the bench, and they lost by one point to the Rice Owls in the first round.

Linguard, speaking after practice late Friday afternoon, shrugged off a question about how the course of 2022-23 might have been altered if he had been able to play games in February and March.

“It would have been different,” he said. “That Conference (USA) tournament would have been a lot different. Especially that first game we played. Like, that would have been way different. I mean, you can’t really say because it didn’t happen.”

Regardless, the team’s late collapse precipitated decisions by most of last year’s players to leave the program, looking for other opportunities elsewhere.

Once the dust settled, 6-foot-11 Jacob Germany joined the program at Wichita State, while point guard Japhet Medor landed at Fordham University and John Buggs III turned up at North Texas.

Linguard declined to get too deep into his feelings about the exodus except to say generally that transfers have become a part of the equation in the new world of college hoops.

He seemed much more at ease discussing the here and now of a season that will get underway on Nov. 6. For the Roadrunners, who haven’t qualified for an NCAA tournament since 2011, it is their first year as a member of the American Athletic Conference.

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

Guard/forward Justin Thomas, from Baton Rouge, La., averaged 7.3 points and 4.4 rebounds last season for a 22-win team at Milwaukee in the Horizon League. Coach Steve Henson says that Thomas and Jordan Ivy-Curry will need waivers to be eligible to play at UTSA this season. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA will play in a quality mid-major conference against the likes of Memphis, Tulane and Temple. Also against Florida Atlantic, a C-USA program that made it all the way to the Final Four last April.

On a more personal level, the move will allow Linguard to see some familiar faces during the season, notably Germany at Wichita State and Buggs at North Texas. He said, in fact, that he knows people on many of the AAC campuses.

On the home front, he beamed optimism in discussing the opportunity to play home games in the Convocation Center in front of family members and friends.

One of his new UTSA teammates, walk-on guard Juan Reyna, who played in high school at Antonian, also will have that connection to friends within the local basketball community.

With that, Linguard figures that if the Roadrunners can start to win and generate excitement with all the new talent, the size of the crowds and the energy inside the school’s old home arena could start to become a factor.

As the former Big 12 player at Kansas State spoke to a reporter Friday afternoon, he glanced into the upper reaches of the arena and talked about trying to fill the seats.

Said Linguard, “Me and my teammates, we’re kind of promoting (the season) right now. We’re trying to get people to come out. There’s always a conversation. Like, ‘Hey come out an support us this year.’ We’re just trying to push the issue.

“We want to get the (arena) packed up (to the top). That’s the goal.”

UTSA notenbook

The Roadrunners have been working out on a limited basis since the start of the summer. They completed their early fall semester sessions on Sept. 22.

Twice during the last week of conditioning, coaches had the players outside at dawn, one day running on the track and another day running on a road leading out north of the campus. Another session started at 6 in the morning on the court in the Convocation Center.

“We don’t get carried away talking about boot camp,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “You know, we’re not going to war. We have people (in the military) that really do go to war. We have people that really do go through boot camp. So we try not to over-do our terminology there.”

Longer workouts, considered official preseason practices, commenced on Monday.

Included in the 30 allowed sessions are two exhibition games set for Oct 24 against Trinity and Oct. 30 against McMurry. Both will be held at the Convocation Center. The regular season opens on Nov. 6 at home against Western Illinois. A four-game road trip commences on Nov. 10 at Minnesota. Conference play starts Jan. 2 at home against UAB.

Positional analysis

Point guards — Adante Holiman, Christian Tucker, Juan Reyna.

Wing players (small forwards and shooting guards) — Isaiah Wyatt, PJ Carter, Nazar Mahmoud, Justin Thomas, Jordan Ivy-Curry.

Power/small forward — Dre Fuller Jr.

Power forwards — Chandler Cuthrell, Blessing Adesipe, Josh Reid.

Centers — Carlton Linguard, Jr., Trey Edmonds, Massal Diouf.

x-Thomas and Ivy-Curry are considered two-time transfers and can play this season only if the NCAA grants them waivers. Reyna and Reid are walk-ons.

UTSA set to join the American Athletic Conference in July 2023

UTSA is expected to join The American Athletic Conference effective next summer. “Our intent is to join The American on July 1, 2023,” UTSA athletic director Lisa Campos said in a statement on Friday.

UTSA released the statement in the wake of news that the AAC would terminate its agreements with Cincinnati, Houston and UCF, which means that those schools could move into the Big 12 for the 2023-24 season.

Since the first season of UTSA football in 2011, the school’s athletics program as a whole has been in transition. As UTSA football operated as an independent in 2011, the other sports finished their affiliation with the Southland Conference in 2011-12.

After departing the Southland and starting play in the Western Athletic Conference in 2012-13, UTSA promptly moved out of the WAC and into Conference USA in 2013-14.

Now, after a 10th season in the C-USA in 2022-23, the Roadrunners’ 17 Division I teams are headed to the AAC. It’s a move that has been imminent for almost a year. The only detail in question since last October has been the timing, and now it’s official.

Six Conference USA schools are expected to split from the C-USA for the AAC — UTSA, Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice and UAB. The other conference members are expected to include East Carolina, Tulsa, SMU, Memphis, Navy, Temple, South Florida and Tulane.

UTSA, Charlotte and FAU all announced Friday that they would make the move for the 2023-24 season.

