UTSA’s Germany set to return against the No. 24 FAU Owls

Jacob Germany. UTSA lost its Conference USA men's basketball opener to North Texas 78-54 on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA center Jacob Germany is expected to play Thursday night at home against the 24th-ranked FAU Owls. Germany is averaging 11.4 points and a team-leading 7.5 rebounds. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

With the struggling UTSA men’s basketball program set to take on a historic challenge, center Jacob Germany is expected to return Thursday night when the Roadrunners host the 24th-ranked Florida Atlantic University Owls in Conference USA play.

The Roadrunners, on a four-game losing streak, will play the explosive, once-beaten Owls on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Convocation Center. Dusty May-coached FAU, from Boca Raton, Fla., moved into the AP Top 25 on Monday.

On Monday night, the Owls won at Western Kentucky for their 16th straight victory. All of which set the stage for a first — FAU will be the first ranked team that UTSA men’s basketball has hosted on campus.

Steve Henson. Rice beat UTSA 88-81 in overtime in Conference USA men's basketball at the Convocation Center on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson says he’s excited to have center Jacob Germany available to play against the FAU Owls. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Steve Henson made the announcement about Germany’s return from a concussion after his team’s Wednesday afternoon practice. The 6-foot-11 senior from Oklahoma has been out since he took a few blows to the head against UTEP on Jan. 11 in El Paso.

He has missed the team’s last two games.

“He looked good (today),” Henson said. “You could tell he was feeling good, just walking around the last few days. He’s looking good, feeling good. Process has gone a little faster than I would have thought.”

Another hopeful sign for UTSA centered on Isaiah Addo-Ankrah and 7-foot center Carlton Linguard, Jr., two other injured players, who also practiced on a limited basis. Neither, however, will be ready against FAU.

Henson didn’t say directly whether Germany would start, but things seem to be trending in that direction.

“He hasn’t been out that long, so the conditioning won’t be a big factor for him,” Henson said. “So, whether we start him or bring him off the bench, it doesn’t really matter. He’ll settle into that rotation and probably get some quality minutes.

“We’re excited to have him back.”

UTSA (7-12, 1-7 C-USA) hasn’t had much luck in conference play and has lost 11 of its last 14. The team is coming off a heart-wrenching 88-81 overtime loss to Rice on Monday night. Regardless, the opportunity to do something special looms against C-USA leading FAU (17-1, 7-0).

Through their 42-year history, the Roadrunners are 1-17 against ranked opponents, with the lone victory coming in December 1994 at 13th-ranked Arizona State, 87-85, in overtime. In their last meeting against a Top 25 foe, the Roadrunners lost 82-50 in November 2019 at 17th-ranked Utah State.

In the only previous occasion when the UTSA men hosted a ranked opponent in San Antonio, the Roadrunners were in their first season and in their first game, taking on Eddie Sutton’s 18th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks on Nov. 30, 1981 at the old HemisFair Arena.

The Razorbacks, with future NBA guards Darrell Walker and Alvin Robertson, won 71-42 in the game played in downtown San Antonio at the former home of the Spurs. Once situated south of what is now the Grand Hyatt Hotel and north of the Tower of the Americas, the arena was razed in 1995 to make way for convention center expansion.

In regard to playing FAU, Germamy is a realist. He knows his team is struggling. But he said at courtside after practice that he’s excited about the possibilities.

“I used to say it more as a freshman, but I look forward to a challenge like that,” Germany said.

For UTSA, the last few months have been hard to handle. Since a 4-1 start, the team has lost 11 of its last 14 and four in a row.

Germany sat out a 72-54 road loss to Charlotte on Saturday. On Monday, he also watched from the bench as his friends played well for most of the night against Rice, only to be outscored 21-5 in the last seven minutes of regulation and 16-9 in overtime — on their home court.

For the first time since he’s been at UTSA, he didn’t play and was forced to deal with all of those emotions.

“It was tough,” Germany said. “It was weird. Honestly, I can’t really even explain it, it was so weird. I haven’t missed a game since eighth grade. I felt, like, out of place almost … I felt like I wanted to help them.

“Man, such a terrible feeling. I hated that. I’m thankful I’ve been able to come back so fast. It’s the first games I’ve missed in my career here. It kind of opened my eyes to be thankful for my good health.”

Germany said he remembers getting hit with two elbows against UTEP in El Paso.

“One, on a rebound, hit me on the top of the nose,” he said. “The second one, there was actually a knot about the size of a golf ball on my head. I was fine after it happened. But once I got to the locker room I was so out of it, I don’t really remember it that much.

“The next day, flying (back to San Antonio), it didn’t really help. I was tired. Kind of just out of it a little bit.”

Germany said he’s worked his way back into physical activity the past few days, leading into the Wednesday practice, in which he went through half-court drills and ran some sprints.

“Today I had limited contact, and (on Thursday), I’ll be OK,” he said.

Coming up

FAU at UTSA, Thursday, 7 p.m.
FIU at UTSA, Saturday, 3 p.m.

Records

FAU (17-1, 7-0)
UTSA (7-12, 1-7)

Notable

Coach Steve Henson said he thinks Isaiah Addo-Ankrah is close to playing again after rehabilitating a wrist fracture. Addo-Ankrah worked out on a limited basis Wednesday, doing some shooting on the side.

He won’t play against FAU on Thursday, but he’s expected to ramp up activity Friday. Henson said he doesn’t have “high expectations” that he could play Saturday against FIU, but said he could be back for a Jan. 26 road game at North Texas.

Addo-Ankrah, one of the team’s best three-point shooters, has been out eight-straight games — all in conference.

Center Carlton Linguard, Jr., who has not played this season, still has two hurdles to overcome before he can play. First, he needs to get healthy. In addition, he needs clearance from the NCAA on an academic issue.

Physically, he’s getting better. Out for much of the fall with a knee injury and then with a concussion, he did some work in half-court situations Wednesday. He also ran sprints and shot the ball on the side. Henson said he could transition into some contact work by Friday.

