Just in time: Shots are starting to fall for UTSA’s Dre Fuller Jr.

Dre Fuller Jr. UAB beat UTSA 78-76 in the men's basketball American Conference opener on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Over the last three games, Dre Fuller Jr. has come alive as an offensive threat for the UTSA Roadrunners, who play on the road tonight against the Memphis Tigers. – File photo by Jerry Briggs

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Quietly, one of the key players in the UTSA Roadrunners’ rotation has started to ratchet up his production.

Averaging 16.3 points and 4.6 rebounds over his last three games, Dre Fuller Jr. is doing it with such ease and smooth efficiency that it has almost gone unnoticed.

In that stretch, the 6-foot-6 graduate student from Fayetteville, N.C., has hit 51.5 percent of his shots from the field and 57.9 percent from three-point distance.

He capped the surge with a 23-point effort on the road against Rice last Saturday, a welcome sign for UTSA, which will play perhaps its toughest road game of the season tonight at the FedEx Forum against the 13th-ranked Memphis Tigers.

An all-around player with multiple skills, offensively and defensively, Fuller had been mired in a bad shooting funk, hitting only 7 of 36 from long distance in six games prior to his last three.

Because Fuller does so many things for the Roadrunners, coaches kept his playing time fairly level during the slump, which may have aided the turnaround.

Fuller said he appreciates it that UTSA coach Steve Henson hung in there with him as he worked things out.

“It showed he has the confidence in me,” Fuller said. “He sees me in here every day. So he knows how serious I take it. After the games, he’s telling me, ‘Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Let the game come to you.’ ”

Last year, Fuller went through some hard times while caring for his ailing mother.

He left Central Florida after three seasons, enrolled briefly at Florida Atlantic and then exited Division I basketball altogether when it became apparent that he needed to go home to help his mom.

All last year, he’d play pickup ball wherever he could and then visit with family. Tragically, his mom eventually passed away in March.

Since then, Fuller has been through an emotional roller coaster, first signing with the Roadrunners and then reporting to the UTSA camp in the summer and trying to get his game back together.

Fuller enjoyed a promising start to the season, scoring 16 at Minnesota in the second game and then pitching in a career-high 24 at Houston Christian.

Pretty soon, though, his shot started missing the mark. Fuller was 0 for 6 from three against Incarnate Word. Then 1 of 8 from the field against Lamar. At Oregon State, Fuller was two for 10 afield and 1 of 7 from three.

Frustration mounted.

“I wouldn’t go talk to (the coach),” Fuller said. “(But) I had to ask somebody, ‘What going on?’ He told me. He said, ‘Your day will come.’ (He said) just keep working. What you do in the game, it’s all going to fall in place.

“Listening to family, they’re telling me the same thing. I just tried to settle my body down and just keep playing.”

Heeding the advice has worked. Against Prairie View A&M, he started slowly, taking four 3-point shots and making three of them. Against the UAB Blazers in the American conference opener, he hit six of 12 afield, including another three from long distance.

Then he exploded against Rice on Saturday, knocking down eight of 17, including five of nine from three. Seven-foot power forward Carlton Linguard Jr., a transfer from Kansas State, came alive as well, scoring 24 points on four of eight shooting from distance.

“Those two guys, Dre and Carlton, can and do impact the game in so many other ways,” Henson said. “(If) they make two or three threes in a game, that just adds to it.

“We don’t have to have that for those two guys to make an impact. And now both of those guys have had games where they’ve made four or five (from beyond the arc). And then we’re really in good shape.”

While Fuller sat out last year for personal reasons, Linguard was at UTSA, working on academics to regain his eligibility and rehabilitating some nagging injuries.

Maybe it’s just taken both of them some time to get into their groove? Henson said part of it may stem from coaches just now finding out how all the pieces fit together.

“As we’ve gone along, we’ve learned more about our guys,” he said. “We’ve kept our play book pretty simple. This team doesn’t need or want a big play book. They make enough basketball plays that, we keep it simple, and they can move the ball.

“You call somebody’s number and expect that we’re going to get him the ball in a spot two or three times a game, they like that. We’ve kind of been able to do that.

