Texas Tech ousts Notre Dame and advances to the Sweet 16

The Texas Tech Red Raiders are on their way to the Sweet 16.

Pushed to the limit by the 11th-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish in an NCAA tournament game played at San Diego, the No. 3 Red Raiders rallied at the end for a 59-53 victory.

With the win, the Red Raiders (27-9) will advance to play the two seed Duke Blue Devils (30-6) on Thursday in San Francisco. Texas Tech needs to win twice more in the tournament to reach the Final Four.

“I’m so excited right now I can’t put it into words,” Texas Tech’s Kevin McCullar, Jr., said. “So thankful for my brothers on the team, coach (Mark) Adams and stuff. It came down to defense. We knew we needed to get stops against a really good Notre Dame team. That’s what we ended up doing. And we hit some big free throws.”

Notre Dame’s Blake Wesley hit one of two free throws with 2:09 remaining to give the Fighting Irish a 52-49 lead.

From there, Texas Tech surged on a 10-1 run to the final buzzer.

A key play came with less than a minute remaining when forward Marcus Santos-Silva blocked a layup attempt by Wesley that would have given the Irish a one-point lead.

Instead, the Red Raiders gained possession, Santos-Silva was fouled, and he hit two free throws for a 55-52 lead.

Later, McCullar, Jr., from San Antonio’s Wagner High School, hit two free throws. After a Notre Dame turnover, McCullar dunked in transition to make it 59-52.

Forward Kevin Obanor led the Red Raiders with 15 points and 15 rebounds. Bryson Williams and McCullar added 14 apiece.

Off the bench, Santos-Silva was big. He had four points, five rebounds and two blocked shots. A left-hander, he made two free throws right handed.

“How about that?” first-year Texas Tech coach Mark Adams said. “Here’s a guy who changes his shot. I’d like to take credit for it. But I think he did that on his own about a month ago … He looks a whole lot better. But quite honestly (it) still hadn’t been going in, in practice. We were crossing our fingers.”

Dane Goodwin led the Irish with 14 points and eight rebounds. Wesley had 11 points and eight boards. Goodwin knocked down three of Notre Dame’s nine 3-pointers.

Nate Davis: East Side leader ‘was always taking care of the kids’

Nathaniel ‘Nate’ Davis served his East Side community with distinction as a coach and administrator at the Davis-Scott YMCA. — Courtesy photo

By Jerry Briggs
Special report for The JB Replay

Nathaniel ‘Nate’ Davis spent most of his adult life working with children as a coach and as an administrator at the Davis-Scott Family YMCA, an institution of historical renown on the East Side of San Antonio.

The late Odie Davis Jr. founded the Alamo Branch YMCA in 1944. It later became the Davis-Scott Family YMCA. — Photo by Jerry Briggs

When Davis showed up for a day’s work, he would turn on the lights at about 9 a.m. and wouldn’t turn them out until, well, maybe 7, or 8, or even 9 p.m. Or, basically, whenever the last child was safely on the way home.

“He treated those kids like his own,” said his older brother, former major league baseball player Odie Davis III.

Stricken with a heart attack, Nate Davis passed away on Jan. 4. The personable neighborhood civic leader was 64.

In all, Davis spent 32 years working with the YMCA, including several at the end of his tenure in a fundraising capacity for all ‘Y’ branches in the city.

“He had a way of talking to people to get that money out of ‘em,” said former Davis-Scott administrator Rufus Miller. “He’d be letting ‘em know that it was for the kids. He knew how to get those funds … with the proper conversation.

“He inherited that from his dad.”

His father was Odie Davis Jr., who founded a community service organization in 1944 known as the Alamo Branch YMCA. Originally, the Alamo Y was located on Sycamore Street near St. Paul’s Square. Later, it moved into a building at 1230 E. Commerce.

Today, the Davis-Scott YMCA – named after Davis Jr. and S.T. Scott, an educator — sits on an expansive plot of land at the intersection of Iowa Street and S. New Braunfels Ave. A sign on the brick façade outside says it all, ‘Safe Place.’