As for the possibility that he could be cleared to play from an eligibility standpoint, it is apparently in the hands of the NCAA. Henson said he hoped to hear something this week but said he didn’t have anything to report.

UTSA’s Jacob Germany ‘a game-time decision’ for Rice

The status of injured UTSA center Jacob Germany is uncertain leading into tonight’s Conference USA home game against the Rice Owls.

Jacob Germany celebrates as time runs out. UTSA beat Texas State 61-56 in men's basketball on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jacob Germany and the UTSA Roadrunners host the Rice Owls tonight in the first of three home games this week. – Photo by Joe Alexander

A spokesman said Germany is “probably a game-time decision.”

Germany was hurt last Wednesday near the end of the Roadrunners’ game in El Paso. He sat out for the first time this season at Charlotte on Saturday afternoon.

UTSA plays at home three times this week instead of the usual two games, and the homestand starts tonight against the Rice Owls.

After facing high-scoring Rice, UTSA will also play the C-USA leading FAU Owls on Thursday night and the FIU Panthers on Saturday afternoon.

Germany averages 11.4 points and 7.5 rebounds, so his health is significant given the extra game on the schedule and also the team’s struggles — the Roadrunners have lost three in a row and six of their last seven.

Records

Rice 12-5, 3-3
UTSA 7-11, 1-6

Coming up

Rice at UTSA, tonight at 7, at the Convocation Center

Notable

The Roadrunners are 7-4 at home this season. Their last victory was at home on Jan. 5 when they downed the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, 75-72. On Jan. 7, the Roadrunners stumbled in front of the home fans, falling 74-64 to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

DJ Richards. UTSA lost to Dartmouth 78-77 in men's basketball on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

DJ Richards has averaged 10.3 points as a UTSA freshman. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Last week on the road, they lost at UTEP, 69-57, on Wednesday. On Saturday, with Germany sidelined, they fell 72-54 at Charlotte, dropping them into 11th and last place in the C-USA standings.

UTSA freshman D.J. Richards continued his solid first season with the program, scoring a combined 10 and 14 points, respectively, on the trip. With his performance at Charlotte, he ran his string of double-figures scoring games to six in a row.

In games at UTEP and Charlotte, the 6-foot-5 guard from Houston hit nine of 20 shots from the field and four for 11 from three combined. For the season, he’s averaging 10.3 points and 4.3 rebounds. His 38.4 percent accuracy from long range is second on the team to John Buggs III.

Rice downed UTEP 83-82 in Houston on Saturday. Guard Travis Evee hit a left-handed floater at the buzzer for the win. The Owls are 20th in the nation in scoring at 81.7 points per game. With talented long-range shooters, they spread out the defense by averaging 25 three pointers and nine made threes.

Wrist injury is expected to sideline UTSA’s Isaiah Addo-Ankrah for four weeks

Quietly, UTSA forward Isaiah Addo-Ankrah served as an inspiration to his teammates for all the extra time he spent working on his game in the offseason.

Isaiah Addo-Ankrah. A beat Bethune-Cookman 90-69 in men's basketball on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA forward Isaiah Addo-Ankrah played in all 11 games this season and averaged 7.3 points before an X-ray revealed a wrist fracture that would keep him out four weeks. — File photo by Joe Alexander

In early September, for instance, the UTSA women’s basketball team usually worked out in the morning hours, followed by the women’s volleyball squad in the early afternoon, followed later in the day by Addo-Ankrah and his friends in men’s basketball.

Sometimes, a visitor would show up in the morning thinking that Coach Karen Aston’s women’s basketball squad would be on the floor, only to discover that it was a scheduled day off.

Instead, the visitor would walk in to a nearly empty gym to the sound of squeaking shoes, with a couple of Coach Steve Henson’s men’s team players taking advantage of the open court to get up extra shots.

One day, it was Addo-Ankrah, who explained later that he’d committed to complete a couple of challenges from coaches — to make 10,000 3-pointers, outside of scheduled practices — in two different segments of the offseason.

As a consequence, the Houston native was in the gym up to three times a day from June through September. It was disheartening, in that regard, for the Roadrunners to learn recently that a fractured wrist 11 games into the season will sideline Addo-Ankrah for four weeks.

“It’s really disturbing to hear that,” UTSA guard John Buggs III said on the eve of the team’s Conference USA opener against North Texas. “Isaiah’s probably one of the more hard-working players on our team.

“He doesn’t have as many (natural) gifts as other people athletically, but, man, his work ethic … It’s just so heartbreaking for him. We hate that for him. Hopefully he’ll get well as soon as possible.”

The renewal of the hotly-contested, in-state rivalry between the Roadrunners and the Mean Green will take place on Thursday night at UTSA. Fortunately for UTSA, center Jacob Germany is expected to play.

Germany suffered a nasty-looking ankle sprain on Sunday afternoon in the Roadrunners’ 90-69 victory over the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats. UTSA (6-5) had a day off on Monday and then practiced Tuesday and Wednesday in preparation for the defending C-USA regular-season champions.

Led by guards Tylor Perry and Kai Huntsberry, North Texas (9-2) has won four in a row on the season. In addition, the Grant McCasland-coached Mean Green have won six out of eight against the Roadrunners in the series over the past five seasons.

Henson discussed his team’s preparations and his personnel issues after a two-hour drill Wednesday afternoon.

“We didn’t do much, up and down, either day,” Henson said. “As much as we’d love for there to be some pace in the game tomorrow, we don’t anticipate there will be a lot of pace, so we did a lot of stuff on the halfcourt, offensively and defensively. Jacob was able to do most of it both days.

“He looked progressively better today than he did yesterday, so I don’t think he’ll be 100 percent, but he’ll play.”

Addo-Ankrah apparently had been playing with some discomfort in his left (non-shooting) wrist for some time. Because of lingering pain, a new X-ray was ordered. It revealed a fracture.

“He’s going to miss about four weeks,” the coach said.

The circumstances on how Addo-Ankrah suffered the injury weren’t immediately clear.