Eighmy says UTSA is planning a new basketball arena

From time to time, it gets pretty wild at the UTSA Convocation Center.

If you need evidence, check out a video taken at the end of a comeback victory for the Roadrunners over the Old Dominion Monarchs (see above) from the 2018-19 season.

UTSA president Dr. Taylor Eighmy addresses the media Thursday, explaining the school’s move to the American Athletic Conference. — Photo by Jerry Briggs

Alas, the nights of passion in the ‘Bird Cage’ may be numbered.

UTSA president Dr. Taylor Eighmy on Thursday acknowledged the school’s long-range plans to build a new, 10,000-seat competition arena on campus for basketball and volleyball.

“That is a downstream project that we want to develop, using a public-private partnership,” Eighmy said.

The president made his comments after a campus news conference, during which he announced that UTSA would move all of its 17 NCAA Division I athletics programs to the American Athletic Conference.

The school’s move from Conference USA to the AAC is expected to be made after the next two or three years.

The arena is part of a bold facilities push for UTSA, which first fielded intercollegiate athletics teams in 1981-82.

Since then, both men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball have played their games at the Convocation Center on campus.

Over the years, officials in past UTSA administrations have talked about the need for a new arena to replace the aging ‘Bird Cage,’ but nothing of substance has been discussed until now.

The arena report came nestled in a Thursday morning AAC news release that announced UTSA as one of its six new members.

A paragraph in the release started off by saying that the school in August opened the Roadrunner Center of Excellence, a 95,000-square foot facility that houses offices and training areas and is considered as the home for the school’s 24th-ranked football program.

In addition, the AAC release said, UTSA “is embarking on an expansive” capital campaign to develop several other projects, including:

*A new 10,000-seat arena for basketball and volleyball;
*New baseball and softball stadiums;
*A dedicated basketball/volleyball training facility;
*Also, a “standalone” facility for track and field and soccer.

Estimated cost for all of the above could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The administrative wheels are already moving on one of the projects.

Eighmy said UTSA has submitted a request to the City of San Antonio in an effort to gain assistance in funding the basketball/volleyball training facility.

The request is tied to the next city’s next bond project. Eighmy said it would be built adjacent to the RACE building.

“So,’ he added, “we’re already starting on systematic approaches to find resources, or mechanisms, to proceed with adding additional facilities.”

Eighmy declined to estimate what it would cost to build the basketball/volleyball competition arena or when he would like to see the teams move in.

“It’s obviously on our plans to get going,” the president said. “We have a bunch of things we have to tackle. We have to finish Park West (where the track and soccer teams compete).

“We really want to get this practice facility built, for men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball, but (the arena) is on our horizon. In my lifetime. How about that?”

UTSA men’s basketball coach Steve Henson said he’s excited about the pending move to the new conference and also about the talk of a new arena.

In regard to the challenge of playing in the revamped AAC, and competing against the likes of Memphis, Wichita State and SMU, he admitted that UTSA would be embarking on a league filled with teams that play “high level” basketball.

“The challenge will be great, but the excitement behind it will be great, as well,” he said.

Memphis, under coach Penny Hardaway, has been ranked 12th nationally in the preseason Associated Press poll. Moreover, teams in the AAC play in high-caliber arenas.

Memphis plays in the FedEx Forum. Wichita State plays in the sparkling Charles Koch Arena.

Told after practice that the AAC had sent out information on UTSA’s proposed 10,000-seat arena, Henson smiled and said, “Awesome. I look forward to seeing those plans.”

Henson said he knew about the proposed training facility but acknowledged that he had not heard specifics on UTSA’s arena project.

“I know our people are working like crazy to put us in this position (to change conferences),” he said. “I assumed we had to have some other things in the works to make it happen.

“But, no, I had not heard (about the arena).”

Henson admitted that an arena for his program would supply a boost for a program that has posted winning records in three of the last four seasons but has yet to break through with an NCAA tournament appearance.

An arena, he said, “would do wonders.”

UTSA athletic director Lisa Campos said a combined cost for the basketball/volleyball training center and the baseball and softball stadiums could range from $70 million to $80 million.

Campos added that the arena could cost “a couple of hundred million” dollars to complete.

Clearly, it will be a tall order for UTSA to raise that kind of money.

It could take years to do it, considering the magnitude of the investment and the current economic climate locally coming out of the pandemic.

“We’re going to be strategic about how we could find revenue sources,” she said. “Of course, we’re going to capitalize on the momentum for our philanthropic endeavors, and, winning breeds winning, and folks want to be involved in that.

“Someone had asked me earlier about fundraising, and really, our fan-base, our donor-base has continued to give to UTSA athletics.”

A UTSA master plan published in 2019 pinpoints the location of the proposed arena on the west end of campus. Eighmy said he wants it to be used for “multiple” purposes.

Asked if such a building of that scope could host NCAA tournament games, Eighmy didn’t rule it out.

“Those are the things we have to consider as we develop this public-private partnership,” he said. “We’re advocating all the time why our athletics programs benefit the entire city.”

Eighmy said he wants to invest in programs led by the likes of Henson, Karen Aston (women’s basketball) and Laura Neugebauer-Groff (volleyball) who work in the Convocation Center on a daily basis.

“Our Convocation Center is not a suitable facility for either practice or intercollegiate competition,” Eighmy said. “I mean, it served its purpose in its day, but we need to move on.”