The center is a neighborhood oasis, with activities for all ages, including early learning childcare and after school programs, plus education and leadership classes for teens, along with yoga and pilates and water aerobics for adults.

Back in the day, the Alamo Branch YMCA of the 1940s was equally functional. It served a variety of needs.

Not only was it a recreation center, but also, in the days of segregation, African-Americans who traveled into the city and couldn’t stay at hotels had an option — they could stay at the ‘Y’ near St. Paul’s Square.

“My dad,” Odie Davis III said, “would house ‘em and feed ‘em.”

Davis III, a shortstop who played in 17 games for the Texas Rangers in 1980, said his father told him that he worked with “dignitaries and doctors” sympathetic to the plight of African-American travelers to help fund the operation.

In the ensuing years, Odie Davis Jr. and his wife, Nadine, started a family and had three children. The oldest was Norma. Then came Odie III. Finally, Nathaniel was born a few years later, in 1957.

As the kids grew older, Odie Davis III said he and his brother bonded with sports, throwing a baseball around on the side of the family’s yard on Montana Street. Or, across the road, in a cemetary, which also served as a recreation-oriented green space.

“There was a baseball field and a football field over there,” Davis III said.

The brothers also would spend a lot of time at the ‘Y’ down at 1230 East Commerce. Before school. After school. “We spent all of our life at the YMCA with our dad,” Davis III said.

Asked about his favorite memories of growing up with his brother, Davis III said, basically, all of them. “My brother was the world to me.”

Added Davis III, “We participated in every sport that was around. Our father was trying to break that barrier (of segregation), so we mostly had to play within the YMCA system. We never got out to expose our (talents, in other leagues). So, the Y became a haven.

“Everybody used to go out to the Y camp. You had players from the West Side. They had leagues over there that my dad started. It was camp Alamo. That’s where we (played) our baseball and sports, out there.”

Life took on some dramatic changes for the Davis kids in 1975. That was the year their dad died.

Nate would leave town that same year to attend school at Prairie View A&M, while Odie III was drafted by the Rangers in 1977. Odie III would employ the work ethic taught by his father to make the major leagues with the Rangers briefly in September and October of 1980, and he played professionally through 1982.

Nate, meanwhile, returned to San Antonio to follow in his dad’s footsteps, according to the family’s obituary. Not only did he work at the ‘Y,’ he also played for and later sponsored the semi-pro Denver Heights Bears, a team that his father helped establish in the ‘50s.

In a tenure with the team that lasted some two decades into the late 1990s, Odie III said, the Bears won a city title under Nate’s leadership in 1994.

Nate also was an enthusiastic community organizer. He was a principal in San Antonio’s Martin Luther King Day march, one of the largest in the nation. Each year, the family’s obituary said, he promoted scholarship funds for local youth tied to the event. In 2017, he was the MLK commission chair for the 30th anniversary march.

Mostly, though, Nate loved to work with the children at the YMCA. Combined with his father’s 30 years with the organization and Nate’s own 32, the family’s influence in the community at large has been undeniable.

“I think, culturally, it was a pretty aggressive impact,” Odie Davis III said. “That’s what it was all about. My parents (were) always trying to teach us, (me, my sister) and brother, that you got to try to bring up the neighborhood. You got to try to help. It takes a village, as they used to say.

“That was one of the principles that my dad would teach us, and my brother did it, too. He was always taking care of the kids.”

Arrangements

VISITATION: Friday, Jan. 14, 2022 5-7 p.m.; WAKE SERVICE: 6-6:30 p.m..

Lewis Funeral Home

811 S. W.W. White Road

San Antonio, Tx.

FUNERAL: Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022 11 a.m.

Second Baptist Church

3310 E. Commerce

San Antonio, Tx.

INTERMENT: Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022 9:45 a.m.. SHELTER #5

Fort Sam Houston National Cemetary

1520 Harry Wurzbach

San Antonio, Tx. 78209

Taking better shots, UTSA starts to hit a higher percentage

Dhieu Deing. UTSA beat Lamar 79-73 in men's basketball on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Guard Dhieu Deing leads UTSA in scoring with 17.6 points per game. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The UTSA Roadrunners’ offense hasn’t created as many problems for opponents this year as it did last year.