“He injured it a long time ago,” Henson said. “Initially, it didn’t show a fracture. He started feeling a little better. But he wasn’t quite getting over the hump there, so they re-X-rayed and they found a small fracture.”

For the season, Addo-Ankrah had played in all 11 games with eight starts. A three-point shooting specialist, he was fifth on the team, averaging 7.3 points.

Though Addo-Ankrah made a season-high four triples on Sunday afternoon against Bethune-Cookman, his shooting percentages were down from last season, as he was hitting .366 from the field and .313 from three.

Henson didn’t specify how he planned to fill the 23.5-minutes per game void. But, likely, players such as Aleu Aleu, Lamin Sabally and Lachlan Bofinger will need to step up.

“I think (Isaiah’s) presence will be missed as far as spacing the floor and creating driving lanes, that type of thing,” Buggs said. “But we have other guys that can get in the lane or attack the paint, affect the game with offensive rebounding, that type of stuff.

“I think we have guys that are ready to step up and take on a bigger role.”

Buggs said it’s a good sign for the team to see the efforts that Germany made to practice on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon.

“It just sends a message that we’re all about being tough and trying to grind it out, and do whatever we need to do to win,” Buggs said. “I feel like, with Jacob playing, that puts us in the best position to win.”

Coming up

North Texas at UTSA, Thursday, 7 p.m.

Records

UTSA 6-5
North Texas 9-2

Notable

North Texas’ top players are guards Perry and Huntsberry, with 6-10 power forward Abou Ousmane playing inside. Buggs said he was Ousmane’s teammate years ago in Connecticut at the Putnam Science Academy.

“He was one of my best friends in prep school,” Buggs said.

Buggs said he talked to Ousmane recently, likely in the days before the Bethune-Cookman game. “He was calling, talking noise,” Buggs said. “He was throwing (verbal) shots. I said, ‘Hey, we ready.’ It’s going to be a good test for us tomorrow. Definitely.”

The Mean Green have won at least 20 games in four of the past five seasons under McCasland. They reached the NCAA tournament in 2021 and advanced to the round of 32.

Last year, they finished 25-7 and 16-2 in the C-USA. North Texas played in the NIT, defeated Texas State and then lost to Virginia in the second round.

An ‘old head’ and his new backcourt mate are set to lead the UTSA Roadrunners

UTSA's John Buggs III, a sophomore guard from Homer, Louisiana, at men's basketball practice at the Convocation Center on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s John Buggs III, a redshirt sophomore from Homer, La., is expected to start at shooting guard Wednesday night in an exhibition game against the Schreiner Mountaineers. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA guard John Buggs III would like to say that he brings the same athleticism and burst to the basketball court that he did when he was a high school senior in Homer, La. But that would not actually be the case.

After five surgeries, including major reconstructions on each knee, Buggs relies more on guile and finesse than all-out assaults on the rim.

“The high school me, you’d see me dunking on people, that kind of stuff,” he said. “I kind of became an old head (since then). A lot of jump shots (now). A lot of floaters. Not trying to get to the rim. Using a lot of pace. Not trying to blow by people. Kind of more of a mind game now.”

Whatever the case, the “old head,” now listed as a UTSA redshirt sophomore, has proven himself as more than capable of playing for the Roadrunners.

From the start of the summer, through the early fall semester workouts and into the grind of more intense preseason practices, Buggs and backcourt mate Japhet Medor have supplied a steadying presence to a program looking to bounce back from a tough year.

Accordingly, both are expected to start Wednesday night in an exhibition home game against the Schreiner University Mountaineers.

Counting a closed scrimmage in Belton against UT Arlington a few weeks ago, it is UTSA’s second contest of the preseason against another team and its first in front of the fans. The Roadrunners will host Trinity University in the season opener on Monday night.

Medor, a senior, will play the point against Schreiner. The 6-foot-2 Buggs will be stationed at the two guard, with Erik Czumbel, on the wing, at the three. Isaiah Addo-Ankrah will open at the four, while Germany patrols the paint at center.

Earlier this week, the Roadrunners gathered to meet, to discuss individual roles and various topics. Head Coach Steve Henson made one observation that stuck with Germany, the team’s leading scorer from a year ago.

Henson told the players that the newcomers “really helped the (returning players) mature, if that makes sense,” said Germany, who added that he agrees with the sentiment.

“You look at Buggs and Japhet and the way they approach the game, and even Isaiah, they helped Lamin (Sabally) and Josh (Farmer) — even me — mature to the point where we’re just locked in. All in. Completely bought in to this team,” the 6-foot-11 Oklahoman said.

After experiencing the negative vibes of last year’s 10-22 disappointment, Germany said Buggs and Medor brought in an intangible — a positive spirit. He said the feeling spread to the rest of the players on the roster, and even to the coaching staff. “It just clicked really well,” he said.

“Their attitude and personality just made things so much better,” Germany said. “You look forward to seeing them every day.”

Henson said he agrees that the two guards, both of them four years removed from high school, have made a difference in the team’s preparation.

“I don’t think there’s any question,” the coach said. “Just two terrific teammates. Just their nature. I don’t think they did anything consciously to make that happen. It’s just who they are. Both of them are a little older. They’ve been around awhile.”

Medor, who grew up in South Florida, attended prep school for a year and then spent three seasons at the junior college level.

He’s a point guard with speed who loves to distribute. Medor, at 6 feet, can spot up and shoot from the outside, and he does dunk with surprising authority. But his primary function in Henson’s system will be to create for others.

Buggs, from Homer, in northwest Louisiana, also experienced a year of prep school. He then spent one season at the University of Massachusetts in 2019-20, followed by two more at Hill College in central Texas, about 35 miles north of Waco.

At UMass, Buggs played in four games before he blew out his right knee. He never played again for the NCAA Division I Minutemen. One year later, at Hill, in Hillsboro, Buggs injured his left knee in the season opener.

It cost him all of the 2020-21 season.