“We’ve got a handful of plays, we just know, we have to call it two or three times a game, every single night, and something good usually happens.”

Fuller said he likes the flow of the game now because so many of his teammates are getting involved on a nightly basis.

“We have a lot of guys that, once people scout us, they’re like, ‘Ok, there’s not just one person scoring. Everybody is scoring,’ he said. “That’s what makes us a tough. But, like I say, we’re still learning every day. We got 13 new guys.

“(We’re) still learning and hopefully we’ll start picking it up real soon.”


UTSA 7-8, 1-1
Memphis 13-2, 2-0

Coming up

Charlotte at UTSA, Saturday, 7 p.m.

UTSA men will face 13th-ranked Memphis on the road

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

Carlton Linguard Jr. scored a career-high 24 points against the Rice Owls last Saturday. He’s averaging 10.8 points and 6.1 rebounds going into Wednesday night on the road against Memphis. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Clearly, the UTSA Roadrunners can live with slightly erratic ball handling on occasion, such as last Saturday afternoon when they committed 17 turnovers and still won on the road against the Rice Owls.

In defeating the Owls 89-82 in overtime, UTSA knocked down 14 3-point field goals, competed well on the boards and came up with some key defensive stops for a historic first victory in the American Athletic Conference.

But as the team prepared this week for a Wednesday night AAC road test against the 13th-ranked Memphis Tigers, limiting turnovers emerged as a key focus.

“We have to take care of the basketball,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “On the year, we’ve been respectable in that area. Coming off a game when where we did turn it over a lot — we had too many against Rice — we got to take care of it.”

The coach expressed the idea that if they aren’t careful in making good decisions, it could be a long night for the Roadrunners (7-8, 1-1) against the Tigers (13-2, 2-0) at the FedEx Forum.

“We want some pace,” Henson said. “You know, we’re not afraid to get up and down the floor. That’s kind of who we are. We’re good in that regard, but we can’t have chaos. We can’t have them running off turnovers.”

Fifteen games into the schedule, the Roadrunners remain as something of a mystery.

Though they played poorly a few weeks ago in losing to Army at home, they have notched three decent games in a row, scoring 103 points in a win over Prairie View A&M, losing by two at home to UAB and then rallying from a 10-point deficit in the second half to beat Rice.

Against Rice, 7-foot power forward Carlton Linguard Jr. and Dre Fuller Jr. led the way offensively. Both of them streaky shooters, Linguard scored a career-high 24 points and Fuller added 23. Moreover, Fuller knocked down five 3-pointers and Linguard four.

A few weeks ago, Fuller was at the end of a shooting slump in which he had hit only seven of 36 from the arc over a span of six games. In his last three outings, he has heated up considerably, making 11 of 19.

Linguard, by contrast, has been a respectable percentage shooter from distance (.349) for the season. But in three games before Rice, he had made only 1 of 13 from outside the arc. Against the Owls, he knocked down 4 of 8, including three straight at one point in the first half.

“He’s super talented,” Henson said. “When he knocks down a few shots early, his confidence just grows. We have several guys like him who are a little too hard on themselves at times when things don’t go right and they have a setback. But he’s a talented guy.”


Dre Fuller Jr. has seen a lot of the Memphis Tigers over the years.

As a player for the UCF Knights from 2019-2022, he played against the Tigers seven times. Memphis was 6-1 against UCF in that stretch, but Fuller had his moments, including 14 points in 25 minutes in the AAC tournament at Fort Worth in 2022. Fuller has played at the FedEx Forum in Memphis three times.

“What stands out is the atmosphere,” said Fuller, in his first season at UTSA. “Like, their home court is crazy. It’s loud. It’s going to be rocking in there. Every turnover or missed shot, they’re going to be screaming.

“So, one thing for sure (I remember) is the home court advantage. All I remember is that they play hard and run. We got to match their energy. If we match their energy and play a little bit harder, then we’ll be good.”

Memphis is 120-54 under sixth-year coach Penny Hardaway, including 75-10 at home.


UTSA 7-8, 1-1
Memphis 13-2, 2-0

Coming up

Charlotte at UTSA, 7 p.m.

