UTSA finds the back door open as Keaton Wallace tosses a lob to 6-11 freshman Jacob Germany for an easy bucket. Roadrunners lead the Illinois State Redbirds, 88-63, with 3:27 remaining. https://t.co/hyCDEtJ4sq pic.twitter.com/5yySPW0uPg
— Jerry Briggs (@JerryBriggs) December 21, 2019
If you want to start a discussion at UTSA basketball practice, ask Coach Steve Henson about the upside potential of freshman center Jacob Germany.
Earlier this week, I pored over all the statistics, all my mental notes and a few videos of Germany, the high-rising, 6-foot-11 post from Oklahoma.
He’s not a starter yet.
But already, 13 games into his career, he’s become entrenched in the playing rotation, averaging 5.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks.
Germany’s also shooting 58.5 percent from the field.
How is this happening?
In my mental notes, I recall how UTSA has started to exploit his presence by throwing long, lob passes — some from beyond the three-point arc — that have resulted in ringing dunks or layups.
I also recall some moments of indecision, when he seems to struggle with the intensity of Division I basketball.
Such as, a sequence in a recent home game when Germany could have easily grabbed a loose ball, only to see an opposing guard wrestle it out of his grasp.
Finally, I recall a moment in UTSA’s practice Tuesday afternoon when he long-armed a rebound, jumped back awkwardly and then flicked in a 12-footer.
With the freshman from Oklahoma falling away, the ball swished.
It made me wonder. In a year or two, will he be rebounding those misses, passing out to the perimeter and then re-setting his feet to demand a pass back into the post?
Could he be a go-to threat in a few years, a player who would touch the ball on most set plays?
Henson, whose Roadrunners play at Florida Atlantic today at 6 p.m., artfully dodged the question.
But he did say this:
“He’ll become a bigger factor (in the offense), for sure. The stuff he does offensively, he’s so natural. He’s got great touch. He’s shooting I think 61 percent in his last eight games.
“He already does give us (an inside threat). He’s in that dunker’s spot. He makes it harder for people to help on penetration … they can’t help off him onto our shooters because he’s a threat there.
Henson said Germany doesn’t have the strength yet to be a “back-to-the-basket” guy this season. In addition, the coach said he’s not quite ready to be a “constant” shooter on the perimeter.
“But he does have the confidence — which is a big part of it — and the touch to do that,” Henson said. “He’s made a pretty good percentage of 15-foot shots, even in games. He does it in practice every, single day. So, I expect that is something he will do.”
As UTSA forges ahead in conference play, the coach said he wants to get the ball to Germany when he’s on the move to take advantage of his quickness and finesse.
Power moves? It might be a year or two before fans will see any of that.
“It’ll be a big off-season for him,” Henson said.
What else might we see from Germany this fall?
Well, so far, he’s shown he isn’t shy about playing in big moments.
For instance, when then 15th-ranked Utah State was trying to pull away from UTSA in the first half of a Nov. 18 road game, Germany came into the game and briefly turned the momentum back into the Roadrunners’ favor.
“He impacted the game with his shot-blocking on drives,” Henson said. “He lost a couple of battles against his own guy. Again, that’s an experience factor. But he impacted the game by challenging penetration from the guards, blocking some shots and changing some others.
“We talk about that in our coaches’ meetings. We say, ‘Yea, this might not be a great game for him.’ And then he’ll go in there and just make things happen. It’s because his instincts are good. He’s not scared … He’s not afraid of the big stage.”
With 18 C-USA games looming, such a presence could come in handy.
UTSA (6-7) at Florida Atlantic (8-5), 6 p.m. Livestream on ESPN Plus. Radio on The Ticket 760 AM.