Once a dynamic 6-foot-2 guard who could electrify with his athleticism, he was relegated to another year of rehabilitation. Last season, Buggs bounced back by averaging 15.2 points per game. Notably, he hit 89 of 188 from 3-point range, good for 47.3 percent.

Buggs said Tuesday afternoon that it feels good to be back in Division I.

“It’s really just a long time coming,” he said. “I mean, it’s all the same. I feel like I been doing the same thing since before Division I. When I was in prep school (in Connecticut, in 2018-19), I pretty much played along with a Division I team. So it’s pretty much the same thing. It all translates.

“I’m just excited to be back on this level. It’s more about proving to myself that I could do it. I feel like I was (written) off with the back-to-back injuries. (With) Covid. All of that. So, it’s just kind of surreal. It’s a moment I’ve been waiting for, for a very long time.

“I won’t waste the opportunity. I appreciate it so much. Because, I know a million people would gladly be in my shoes.”

From another angle, this preseason marks the first in years for Buggs in which he feels as if he has been healthy enough to prepare himself properly.

“I had five surgeries in all, on my knees,” he said. “I had one before my first major one. Then after that I just had a lot of them, back-to-back. So it was kind of like two years of straight rehabbing. Watching basketball. Not being able to be on the court.

“So I’m really excited because, this year was like my first offseason to actually train and get up shots and put in work. Because the last two summers, going into the season, like at Hill, I got cleared in October. And the season started in November.

“I really didn’t have (any) summers to get any workouts in. So I’m really excited to see how far I’ve come along.”

Buggs has enjoyed some good moments in the last 30-something days of practices. When he finds a rhythm, his teammates sense that everything he shoots is going to find the bottom of the net. For instance, as Buggs unleashes a jumper from long distance, players often call it good as the ball leaves his hand.

In many instances, they have been correct.

Also, the chemistry between Buggs and Medor has been noticeable. Medor is perhaps the first pass-first point guard that UTSA has had since Giovanni De Nicolao. With his quickness, he can get into the paint, and with his awareness, he can get the ball to shooters — with touch.

Opposing teams will need to pay attention first to Medor, to stop his penetration, but also to Buggs, who apparently has been given something akin to a green light. Likely, he and Addo-Ankrah are the most dangerous three-point threats on the team.

Buggs said it’s been an easy transition for him to make, coming in from his two years at Hillsboro.

“Maybe my (UTSA) coaches want me to shoot a little more,” he said. “But, it’s been easy because the team, they’re all on board with what the coaches are saying. If the coaches say, ‘Buggs, you should have shot that shot,’ then, you have 9 or 10 guys saying, ‘Shoot the ball.’

“There’s no second-guessing. There’s no questioning, so I really appreciate my teammates for that. Especially playing with Japhet Medor. He makes it so easy. You get so many easy shots. It’s been really easy. Really simple.”

Tonight’s exhibition

NCAA Division III Schreiner College at Division I UTSA, 7 p.m. The outcome doesn’t count on either team’s record.

Season opener

UTSA hosts Division III Trinity University on Monday at 7 p.m. The Roadrunners will play next on Nov. 11 at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The postseason for the Islanders last year included a Southland Conference title and a trip to the NCAA tournament.

Cleared to practice, Germany has returned for the Roadrunners

UTSA center Jacob Germany is practicing again and rounding back into form after a week-long pause to determine the cause of what was described as “discomfort” in his chest.

The 6-foot-11 Germany sat out all three of the team’s workouts last week. He missed another one on Monday as the Roadrunners ramped up intensity and officially started their fall preseason camp.

By Tuesday, Germany had been cleared, allowing him to participate both Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. He joined his friends on the court both days for workouts that lasted close to three hours each.

“Everything was fine, so he jumped right back into it,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “On Tuesday you could tell he had missed it just from a conditioning standpoint. It didn’t look like he missed anything other than that. He was fine today.”

Henson said there had been no concerns expressed by physicians after examining test results other than “maybe something lingering in the lungs” from a previous infection.

“Which is why maybe he just felt something and didn’t feel right,” Henson said. “But all the tests came back looking good.”

Henson said the episode was stressful for Germany, the Roadrunners’ top returning player.

“I was pretty confident we’d get some good news, and we did, and the other positive thing is, he didn’t miss much time,” the coach said. “You know, last year, he had some tests done and it just dragged on and (we) struggled to get that clearance.”

This time, Germany has returned in fairly short order, and Henson said he appreciates the medical staff “taking care of him” and getting him back on the court.

In the meantime, the team has been making progress. As one of UTSA’s assistants said earlier this week, “we’re just playing better basketball.” Henson said players were “really fired up on Monday,” with “terrific” effort.

“Same thing on Tuesday,” he said. “I was pleased both days we were able to sustain our level (of intensity). The fatigue didn’t become real obvious to us, which it can. I was very pleased with our conditioning level. I knew they’d be excited.”

While Germany watched from the side, 6-9 sophomore Josh Farmer and 6-9 freshman Massal Diouf stepped into the breach and took advantage of the additional time on the floor.

Henson said Farmer looked particularly good on Monday. As for Diouf, a true freshman from The Netherlands, “every chance we have to get quality reps for him is good.”

On Tuesday, the coach said players on defense generally played better than the offense, but on Thursday the players flipped the script with a few new offensive wrinkles added.

“The team defending (the scheme) didn’t know exactly what was coming … and it looked a little better,” he said. “We got some clean looks.”

Roadrunners display ‘great energy’ in opening workout

Josh Farmer at the first official UTSA men's basketball practice of the season on Sept. 26, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Sophomore Josh Farmer continued to practice well as the UTSA Roadrunners opened full-session, preseason drills Monday afternoon. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Hoping to rebound from last year’s season of discontent, the UTSA men’s basketball team engaged in an intense 2 and 1/2-hour practice Monday afternoon on the first day of full-session, preseason drills.

“I was not surprised that they came with great energy and excitement,” Coach Steve Henson said. “I was hoping (they) would. We’ve been together a lot. All but one (of the scholarship) players were here this summer.