UTSA men need to ‘keep building’ in a rematch with Lamar

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

Guard PJ Carter came off the bench to average 13 points on 50 percent shooting in home games last week against Jacksonville State and Incarnate Word. He scored a season-high 17 against UIW last Saturday afternoon. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Last week, the hot-and-cold nature of UTSA Roadrunners men’s basketball was on full display. Two victories in a three-game stretch. A few minutes of cohesive play at one moment in time, followed by a stretch of mind-boggling inconsistency.

During a two-point victory at Houston Christian University, a head-scratching 15-point home loss to Jacksonville (Ala.) State and a bounce-back victory 24 hours later on the same floor against Incarnate Word, attention to detail on defense would come and go.

The UTSA offense would click nicely in one 10-minute stretch, and then it would suddenly short-circuit and stagnate.

“We’re still searching offensively,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said after knocking off Incarnate Word, 90-80, on Saturday afternoon. “We’ve got to identify … what can we expect every night. With Adante’ (Holiman) and Dre (Fuller), we need those guys to be playmakers, in addition to (being scorers). We need an occasional post up. We need a back door. Just keep building. As we learn more about our team, I hope our offense will get better.”

Coming off their first two-win week of the season, the Roadrunners will return to action tonight at the UTSA Convocation Center. First, Coach Karen Aston’s women’s team hosts the Texas State Bobcats at 5 p.m. Next up, Henson’s men’s team will take on the Lamar Cardinals at 8 p.m.

The men’s game will serve as an opportunity for UTSA (3-4) to take another crack at Lamar (4-3). It’s a chance for the Roadrunners to show some growth after allowing the Cardinals to clobber them on the boards and on the scoreboard on Nov. 14 in Beaumont.

In the earlier meeting, Lamar registered a 90-82 victory. In that game, a smaller and quicker team out-hustled UTSA in winning the rebounding battle, 57-45. On the offensive glass, the Cardinals claimed a shocking 25-12 advantage. Not even a 22-point explosion from UTSA guard Holiman could make up the difference.

Tonight in the rematch, the Roadrunners will need to contain the Cardinals duo of 6-foot-9 Adam Hamilton and 6-6 Terry Anderson, who combined for 13 offensive boards between them. The two also combined for 36 points. Meanwhile, UTSA will also need to keep an eye on guards B.B. Knight and Ja’Sean Jackson.

Jackson, from San Antonio’s Wagner High School, hurt UTSA at the end of both halves. In the first half, he made a 45-foot, three-pointer at the buzzer. In the last few minutes of the game, he created a layup by dishing for an assist and then knocked down four straight free throws to ice the victory.


Texas State at UTSA women, 5 p.m.
Lamar at UTSA men, 8 p.m.

Coming up

The UTSA women (4-2) are playing two games in four days. After tonight’s game against the Bobcats (3-2), they’ll host the UTEP Miners at noon on Sunday before they take a pause in the schedule. They won’t play again until they host the Houston Cougars on Dec. 14.

For the UTSA men, the Lamar game is the last one they’ll play until after the break. They’ll be back on the court for a Dec. 10 home game against Arkansas-Fort Smith.


Doing a couple of things more consistently, running consistent offense to get open looks on long-distance shots and generating easy baskets, might solve a lot of problems for the UTSA men. As it is, they’re shooting 40.8 percent from the field for the season. The percentage ranks 13th of 14 teams in the American Athletic Conference. The Roadrunners are hitting only 30.1 percent from three, which ranks 10th. UTSA has made only 52 threes in seven games, for an average of 7.43. They hit a season-high 10 against UIW.

UTSA’s Steve Henson looking for ‘high-level’ consistency

Forward Dre Fuller Jr. enjoyed his best game of the season Monday night, producing 24 points and four rebounds for the UTSA Roadrunners as they won on the road, downing the Houston Christian University Huskies, 89-87.

Guard Christian Tucker had another solid performance, going for 15 points, eight assists and five boards. As Fuller and Tucker rolled, so did the Roadrunners, who shot a season-high 49 percent from the field to help them snap a troublesome three-game losing streak.

With UTSA set to host the Jacksonville State University Gamecocks Friday at noon, Coach Steve Henson took time out after practice Wednesday afternoon to address a few topics.