Last year, with Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace on the floor, UTSA’s foes couldn’t slack off without one or the other pulling up and burying a 28 footer. The Roadrunners averaged 78.8 points per game on 44.7 percent shooting.

This year, with Jackson and Wallace having moved on to seek their fortunes in pro ball, the Roadrunners have forged through some uncertain times, hitting on a 39.1 percent clip and averaging 70.2 points.

After a shaky start, some soul searching and extensive work on the practice floor, UTSA nevertheless has started to become more efficient recently. In their last four games, the Roadrunners are averaging 74 points and knocking down 42.4 percent from the field.

Perhaps not coincidentally, they’re 3-1 in that stretch.

“We’re just getting better shots and moving it better,” Roadrunners coach Steve Henson said after Tuesday afternoon’s workout at the Convocation Center. “We’ve had good starts the last two games. We’re making progress.”

Heating up

Here’s a glance at UTSA’s shooting, game by game, in its last four outings, including final score and field goal makes-attempts:

Nov. 24 — UTSA beats Lamar, 79-73. FG: 25-53
Nov. 29 — UTSA beats St. Mary’s, 75-65. FG: 24-59
Dec. 2 — Grand Canyon beats UTSA, 74-71. FG: 25-69
Dec. 11 — UTSA beats Sam Houston State, 78-73. FG 27-57
(UTSA four-game total, field goal makes-attempts, 101-238, for 42.4 percent)

Coming up

Friday, 7 p.m. — UT Rio Grande Valley (4-7) at UTSA (6-4).

Notebook

UTRGV played at home in Edinburg on Tuesday night and lost 70-60 to the Texas Southern Tigers. The Vaqueros have lost five in a row.

After the Roadrunners downed the Bearkats in Houston on Saturday, they traveled back to San Antonio that night, took Sunday as a day off and returned to work Monday with a weight training session, film study and a practice.

On Tuesday morning, they did a community service project, traveling to help the San Antonio Food Bank with a distribution at South San High School.

In an extremely positive sign for the team, senior guard Darius McNeill has returned to practice this week. McNeill had sat out since tweaking his right foot against Lamar on Nov. 24.

Upon his return Monday, he did more than expected and then seemed to be back to his usual speedy self in a two-hour drill Tuesday afternoon. Henson said he’s uncertain whether McNeill will play on Friday.

“He looked pretty good,” the coach said, “better than I anticipated.”

A concern was power forward Cedrick Alley Jr., who has been ill the past few days. Alley did not attend Tuesday’s workout. “He wasn’t feeling well yesterday and was feeling worse today,” the coach said. “Got to get him tested, get him checked out.”

Junior transfer Aleu Aleu, who missed all of the October practices with a quad injury and sat out the first six games of the season, closed the workout with a flourish.

Aleu Aleu is a 6-foot-8 junior guard/forward who comes to the UTSA men's basketball team from Temple Community College. - photo by Joe Alexander

Aleu Aleu, a 6-8 junior, played a season-high 22 minutes Saturday in Houston. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Unofficially, he knocked down at least five in a row from behind the 3-point line to complete his workout.

“He’s getting so much more comfortable,” Henson said.

Aleu, a newcomer, is a 6-foot-8 forward, a finesse-type player who weighs only 180 pounds. He grew up in Africa but later moved into the Austin area and attended junior college in Temple.

He played 22 minutes against Sam Houston State and impressed coaches with a few heady plays. He finished with three points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals.

‘The best we’ve played in quite some time.’ – Steve Henson

Guard Jovan Blacksher scored 16 of his 25 points in the second half Thursday night as the Grand Canyon University Antelopes rallied at the end of a back-and-forth battle for a 74-71 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners.

The game was played in Phoenix at the GCU Arena. In UTSA’s best effort on the road this season, forward Cedrick Alley, Jr., led the way with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Jacob Germany also had a double-double with 18 points and 10 boards.

UTSA led by 12 points early in the game. GCU came back to lead by five at halftime. Undeterred, the Roadrunners rallied into a 53-48 advantage with 8:42 remaining. But the Antelopes came back again, with Blacksher hitting two 3-point buckets in a 12-2 run.