Jacob Germany at the first official UTSA men's basketball practice of the season on Sept. 26, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Center Jacob Germany, the team’s leading scorer last year, sat out the practice as he awaits medical clearance. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“(We) had a great summer,” Henson said. “Had four great weeks this fall. You always want your first official practice to have a different excitement level to it, and I think it did. They came in and played with great energy.”

Sitting out the practice were 6-11 senior Jacob Germany and 7-foot transfer Carlton Linguard, Jr. Linguard’s absence was expected. He’s been working back slowly from a left knee injury since he arrived on campus. With Germany, a medical issue surfaced last week.

After experiencing what was described as “discomfort” in his chest, the UTSA center sat out at least two practices last week. UTSA still hasn’t heard from a doctor on the results of tests conducted last Friday.

“He got the tests done late last week,” Henson said. “We’re still waiting. As soon as the doc gets a look at the results, we’ll have an answer. We were hoping to have that this morning. Just didn’t have it.

“Now we’re hoping for tomorrow. If we can get that, we’re hoping he can practice tomorrow, if everything goes well.”

Henson said he is optimistic about a positive outcome. Germany, who averaged 15.2 points and 7.3 rebounds last year, said he’s taking it “day by day” and hoping for a return in the next few days.

Steve Henson at the first official UTSA men's basketball practice of the season on Sept. 26, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Steve Henson said he liked the energy on the team’s first ‘official’ practice of the preseason. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“I’m feeling good and healthy so I’m hoping sometime this week,” Germany said. “But you never know. It’s in God’s hands.”

Asked his level of concern, Germany was philosophical.

“Oh, it’s all part of the plan,” he said. “So I’m not concerned at all, whatever happens to me. We’ve got a great training staff here. The coaches are always in contact with them. We’re close to UT Health. All these factors are really good, so I’m not too concerned.”

In keeping with a trend from the last few weeks, a trio of players including Josh Farmer, Lamin Sabally and Aleu Aleu enjoyed strong practices.

Combined with continued steady play from backcourt newcomers Japhet Medor and John Buggs III, the Roadrunners looked as if they might have some potential — even though it’s extremely early — to bounce back from last year’s 10-22 record.

A lot, naturally, will depend on Germany’s status.

Also, Linguard is a key. When the Kansas State transfer from Stevens High School in San Antonio gets healthy, he can begin practice. To play, he’ll need clearance on an academics-related matter from the NCAA.

If all that happens, the Roadrunners could have the makings of a front line that could cause problems for a lot of the teams on their schedule.

A front line contingent that potentially could go 7-feet (Linguard), 6-11 (Germany), 6-9 (Farmer), 6-9 (Massal Diouf), 6-8 (Aleu) and 6-7 (Sabally) is intriguing.

“We could have a huge front line out there that could really help us,” Germany said.

Since June, the returning players and newcomers have worked out on most days for an hour or so. It was all tied to an NCAA rule restricting players’ time spent with coaches and staff to eight hours a week.

But from now until the start of the season in November, the Roadrunners will be allowed to work out for 20 hours a week, which will in turn translate to some long afternoons in the gym.

The increased workload in the first “official” practice of the new season didn’t seem to faze the players.

Players were hustling non-stop in drills that stretched from 3:00 – 5:30 p.m.

Henson said Farmer, a sophomore from Houston, enjoyed a big day on Monday. He was active on the boards, switched to guard players driving to the rim and generated some offense, as well.

Near the end of the session, he deflected a pass, gathered it in, and raced for a layup. Soon thereafter, Farmer hit a three pointer.

“Today, Josh really stood out,” Henson said. “He got a ton of reps because we were short-handed. So, Josh was terrific. I was most proud of him early in the practice. He missed a couple of threes, but then he went down and redeemed himself on the defensive end.

“He was flying around, blocking shots.”

Monday’s video highlights

Josh Farmer

Aleu Aleu

Lamin Sabally

UTSA’s Germany remains questionable for next week pending test results

UTSA center Jacob Germany remains questionable for next week’s first full-session, preseason practices pending results of medical tests, Roadrunners coach Steve Henson said Friday.

“Jacob’s just having some precautionary tests,” Henson said. “He got checked out this morning. Hoping to get the doctor to look at the results as soon as possible. Obviously we’d like to have that happen today. But I can’t guarantee it will.

“If not, hopefully (by) Monday morning. We’re as anxious to find out his status as anybody else because we start practice Monday (afternoon). So, that’s really all I have.”

Germany, a 6-foot-11 senior, sat out UTSA practices on Tuesday and Thursday. Henson characterized the setback as an illness, but he didn’t elaborate, saying only that it’s not believed to be Covid-related.

“He’s doing OK,” the coach said. “We just got to run some tests.”

Germany’s health question comes just as the Roadrunners prepare to ramp up preparation for the coming season.

Since the start of the fall semester in late August, players were on an eight-hour per week regimen, mixing weights and court time. Next week, preparation time increases to 20 hours per week.

In the past week, UTSA practiced Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. They were given the day off on Friday.

Henson said he likes the vibe around this year’s team.

“To this point, I’ve loved their focus, their energy, their eagerness to play the right way,” he said. “It’s just been very refereshing. This group likes being around each other. They like spending time together. They like spending time together in the gym.

“It’s a fun group to be around every day.”

As for the overall health of his team, a lot depends on the status of Germany, who led the Roadrunners last year with 15.2 points and 48.8 percent shooting. Also, 7.3 rebounds per game.

Seven-foot center Carlton Linguard, Jr., a transfer from Kansas State, won’t participate in workouts for the time being. The former Stevens High School standout is rehabilitating a knee injury.

Forward Aleu Aleu, knocked out with a knee injury last January during his first season at UTSA, has been one of the bright spots for Henson lately.

Aleu didn’t participate in contact work in the summer, but the multi-skilled 6-foot-8 forward now seems to be rounding into form.

“Aleu had good practices Tuesday and Thursday,” Henson said. “Looked like he’s feeling better. He ran today, so it was good to see him get some conditioning on turf.”