First, with a group of five players averaging in the neighborhood of 10 points a game, is he looking for someone like Fuller to break out as a go-to scoring leader to carry the team?

Not necessarily, Henson said.

“Not so concerned with someone stepping up and scoring 16 a game, 15 or 20, or whatever,” the coach said. “Not that part. Just more (of) can you play at a high level every night. Tuck’s kind of done that. Trey Edmonds has done a pretty good job of that most nights.

“(But) Dre has scored it very well in stretches. I still think he’s going to be a pretty good facilitator for us. He doesn’t have that many assists right now. That’s what I thought, prior to (the season), he was going to be our leading assist guy.”

While Fuller leads the Roadrunners in scoring at 12.6 points, Tucker is the assists leader at 6.0 per game. Tucker, a junior, is also averaging 11.4 points and 3.0 rebounds. He’s been something of a revelation so far this season in his first as a scholarship player.

“He’s making it happen,” Henson said.

Other questions are looming as UTSA is set to play on back-to-back days for the first time this season. After playing the Gamecocks on Friday, they’ll take on the University of the Incarnate Word Cardinals, their Division I cross-town rival, on Saturday.

Will they go with a small lineup again? Will it be Edmonds, Fuller, Isaiah Wyatt, Tucker and Adante’ Holiman, as it was on Monday night at Houston Christian? Maybe. But, maybe not. Henson said after Wednesday’s workout that he hasn’t decided.

Whatever the case, he said he won’t be managing minutes in the Jacksonville State game. Henson said he’ll try to do everything he can to win Friday and then worry about Saturday’s game plan when the time arrives.

The Cardinals, under first-year coach Shane Heirman, have won three in a row.

On Wednesday night at UIW, the Cardinals held an 18-point lead early in the second half, blew all of it and then some, falling behind by four with less than a minute to play, only to rally in the final seconds to beat the Gamecocks from Jacksonville, Ala., 67-66, on a buzzer-beater by Shon Robinson.

Led by veteran coach Ray Harper, who once played guard for the Texas Longhorns, the Gamecocks have lost four straight. Three of the losses — to Utah Tech, North Alabama and UIW — have been by a combined five points.

UTSA season in review

Western Illinois, W, 78-68 (OT)
@ Minnesota, L, 76-102
@ Lamar, L, 82-90
@ Texas State, L, 62-72
@ Houston Christian, W, 89-87

Looking up

The Roadrunners have limited opponents to 40.5 percent shooting and 31.9 percent from three, both to the liking of UTSA coach Steve Henson. UTSA has also turned it over only 52 times. Another good number.

Lingering concerns

UTSA is minus 30 in total rebounds, with opponents grabbing 235 of them to only 205 for the Roadrunners. Free-throw shooting differential is also a problem, 116 for 167 for opponents to only 86 of 124 for UTSA.

Individual leaders

Dre Fuller, Jr. — Team-leading 12.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists. Graduate senior forward from North Carolina, who last played at Central Florida, is shooting 40 percent from the field, 34.6 percent from three, 79.9 percent on free throws.

Christian Tucker — 11.4 points, team-leading 6 assists, 3 rebounds. Junior guard from Arizona, 31.1 percent field goals, 15.4 percent from three, 84.4 percent on free throws.

Adante’ Holiman — 11.4 points, 2.4 assists, 1.2 steals. Sophomore from Oklahoma, a transfer from UT Rio Grande Valley, 34.6 percent field goals, 31 percent from three, 70.6 percent free throws.

Trey Edmonds — 9.6 points, 7.4 rebounds. Junior center from Colorado, a transfer from Utah Tech, 51.4 percent field goals but only 46.2 percent on free throws. Edmonds hasn’t shot a three.

P.J. Carter — 8.8 points. Junior guard from Georgia, a transfer from Georgia Highlands, 47.2 percent from the field, 30.8 percent from three, 66.7 percent on free throws.

Coming up

Roadrunner/Cardinal Classic
Jacksonville State (1-4) at UTSA (2-3), Friday, noon
Incarnate Word (3-2) at UTSA, Saturday, 3 p.m.
Jacksonville State vs. Incarnate Word, at UTSA, Sunday, 3 p.m.

