C-USA honors go to UTSA’s Jackson, Wallace, Ivy-Curry

Jordan Ivy-Curry. UTSA beat Southwestern Adventist from Keene, Texas, 123-43 in a non-conference game on Thursday, March 4, 2021, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jordan Ivy-Curry finished the regular season fourth on the team in scoring at 7.1 points per game. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Haunted by poor shooting through his first eight games in college basketball, UTSA freshman Jordan Ivy-Curry eventually re-discovered his touch.

As a result, Ivy-Curry started to flourish as an all-around player in his first year with the Roadrunners, and on Monday, he joined seniors Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace in winning honors announced by Conference USA.

For the third year in a row, Jackson was named first-team all-conference. Also for the third straight year, Wallace was named to the second team. This time, they were joined by Ivy-Curry, who was named to the C-USA all-freshman team.

The Roadrunners, one of the hottest teams in the conference, were scheduled to practice in San Antonio for the last time Monday afternoon before boarding a bus bound for Frisco. They’ll work out again Tuesday in Frisco as the tournament opens at The Star with preliminary round games.

On Wednesday afternoon, they Roadrunners will play the Charlotte 49ers in a second-round game.

‘Juice’ makes his mark

In the first third of a 24-game season, Ivy-Curry had yet to live up to his reputation as a high-octane scorer. As a high school senior, he averaged more than 30 points a game at La Marque. But with the Roadrunners, his shot would not fall — at least, not initially.

In his first eight games, Ivy-Curry was playing off the bench and shooting a meager 32.6 from the field. From three-point range, he was way off the mark — 0-for-13. All that started to change on Jan. 2. ‘Juice’ hit a three out of the corner and finished 5 of 14 overall in a road loss at Rice. Coaches stayed with him, and he kept getting better.

For the season, he played in all 24 games, averaging 7.1 points and 2.8 rebounds in 19.7 minutes. He was also good in terms of moving the ball on offense and in defending the perimeter. Down the stretch, his three-point shooting touch returned. In his last 16 games, he hit 22 of 45 from distance for 48.9 percent.

Rodriguez improving

UTSA coach Steve Henson said in a zoom conference with reporters that junior forward Adrian Rodriguez has practiced well. “In another 2 or 3 days, hopefully he’ll be close to 100 percent,” the coach said.

Rodriguez hurt his knee on Feb. 6 in at Florida International and sat out the next three games. On Feb. 27, he played two minutes at home against the UAB Blazers. Last Thursday, Henson played him 16 minutes in UTSA’s tune-up against Southwestern Adventist. Rodriguez had 12 points and seven rebounds.

Trying to make history

For the Roadrunners to claim the C-USA’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, they will need to win four games in four days in the pressure cooker of a single-elimination event.

UTSA has never executed such a four-in-four conference tournament run in its previous 39 seasons of basketball.

In 1988, a Ken Burmeister-coached UTSA squad claimed the school’s first NCAA berth when it won three games in three days to claim the Trans America Athletic Conference title at Daytona Beach, Fla.

In 1999, the first of two Tim Carter-coached NCAA teams won two games in two days for the Southland championship in Shreveport, La.

In 2004, Carter took his team to the NCAA dance once again as Southland titlists with three wins in five days. The Roadrunners won in San Antonio, in Hammond, La., and then in San Antonio again (against Stephen F. Austin).

In 2011, the Brooks Thompson-coached Roadrunners won three games in four days to win a Southland championship at the Merrell Center in Katy.

Coming up

Conference USA tournament. UTSA vs. Charlotte, Thursday at 5:30 p.m., at The Star in Frisco.

Records

UTSA 14-10, 9-7
Charlotte 9-15, 5-11

True to the nickname, ‘Juice’ brings a spark to UTSA

Jordan Ivy-Curry. UTSA beat North Texas 77-69 in a Conference USA game on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021 at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA freshman Jordan Ivy-Curry averaged 31.5 points last year as a senior for the Class 4A La Marque High School Cougars. — Photo by Joe Alexander

His given name is Jordan Ivy-Curry. But all his friends at UTSA call him “Juice.” As in, plug him into a basketball game and feel the electricity. How did he get the nickname?

“Around seventh or eighth grade, playing at a park in the neighborhood,” the UTSA freshman said. “You know, I was playing against some grown-ups. Shooting the ball. Making a lot of shots. It was like, ‘You got the juice.’ So ever since then, they been calling me ‘Juice.’ ”

Getting a nickname is a badge of honor in the Houston area, where Ivy-Curry grew up. Back in the ‘60s, they had David “Big Daddy” Lattin, who went on to lead the Texas Western College Miners to the 1966 NCAA title.

In the ‘80s, they had Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon on a couple of Final Four teams at the University of Houston, along with Clyde “The Glide” Drexler and Larry “Mr. Mean” Michaux.

Ivy-Curry started to turn heads on the playground when he was 11. Within a few years, he gravitated to games with players much older. With high school-age players. Though he was under-sized, he challenged himself.

“Yeah, I got some buckets,” Ivy-Curry recalled. “Two from half court.”

Years later, playing for the La Marque High School Cougars, “Juice” continued to shoot it. He had the green light and the skills to rack up more than 2,000 points in his career, eclipsing 50 points in a game three times as a senior last season.

At UTSA, the scoring machines in residence are seniors by the name of Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace. “Juice” plays off the bench in a supporting role for the Roadrunners, averaging a modest 5.8 points in 15.5 minutes per game.

But to a certain extent, those numbers belie his value to the team.

With the Roadrunners scheduled to play on Friday and Saturday at Louisiana Tech, the freshman has emerged as a player who has seen court time in the second half in all four of UTSA’s Conference USA games, including crunch-time minutes in a 77-69 victory over North Texas last Saturday.

In one memorable sequence, sophomore guard Erik Czumbel fired a skip pass cross the court to Ivy-Curry. As a North Texas defender ran at the UTSA freshman, he dribbled into open space and lobbed it up for center Jacob Germany, who dunked it.

“It felt good,” Ivy-Curry said. “I felt like, when I made that play, it brought the team energy up, the crowd energy up. We just had the momentum our way. Just a great feeling. Even though I had zero points (in the game) I felt like I had five points on that play.”

Germany called Ivy-Curry “a great player,” who will get better as the years go by. “In high school, he was a huge scorer, and I could see him doing that here in a year or two,” the sophomore from Oklahoma said. “For him, it’s just experience and confidence.”

When told that Ivy-Curry had mentioned playing against older players as a young man, Henson smiled, because he has seen some of that competitive fire from him in practices already.

“He’s got that right level of confidence, swag,” Henson said. “He respects Jhivvan and Keaton. He tries to get after ‘em in practice every day. He’s usually matched up with one of those two guys, and he fights and competes. Got a great deal of confidence. He just plays. It’s kind of refreshing.”

Continued Henson: “He reads situations well. His instincts offensively are very, very good. Defensively, he’s conscientious. He’s trying to learn our schemes. Trying to work on his habits. Yeah, he’s fun. He’s fun at practice.

“(We) had a practice prior to North Texas, and at the end of a segment he rattled off 10 straight. Two threes and two twos. Just like it was nothing. It doesn’t really even phase us that he does that. He’s just such a natural scorer.”

He is the “Juice.”

Coming up

UTSA at Louisiana Tech, 6:30 p.m., Friday
UTSA at Louisiana Tech, 6 p.m., Saturday

Records

UTSA 5-6, 1-3
Louisiana Tech 9-4, 2-2