UTSA will have six weeks to prepare for the season. The Roadrunners will play an exhibition on Nov. 2 at home against Schreiner College. They’ll open the regular season at home on Nov. 7 against Trinity.

Germany’s status uncertain with full practices looming next week

Though UTSA center Jacob Germany was on the court and dressed out in his uniform for team pictures on Thursday afternoon, he was not on the floor for a workout later in the day.

He was on the sideline, seated at the scorer’s table, as the Roadrunners went through one of their final abbreviated practices before expanded-session, preseason drills commence on Monday.

Jacob Germany. UTSA men's basketball beat Rice 82-71 on Saturday, March 5, 2022, at the Convocation Center in the Roadrunners' final game of the regular season. The Conference USA Tournament starts Tuesday. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jacob Germany averaged 15.3 points per game and shot 48.8 percent from the field last season. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson declined to elaborate on the nature of Germany’s setback or how long he might be out. The coach said he’d know more in coming days.

“He’s seeing the doctor tomorrow,” the coach said. “I don’t know if I’m at liberty to talk about what it is … I don’t know if he was out Monday? But he was definitely out Tuesday and today. He’s going to see the doctor tomorrow morning.

“Hopefully we’ll know by tomorrow afternoon whether he’s good to go on Monday.”

Germany, a senior, is the pillar around which the Roadrunners hope to rebuild in the wake of a 10-22 record a year ago.

Last season, the 6-foot-11 post from Oklahoma led the Roadrunners with 15.3 points on 48.8 percent shooting from the field. He also averaged 7.2 rebounds.

Despite the situation with Germany, Henson said he feels like the team has made good progress through the summer and the early fall workouts.

“Really good,” he said. “The fall felt a lot like the summer did. We want a new-ness. We want a freshness on Monday. They know that it gets a lot more real. It’s longer and more intense on Monday.

“But to this point, I’ve loved their focus, their energy, their eagerness to play the right way. It’s just been very refereshing. This group likes being around each other. They like spending time together. They like spending time together in the gym.

“It’s a fun group to be around every day.”

Full-session workouts

Since the first of June, the Roadrunners have been limited to eight hours a week, which has broken down to about four in the weight room and four on the floor. It’s also been that way for the past four weeks to start the fall semester.

On Monday, the allowable workload will increase to 20 hours a week, inclusive of weights, meetings, film sessions and practices. As a result, the Roadrunners will enter a phase next week in which they will hold 30 workouts over a 42-day stretch.

Game preparation

UTSA will host an exhibition game against Schreiner on Nov. 2. The regular-season opener follows on Nov. 7 at home against Trinity. UTSA will play a 31-game schedule, including 18 at home.

Sharing the ball

UTSA’s workout on Thursday afternoon featured some crisp passing. The ball moved well from the top, to the baseline, to the post and back out to the perimeter.

UTSA men's basketball player Japhet Medor at the Convocation Center on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022. - photo by Joe Alexander

Florida native Japhet Medor is expected to play a major role for the Roadrunners at point guard. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Newcomer Japhet Medor initiated plays from the point guard position with precision. Christian Tucker also enjoyed a good day at the point. Medor, Tucker and veteran Erik Czumbel are expected to play the point this season.

Ball movement and shot selection will be critical to the team’s success.

“We’ve got several guys that can make plays,” Henson said. “But we’ve got willing passers. That’s a big part of it. With certain lineups, our spacing is pretty good. Some of those lineups, we’ve got multiple shooters out there.”

“Yeah, the ball movement has been good. About the only time it’s not is when the defense is keeping us from doing it. They want to move the ball. Japhet can set the table with that. He’s got the quickness to get in there and attract people.

“He’s capable of scoring a lot, but he’s a pass-first guy. (When) the point guard comes in with that mindset, it helps everybody.”

Newcomer John Buggs III is almost like a playmaker himself but, as a long-distance shooting specialist, he will play on the wing.

“We picture Japhet, Christian and Erik initiating the offense,” Henson said. “Now, you’re right. I love when we enter it to Buggs and let him make some plays. (Freshman) DJ (Richards) is a little more of a playmaker, too.”

“We need Buggs and we need DJ as three-point shooters, but they both have a good feel for (distributing). Buggs, coming off his knee injury (from last year, at Hill College), his explosiveness and quickness just continues to get better.

“He was that type of player in high school, where he could do some things off the dribble. His body is looking good. He’s getting quicker and more explosive.”

Camp standouts

Asked to point out players who have elevated their performances in the past week, Henson mentioned sophomores Lamin Sabally and Josh Farmer and senior Aleu Aleu.

“Lamin had three great practices in a row,” Henson said. “He was really good on (the final workout last week) and Monday and Tuesday. Josh has had his best stretch the last couple of weeks. And Aleu. Aleu’s been out with injury and some sickess, as well. But Tuesday and today, he was really good.

Lamin Sabally. UTSA men's basketball beat Rice 82-71 on Saturday, March 5, 2022, at the Convocation Center in the Roadrunners' final game of the regular season. The Conference USA Tournament starts Tuesday. - photo by Joe Alexander

Sophomore forward Lamin Sabally is pushing for an expanded role after averaging 12.3 minutes in 21 games last season. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“He hopped in and defensively was really getting after it. He was attacking. I’d say those three in recent days have been very good.”

Germany said last week that he thinks Farmer, a 6-9 sophomore, might have made the most improvement of any returning player from last year. Henson wouldn’t disagree.

“He had a very good summer,” Henson said. “He’s figuring out, he’s been figuring out what to eliminate. That’s been a big thing for him. You know, eliminate this play. Eliminate that pass. Eliminate that shot. That in itself has helped him, and he’s gotten better at his strengths.

“He’s handling the ball better. He’s cleaner with the ball. Making simpler plays. You saw today, his athleticism and quickness … defensively, he’s flying around. Yeah, that’s fair to say, as far as the returners, he’s done a heck of a job.”