Fuller scores 24 as UTSA holds off Houston Christian, 89-87, ending a three-game skid

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners gave up most of a double-digit lead in the final minutes Monday night and then escaped with an 89-87, non-conference road victory against the Houston Christian Huskies. Forward Dre Fuller Jr., who led UTSA with a season-high 24 points, said he will take it.

“Winning on the road is extra, extra hard,” Fuller told Andy Everett on the team’s radio broadcast. “You walk in the gym (seemingly) down 20 already, with the refs and the opponent, so we just had to just fight and keep going.”

Ahead by one point at halftime, the Roadrunners built leads as large as 11 points three times in the second half, only to see the Huskies keep battling. In crunch time, UTSA’s Isaiah Wyatt hit a layup for an 81-70 lead with 5:40 remaining.

But the Huskies kept playing and stayed within striking distance. The Roadrunners also pushed back, with Adante’ Holiman driving to the rim and getting fouled with six seconds to go. Holiman missed the first one and made the second for a three-point lead.

On HCU’s next possession, Fuller fouled Michael Imariagbe just as he advanced past halfcourt. Imariagbe made the first free throw and then missed the second one on purpose. Bruce Carpenter rebounded and had a decent look at the basket inside the top of the key, but he misfired at the buzzer.

“Road wins are good, however they come,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Should have been a little cleaner. Wish it would have been a little smoother down the stretch. Both halves, we had good stretches in the middle … built that lead and then didn’t hang on to it very well.”

For UTSA, the win was a relief after dropping three in a row — all on the road — at Minnesota, Lamar and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Along with Fuller, point guard Christian Tucker played well. Tucker finished with 15 points, eight assists and five rebounds. Chandler Cuthrell came off the bench for 10 points and six boards.

Marcus Greene led the Huskies with 23 points. Jay Alvarez scored 19. Imariagbe enjoyed a big night with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Bonke Maring scored 16.


UTSA 2-3
Houston Christian 0-3

Coming up

Jacksonville State (Ala.) at UTSA, Friday, at noon


After beating Western Illinois at home to start the season, the Roadrunners embarked on a stretch of four straight games away from home. They lost by 26 points at Minnesota, by eight at Lamar and by 10 at Texas State before winning by two at Houston Christian.

UTSA coach Steve Henson shuffled his starting lineup against the Huskies. He started Trey Edmonds and Dre Fuller at the forwards, Isaiah Wyatt on the wing and Adante’ Holiman and Christian Tucker at guard. Wyatt, a 6-4 swing man, was the new starter replacing 7-foot Carlton Linguard Jr., who came off the bench.

Henson said his original starters weren’t do anything wrong so much as he just wanted to shake things up after a few losses.

“We lost a couple of ball games, so we wanted to mix things up,” Henson said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys that have earned the opportunity to play and start. Also was hoping Carlton would relax a little bit. Coming off the bench sometimes that helps guys. He’s a big part of what we do. We need him to be really comfortable out there.”

Linguard finished with 10 points, six rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots. Wyatt had seven points and four rebounds in 21 minutes. Leading the way were Fuller and Tucker, who serves as a lead guard along with Holiman. Tucker came up big with 15 points, eight assists and five rebounds.

Minnesota shoots 54.5 percent and rolls past UTSA, 102-76

Dawson Garcia scored 22 points and Isaiah Ihnen added 20 to lead five players in double figures as the Minnesota Golden Gophers scored an easy 102-76 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners Friday in men’s college basketball.

The Gophers shot 54.5 percent from the field and hit 14 three-point baskets in the game played at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. Minnesota (2-0) stormed to a 54-30 lead at halftime and cruised the rest of the way.

UTSA (1-1) was led by Dre Fuller Jr. with 16 points and nine rebounds. PJ Carter contributed 15 points.

Coming up

UTSA at Lamar, Tuesday, at 7 p.m.


The Roadrunners lost their 26th straight game to a Power 5 opponent. The UTSA men haven’t won a game against a P5 in 14 years, since November of 2009, when they scored a victory at Iowa. Since then, the Roadrunners have been winless against teams from one of the five major conferences — the Big Ten, the Big 12, the ACC, the SEC or the Pac-12.