Grand Canyon held on at the end when the Roadrunners missed a couple of threes in the final minute. Overall, the UTSA coaches will leave Phoenix feeling pretty good about their progress.

The Roadrunners out-rebounded the Antelopes 51-32 and played well, for the most part, in front of a raucous crowd, hanging in to the end against a squad that made the NCAA tournament last year.

Announced attendance was 6,844.

“Lots to be proud of,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told Jay Howard on the team’s radio broadcast. “That’s the best we’ve played in quite some time.”

Records

Grand Canyon 7-1
UTSA 5-4

Alley’s breakout

Alley made his presence known with a career high in points. His previous high was 18. With the 11 boards, the Houston native registered his second double-double of the year. He scored 19 points and snared 9 rebounds in the second half.

“He was kind of a go-to guy there,” Henson said. “Cedrick has been really, really good in a lot of areas. He has not been shooting good percentages. From two. From three. He’s been struggling. He got it going tonight.

“He got some big-time rebounds. Big-time rebounds. Made free throws, which he typically does. Then to knock down a couple of threes. It was just a great line for him. Played big minutes. Got tired. He was awfully good.”

Coming up

Dec. 11, 3 p.m. — UTSA vs. Sam Houston State, in Houston, at the Toyota Center.

The last word

“Well, we’re not going to try and make our guys feel real good, with the result (tonight),” Henson said. “But the way we played, if we do that, moving forward, we’ll have a chance to be a good ball club.

“We took a step this week. That’s the best we’ve played all year.

Cedrick Alley talks of high hopes and dreams as a UTSA senior

Cedrick Alley Jr., Jacob Germany. UAB beat UTSA 64-57 on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, in Conference USA action at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA forward Cedrick Alley Jr. (left) teams with center Jacob Germany to hound a UAB shooter last year. Alley, once regarded as the top player in Texas Class 6A at Klein Forest High School, is acknowledged as the defensive leader for the Roadrunners. – Photo by Joe Alexander

After experiencing the sweetness of team success in college basketball at the University of Houston, Cedrick Alley Jr. never quite felt completely fulfilled on an individual level.

He hopes to taste both sensations this season as a senior with the UTSA Roadrunners.

In a candid interview, Alley, a former “Mr. Basketball” in Texas at Klein Forest High School, spelled out his hoop dreams in detail recently.

He laid them out there for all to analyze, as fans are known to do.

Alley wants to play in the NCAA tournament again, as he did a few years ago with the Cougars. Moreover, in his second year with the Roadrunners, he also hopes to make a run at Defensive Player of the Year honors in Conference USA.

All of it, he said, makes up a grand plan to help re-establish UTSA basketball tradition. Alley wants that, more than anything, as he prepares for his last ride as a college player.

“It is crazy to think about that, seeing (former teammates) go off and be able to hold up their picture (on Senior Day), and have everyone scream for them,” he said after Thursday’s practice. “It’s going to be a great feeling (for me).

“But I’m not so much focused on that as I am on … winning the Conference USA Tournament, and getting us where we want to go — to the NCAA Tournament. UTSA basketball. I feel like we can get there.”

UTSA men's basketball coach Steve Henson at the first practice for the 2021-22 season at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Steve Henson says he thinks Cedric Alley, Jr., is playing with a renewed passion for the game – Photo by Joe Alexander

What makes him so confident?

“Our coaches have been real, real serious about defense this year,” Alley said. “We’ve hardly even worked on offense. So I feel one of our main goals this year is to be one of the best defensive teams in this league.

“I feel like our defense is going to take us as far as we want to go. We lock in on defense, and we can be in any game we play.”

At Houston, Alley redshirted his first year out of Klein Forest and then played 60 games over two years through 2019-20 with the nationally-ranked Cougars. At that juncture, he transferred, seeking a fresh start at UTSA.

With the Roadrunners last season, he battled through a series of minor injuries to average a modest 6.3 points, but he came on strong down the stretch as the team went 8-2 in the last 10 games of the C-USA regular season.