Injury updates

Seven-foot center Carlton Linguard, Jr., a junior transfer from Kansas State, is rehabilitating a knee injury and has some work to do to get himself fit enough to practice. Henson hasn’t put a timeline on when he can join the team on the practice floor.

Even then, Linguard also has some hurdles to clear on academics before he can play in a game, and the earliest he could play likely would be in the second semester. Linguard is attending practices, though the former Stevens High School standout has been limited to light shooting on his own and conditioning.

Aleu suffered a right knee injury last January and, consequently, was brought along slowly in the summer session workouts. By the end of August, he was cleared for contact as the team prepared to enter the fall semester.

Also about that time, freshman guard DJ Richards had his tonsils removed, but he is OK now. Both Aleu and Richards seem to be full strength now.

Spurs executive on campus

Henson met Thursday with longtime Spurs front office executive Joe Clark, who is the local NBA franchise’s vice president of youth sports and community engagement. Clark has been with the Spurs since 1985, according to the team’s website.

Asked if he’s collaborating with Clark on a youth sports project, Henson said, “We talked about a whole bunch of topics. How we can partner together a little bit. I think there’s some potential to do some things that would help both of us a lot. So, we’re excited about that.”

UTSA players have cooked up Sunday dinner, and also team chemistry, in the early going

By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay

Scenes of bodies banging in the paint, players muscling for position on the perimeter and hard-fought possessions that ended with the ball caroming off the rim probably outnumbered the jump shots that swished through the nets on Tuesday afternoon at UTSA.

In the fourth week of time-limited, early-fall semester workouts, Steve Henson’s Roadrunners clearly remain something of a work in progress.

Jacob Germany, UTSA beat Denver 78-64 in men's basketball on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jacob Germany emerged last season as one of the best offensive centers in Conference USA. – photo by Joe Alexander

One thing is certain, though. In the time that players on Henson’s seventh team at UTSA have been together since June, they have bonded well together. This semester, they’re practicing on Monday and Tuesday afternoons, congregating in study hall on Wednesdays, and then going back into workouts on Thursdays and Fridays.

On Saturday? They’re thinking like a lot of other UTSA students at this time of the year. “We’ll probably drive up to Austin (for the game against Texas) and tailgate a little bit,” said senior center Jacob Germany, who may also have something planned for Sunday, as well.

In weeks past, players have met at his apartment to talk over spiritual matters, not to mention chowing down on some of the 6-foot-11 Oklahoman’s finest culinary offerings. “We’ll have steak sandwiches, or spaghetti,” said Germany, who is the son of a chef and knows his way around the kitchen.

Last winter and spring, there were many days and nights when Germany didn’t look like he was having a whole lot of fun, and most of it likely stemmed from losing. Plagued with injuries, academic casualties and Covid-19 disruptions, the Roadrunners lost 22 games.

Germany enjoyed a fine season individually, averaging 15.2 points and 7.3 rebounds. Though he made only honorable mention all conference, it was easy to see that his offensive game was one of the most advanced — if not the most advanced — of anyone playing his position in the C-USA.

But not even on nights when he’d go for 20-point, double-doubles did he seem as if he was enjoying himself all that much. In contrast, his easy-going demeanor on Tuesday afternoon was telling. He smiled easily. He just seemed at peace as he surveyed the scene at the Convocation Center.

Isaiah Addo-Ankrah, a walk-on who won a scholarship over the summer, took shot after shot on one end of the floor. By himself, he kept firing away. On the other end, guard John Buggs III, a newcomer, was also doing a solo routine, pumping up jumpers after everyone else had repaired to the dressing room.

“Look at those guys, out here 45 minutes after, still working,” Germany said.

This time last year, UTSA’s team was just hard to analyze. The key players were Jordan Ivy-Curry, Dhieu Deing, Cedrick Alley and Germany. It wasn’t as good as the 2017- to 2021-era Roadrunners team that featured guards Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace.

But it looked to me as if it could be a unit that would at least win half its games. To me, it looked good enough on paper to come out of the regular season, perhaps in the middle of the pack, with a chance to get hot at the conference tournament. As everyone knows, though, the 2021-22 Roadrunners never got close to that level.

And from last year’s nucleus, only Germany remains. In some respects, that’s sort of a frightening prospect. If you lose Ivy-Curry, Deing and Alley, you lose scoring, rebounding and athleticism, for sure. But I’m not so sure that this new team, perhaps with less overall athleticism, doesn’t have the capability to be more successful.

Maybe much more so.

Why? For one thing, it’s got a pass-first point guard in Japhet Meador and a physical two-guard in Buggs. Neither is comparable to Ivy-Curry or Deing in athletic ability. But in skill level and savvy? From early indications, both have displayed solid individual talents that could, in turn, make it easier for talent around them to flourish.

On Tuesday afternoon, at least, two returning players that struggled for much of last year looked much more settled and improved. Senior guard Erik Czumbel had a really good practice. Six-foot-seven sophomore forward Lamin Sabally also shot the ball with authority.

In one sequence, he took a shorter defender down to the low post and scored over the top. In another, he pulled up and swished a couple from the perimeter. Forward Aleu Aleu, beset with injuries since he arrived last year, didn’t look great but I’ve always thought he could be major factor if he can get healthy and into top shape.

Germany, for his part, said he thinks 6-foot-9 sophomore Josh Farmer has made the most progress of any of the returning players.

The key to it all may be Meador, a Florida native. It’s arguable that UTSA hasn’t had a player with distribution skills like him since Giovanni De Nicolao, who turned pro in 2018. “Japhet is crazy good,” Germany said. “When he comes off screens, he sees everything. His vision is really good.”

Seeing the floor is one thing. Seeing into the future in college basketball is another. It’s not easy, particularly at the mid-major level, because there are so many variable. But at least in mid-September, the leading returning scorer on the Roadrunners has a good feeling that bonding and team-building over the past few months could make a difference next March.

“We’re a lot closer this year,” Germany said. “It’s kind of refreshing.”