UTSA forward Dre Fuller Jr. expects to feel a presence during practices, games

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

Forward Dre Fuller Jr. hopes to honor the memory of his mother this season with a strong performance as a UTSA graduate senior. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA forward Dre Fuller Jr. doesn’t want a little pain to stop him from completing his daily routine in preseason training camp. Not now. No way. The 24-year-old Fuller, the oldest player on the Roadrunners’ roster, has been through way too much heartache over the past year to allow knee and shoulder soreness to slow him down.

He knows he needs to push through it. Besides, Fuller will have what he believes to be a heavenly force looking over him after his mother, Stephanie Johnson, passed away in March following a battle with breast cancer. After taking a year off from college basketball to help care for her, he says he thinks about his mom constantly.

Assistant coach Kurtis Darden at UTSA men's basketball practice on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

First-year UTSA assistant coach Kurtis Darden says he has known Dre Fuller Jr. for 13 years. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“Oh, yeah, every day,” the 6-foot-5 playmaker said after practice recently. “I have my necklace with her on it … She’s not leaving. I can feel her right now.”

With that comment, Fuller smiled, laughed a quiet laugh and shook his head slightly. Perhaps it’s a sign that Stephanie Johnson’s youngest child is beginning to heal emotionally.

Whatever the case, the UTSA graduate senior who last played in the 2021-22 season for the University of Central Florida Knights is definitely looking ahead to brighter days.

He said he thinks he will feel his mother’s presence constantly during his first season with the Roadrunners. “For sure,” he said. “I think she’s going to be right by my side. She’ll be telling me to work harder.”

First-year UTSA assistant coach Kurtis Darden doesn’t doubt that for a moment. Darden has known Dre Fuller and his family for more than 13 years.

The relationship began in 2010 when Darden was starting a new job as basketball coach at Village Christian Academy in Fayetteville, N.C. Much to the coach’s surprise, a kid much too young to be in high school would hang out constantly in the Village Christian gym.

It was Dre Fuller. “He was just always in there,” Darden recalled. “Whether we were having practices (or) whether we were not having practices, he was just always hanging around the gym. I always noticed him. He was a lot smaller than he is now.

“I’d just joke with him. I’d say, ‘Hey, you’re going to grow up and be a pretty good basketball player if you stick with it,’ and that’s what ended up happening.”

Fuller is now a strapping, 215-pound guard/forward. He is expected to play a substantial role for the Roadrunners, who will tip off in their exhibition season opener next Tuesday night against Trinity University.

A playmaker on the wing who likes to drive into the paint and create opportunities for his teammates, he once started 27 out of 67 games over three seasons for Coach Johnny Dawkins and the UCF Knights of the American Athletic Conference.

UTSA will open a new era in the American this season.

Back in the day in North Carolina, Fuller and his mother were a constant presence around the Village Christian basketball program. When Darden first met the mom, her daughters had already graduated, but she volunteered to keep the scorebook for all the team’s home games, anyway.

Her upbeat personality was infectious.

“She was very fiery,” Darden said. “She coached Dre hard. She basically was a basketball coach that was a mom, as well. She would coach him from the stands — in a good way. You know, you have parents who holler and scream and they don’t know nothing about basketball, but then you have those other parents who know about basketball and are able to coach ‘em up.

“That’s what kind of lady she was. Her kids were her everything. When I first got to Village Christian, I didn’t know anybody. But she kind of gave me the scoop. She just volunteered. Her son wasn’t even playing varsity, and she was keeping score for the varsity team. Just out of the goodness of her heart.”

After Fuller’s freshman year at Village Christian, his family moved to St. Petersburg, Fla. There, he played three seasons at Farragut Academy and became a three-star college prospect. He signed with Dawkins at UCF. With the Knights, Fuller’s career was up and down.

As a redshirt freshman, he barged into the starting lineup in UCF’s fifth game and started to make a major impact on a team that had been in the NCAA tournament the previous season. A highlight came in a 13-point, 8-rebound performance at Oklahoma in December 2019, when he hit a three with a minute remaining to pull the Knights within one.