This year? Alley, at 6-6, 230 pounds, is sort of like the team’s defensive coordinator in the locker room. He takes the leadership role seriously, and he thinks that if he does his job, the team will win.

Also, his individual success will follow.

“I want to average 10 rebounds,” he said. “Points, it don’t matter to me. Everyone on this team can score. I want to average 10 rebounds and be a defensive player. I want to be the Defensive Player (of the Year) in Conference USA.

“That’s my expectation, and to hold the team accountable, if we’re not doing the job our coaches want us to.”

With a little more than three weeks remaining before the start of the new season, UTSA coach Steve Henson said he is more than happy with Alley’s work ethic and mindset.

“I don’t know if he alluded to it or not, but we kind of feel like he’s got a little of his passion back,” Henson said. “Sometimes when you go from being a superstar — you know, he was an elite high school player — it wasn’t easy (for him) at Houston.

“His role was diminished a little bit, and he didn’t have as much impact on the results … as he wanted to have.”

“He didn’t get off to a great start (for us) last year. Second half, he was pretty good. But he’s got a different approach right now. His offseason was much better this year. He’s much better conditioned.”

Last season, his conditioning failed him at times because of circumstances beyond his control.

Physical setbacks kept him from attaining peak conditioning at the outset of the season, Henson said, and then a groin injury in January in the C-USA opener at Rice added to his problems.

Additionally, with C-USA games scheduled for back-to-back days because of Covid-19 mitigation, Alley was hamstrung. He’d play one day but couldn’t get moving on the second day.

It wasn’t until Jan. 23 that he played as many as 19 minutes on Day Two of a back-to-back.

By the time Alley started feeling it physically, the monster snowstorm hit and the power went out in his apartment, forcing him to relocate to a teammate’s on-campus dwelling to stay warm.

“Crazy,” he said, thinking back to last season. “But, we’re here now, and we’re thinking about having a big year. A big year.”

From the outside, Alley’s talk of a title run for the Roadrunners is likely to be met with skepticism.

Ten seasons have passed since the Roadrunners last made it to an NCAA tournament. On top of that, as a C-USA member for the past eight seasons, they haven’t even made it past the tournament quarterfinals.

Alley, however, is confident.

Cedrick Alley Jr. UTSA wanted to emphasize defense on Friday in a 91-62 victory over Sul Ross State at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Cedrick Alley, Jr. says he wants to be the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year and to lead the Roadrunners to the NCAA tournament. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Even without departed standouts Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace, he believes the Roadrunners’ players are up to the task. Taller at most positions. With longer arms to shut down passing lanes. And with enough offensive firepower to win.

Some of the offense may come from some of the youngest players, he said.

“Josh (Farmer), he’s like 6 (feet) 9 and he plays hard. Goes to the boards hard. He can go get a bucket any time. He’s looking very good on the court, very comfortable.

“Then we got Lamin (Sabally) from Germany. He’s very long. Defensive stopper. He steps up at big moments. And then we got AZ (Azavier Johnson) from Las Vegas. A big body.

“We’re looking for them to come in and give us everything they got.”

Leading the way is Alley, a guy with a charismatic personality who doesn’t mind taking on the challenge of elevating the program from good, to better than good — all the way back to the Big Dance.

“I want to get UTSA on the map, (to let people know) that we’re here for basketball, and that we can compete at the highest level,” he said.

Tour of a lifetime: George Ligon’s team made its mark

By Jerry Briggs
An in-depth report, for The JB Replay

About 35 years have passed since a World War II-era baseball ambassador named George Ligon, Jr., died and was laid to rest in Southern California. A headstone at the man’s Brawley, Calif., gravesite marks his service to the nation as a U.S. Army veteran of the war’s Pacific theater.

George Ligon, Jr., started a touring baseball team out of Hondo in the 1930s. It played in the United States, Canada and Mexico for 15 years through the early 1950s. Ligon kept the team going even after he returned from military service in World War II. Photo copy, from the archives of the Brawley (Calif.) News.

Another memorial dedicated to him also can be found in South Texas, about 40 miles west of San Antonio, in an out-of-the-way, rural cemetery where visitors can hear the wind “rattle” the seed packs in the thick brush.