All together now — UTSA hopes to build on intangibles and move past troubled times

UTSA men's basketball player Massal Diouf at the Convocation Center on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA freshman Massal Diouf, from The Netherlands, played well Wednesday afternoon in a series of informal pickup games at the Convocation Center. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

Acknowledging a “bad taste” left over from a disappointing 10-win season, seventh-year UTSA basketball coach Steve Henson has expressed guarded optimism about his latest work-in-progress, a squad buoyed by senior center Jacob Germany, an infusion of backcourt talent and a feeling that the group is pulling together as one.

Steve Henson. UAB beat UTSA 68-56 on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in Conference USA men's basketball at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Seventh-year UTSA basketball coach Steve Henson says he likes the feel around his program, with everyone pulling together. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Henson didn’t mention the word redemption. But he said he hasn’t been as hungry or as excited to win since he took the UTSA job in 2016. “You have to turn the page, just move on (and) get that bad taste out of your mouth,” the coach said in an interview at his office on Tuesday.

Derailed by adversity, including injuries, Covid-19 disruptions, a senior starter lost to academics and issues related to key scorers who couldn’t stay on the same page with the coaches, Henson’s sixth team at UTSA finished 10-22 overall and 3-15 in Conference USA.

It was a humbling experience for the coach, who had guided the Roadrunners to winning seasons in three of the previous four years, including a 20-win season in 2017-18.

“Going back and watching some of those games (from last year, on tape), it doesn’t get any better three, four, five months later,” he said. “It was frustrating to see us play that way. So, there’s that motivating factor.”

The other primary motivation is a new collection of players that Henson really likes.

“Eight or nine weeks (in the summer) with these guys, with one week off in the middle, they’re just so enjoyable to be around,” the coach said. “They come to the office. They enjoy each other. They have a good time.

“They work. They invest. They put the time in. The energy level is terrific with this group.”

The newcomers

The Roadrunners reeled in five new players last spring, and two of them could take on starters’ roles and significant playing time when the season tips off in November.

Junior guards Japhet Medor and John Buggs III have shown promise. Medor, a 5-foot-11 Floridian with quickness and an ability to create in the paint, will compete at point guard. Buggs is a Louisiana native who can do a little of everything as a shooting guard.

UTSA men's basketball player Japhet Medor at the Convocation Center on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA newcomer Japhet Medor, a junior transfer, is expected to contend for a starter’s role at point guard. He’s known as an effective distributor, but he also displayed in informal scrimmages on Wednesday a smooth stroke on his jump shot. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“Our juco guards are extremely mature,” Henson said. “They just absolutely understand how to be great teammates and leaders … We’re counting on those two to have a big impact on us in terms of minutes and roles but also in intangible things, as well.”

Another guard, 6-5 freshman DJ Richards, is from Cypress Creek High School in the Houston area. He prepped at Montverde Academy in Florida last season.

Hoping to earn playing time in the post is freshman Massal Diouf (6-9, 235) from Gouda, The Netherlands. He’s played with U-16 and U-18 Dutch national teams and attended Western Canada Prep Academy.

Seven-foot Carlton Linguard Jr., who played at Stevens High School in San Antonio, isn’t academically eligible yet. Linguard (7-0, 220) isn’t expected to play for at least the first semester. At the outset of his college career, he had one solid season at Temple Junior College and spent past two in a lesser role at Kansas State in the Big 12.

Big man returns

Germany averaged 15.2 points and 7.3 rebounds last year as a junior. Even though the Roadrunners struggled, the 6-foot-11 Oklahoman emerged as one of the best offensive post players in the C-USA. Germany displayed an expanded array of skills, throwing hook shots from 10 and 12 feet while improving his scoring average by five points from his sophomore year.

Earning a scholarship

Coming off a surprisingly strong second season in the program, three-point shooting specialist Isaiah Addo-Ankrah was awarded a scholarship this summer. The 6-foot-6 Houston native broke out in January of last season by hitting three 3-pointers off the bench at UTEP and five at Rice. He is classified as a sophomore.

Getting healthy

Multi-skilled Aleu Aleu has been cleared for contact work when the team begins its initial phase of fall-semester practice on Monday, Henson said. Limited by leg injuries and missing time due to Covid-19, the 6-foot-8 wing played only 10 games for the Roadrunners last season.

Speculation

Players capable of handling point guard duties this year might include the likes of Japhet, senior Erik Czumbel and sophomore Christian Tucker. At the two-guard, look for Buggs, Czumbel and Richards. Wing forwards would include Addo-Ankrah, Aleu, Lamin Sabally and Azavier Johnson. A power forward group might be comprised of Lachlan Bofinger, Josh Farmer, Aleu and Addo-Ankrah. At center? Germany, Farmer, Diouf and Linguard.

The schedule

UTSA will host the Schreiner Mountaineers on Nov. 2 in an exhibition, according to the schedule announced on Tuesday.

UTSA men's basketball player John Buggs III at the Convocation Center on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA newcomer John Buggs III has impressed coaches with his skills and leadership. The Louisiana native averaged 15.2 points and shot 47.3 percent from three last year at Hill College. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The regular season will commence on Nov. 7 at home against Trinity. On Nov. 11, the Roadrunners will play on the road against the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders, who in the postseason last spring swept to the Southland Conference title en route to the NCAA tournament.

UTSA returns home to play the St. Mary’s Rattlers on Nov. 14. A homestand continues with a visit from Sun Belt regular-season champion Texas State on Nov. 17, and from Prairie View A&M on Nov. 22.

In the 210 San Antonio Shootout, UTSA hosts Grambling State on Nov. 25, Dartmouth on Nov. 27 and Incarnate Word on Nov. 28.

Hitting the road, the Roadrunners play at the University of New Mexico on Dec. 10 and at Utah on Dec. 13. The Utah game will be the only one in the regular season against a power conference program. In a final tune up before conference, UTSA hosts Bethune Cookman on Dec. 18. C-USA play starts early, on Dec. 22, with a visit from the North Texas Mean Green.