At the end, he missed a three at the buzzer, as the Sooners escaped with a 53-52 victory. “Dre played well,” Dawkins said at the time. “He made plays for us…I was proud of him, as a freshman in this type of environment.”

Fuller’s success was uneven, at best, at UCF. Though he averaged 6.3 points as a freshman and 7.0 as a sophomore, by his junior year, his minutes were slashed. He was no longer a starter and his scoring averaged dipped to 4.0. Frustrated, he put his name into the transfer portal.

Once again, though, the stars just would not align for him. He briefly joined the program at Florida Atlantic University, enrolling in summer classes in 2022. But it was a short-lived stay in Boca Raton. In the infancy of the Owls’ preparation for what would be a startling run to the NCAA Final Four semifinals, he elected to exit the program after about a month.

By the end of July, Fuller was gone.

“That’s when I started taking care of my mom,” he said. “I called them and told them, ‘Thank you.’ I was like, ‘Ya’ll are good. Ya’ll are going to make it far.’ I didn’t know, Final Four far. I just told them I had some things to work out.

“They just said thank you for coming and, like, wished me the best of luck. They didn’t know my mom was sick at the time. They just wished me the best and asked me why. I told ‘em I (couldn’t) really say. I was just hurtin,’ you know.”

From there, Fuller’s basketball journey veered into some murky waters. He traveled back to Orlando, where he took one class at UCF to gain his bachelor’s degree. Not too long after that, Fuller tried to stay active, playing basketball recreationally wherever he could find competition.

But as the months advanced, his attention turned to his mom, who passed away on March 17. At the funeral, he encountered a friendly face in the gathering. It was Darden, who had coached him for a few years at Village Christian in North Carolina.

“Just going there as a friend of the family,” Darden explained. “One of the last things he told me (after the service), he said ‘Coach I’m trying to play this last year for my mom.’ ”

Darden was determined to assist if he could. At the time, he was still working at Campbell University as the operations director for the basketball program, and he mentioned Fuller’s name to the Fighting Camels’ coaching staff as a potential prospect.

“But they weren’t recruiting him at the time, or whatever,” Darden said, “so I called some other schools about him, just trying to help him out. We would just talk and text. Then I land up here (at UTSA, in May) and as soon as I get here, he’s one of the first names I brought up to the coach.”

Not too much later, Fuller committed to Roadrunners head coach Steve Henson, and he was announced as a signee on July 11. “He’s a great kid,” Henson said. “We’re excited about him. He’s done a good job. We’ve got to get him 100 percent healthy. But he brings a great element to our team.”

Henson called Fuller an instinctive player whose best attribute is his ability to create.

“He seems to have a real joy for the game,” Henson said. “He seems to enjoy playing. Can’t really describe that real well. Told him a story. We coached Toni Kukoc and Shareef Abdur-Rahim (with the Atlanta Hawks). Shareef was a terrific player. An all star. We were trying to get them stacked up on the weak side. And tell them, ‘You pick for him. Shareef, you pick for Toni (and) just play.’ It was just fascinating. Toni loved it. Just the freedom to do whatever. You know, just play.”

Henson said Fuller reminds him of Kukoc, in that regard.

“It’s just, ‘Coach, let me go. Give me a little idea of where I need to start the possession and let me read (it),’ ” the coach said. “He’s a good cutter. A good penetrator. He wants to pass the ball. He just seems like he has fun playing. Drills may not be his favorite thing. But as soon as we’re actually playing, he just makes instinctual plays. (He has a) good (basketball) IQ and (is) very versatile.”

Perhaps more than anything, motivation may emerge as a key to his overall performance.

After all, it’s a powerful thing when a young man wants to honor someone who sacrificed so much for him. The words Dre Fuller once heard from his mother back in Fayetteville, N.C., will always be remembered during wind sprints at UTSA basketball practices in coming months. Said Fuller: “If I want to stop, I always have a little voice inside my head saying, ‘Keep going.’ And, ‘One more. You can do one more. You’re not tired.’ ”

Coming up

Oct. 24 — Trinity at UTSA, exhibition, 7 p.m.
Oct. 30 — McMurry at UTSA, exhibition, 7 p.m.
Nov. 6 — Western Illinois at UTSA, regular-season opener, 7 p.m.