In the small town of Hondo, Ligon served honorably in the world of sports. He was the founder and proprietor of “Ligon’s Baseball Club,” a black touring squad that traveled by bus to play games in 20 U.S. states and in three countries over a 15-year period through the early 1950s.

Appropriately, a marker at the Cottonwood Cemetery in rural Medina County is adorned with the team’s red, white and blue logo. A white ball, inside a red star, on a blue background. Clearly, the man loved his team, and he also loved his country, despite all of its flaws in the Jim Crow era.

“This is really the story of America,” said Laurence Ligon, a Maryland resident and the son of the man who ran the ball club. “It’s really our story. It’s not just one (racial) group. It doesn’t belong in one (category). It’s really everybody’s story.

“Because, for my father, one of the things that I can say, for all the slings and arrows that got thrown at him, he didn’t have (the capacity) to hate people. Or attack people. Or be angry with people.”

It’s a timeless lesson that is relevant today, even though George Ligon, Jr., was born in Texas in 1910 at a distinct disadvantage in society.

Regardless, the son of an Austin-area farmer soon started to make a name for himself, first as a baseball pitcher in Uvalde and then as a Hondo-based player/businessman whose enterprise gave others an opportunity to showcase their skills.

“At first,” George Ligon, Jr., said in a 1982 newspaper interview, “my brother (Rufus) and I played for a white fellow who owned a black team, and we played against white teams quite often.”

But, not always, because inter-racial games were controversial at the time. He told reporter Peter Odens of the Brawley (Calif.) News that the black teams in the area just couldn’t make it in a league of their own.

Owners of the white teams owned the ballparks, Ligon told Odens, and those owners charged the black teams 45 percent of “the total take” to play on their fields.

“It was a good league while it lasted,” Ligon told the newspaper. “Anyway, I started my own team in about 1937 and made it a traveling team. Had it for 15 years.”

Laurence Ligon said in a telephone interview that his father managed the team and drove the bus on trips that started in Hondo, led into the Midwest and then veered into the Rocky Mountains and Canada.

Later, the All-Stars traveled down the West Coast – and into Mexico.

“My dad told me some of the craziest stories,” Laurence Ligon said in a telephone interview. “Like, the brakes on the bus fell out. (Then) they … over-heated. And they ran the bus into a hay bale. And the farmer came out, and they had to help him re-bale the hay.

”I mean, all kinds of stuff like that. They were just (out there) running around on the plains.”

Because of all the time that has elapsed since this epic baseball venture began, a lack of first-hand information keeps anyone from knowing exactly how the team got its start.

For instance, what was the nature of the bus and the travel? When did Ligon buy the bus? It’s possible he purchased it in the 1930s because, during the Great Depression, many commercial bus companies were going out of business in the economic downturn.

Which leads to the possibility that Ligon could have negotiated a bargain buy at that time. If he didn’t, then it’s also plausible that maybe he just had to wait until after he returned from fighting in the Pacific theater of the war.

Maybe he finally made enough money in the Army to save up for the purchase. If that’s the case, then it was a high price to pay, because Laurence Ligon said he believes his father was wounded while fighting in Buna, on the island of New Guinea.

A team picture of Ligon’s Baseball Club. Photo, courtesy Laurence Ligon

The battle of Buna-Gola, according to historians, was a bloody, three-month jungle fight that started in November of 1942 and ended with an Allied forces victory in January of 1943. Many of the soldiers who survived came home with malaria.

“I don’t know if he volunteered or if he was drafted (into the Army),” Ligon said. “But he went to train at Fort Huachuca (Arizona). Then he went and fought against the Japanese and was wounded, somewhere in the islands around Guadalcanal. I think it was on Buna.

“So, he was discharged, came back, and, from like 1947 to ‘50 or ‘51, they were still traveling (with the baseball team).”

Apparently, Ligon wasn’t the only member of the All-Stars with a hard-scrabble background. A search of archives in the Hondo Anvil-Herald turned up information pointing to how Ligon assembled his team in the late 1940s with prospects who had known each other for years.

Several apparently first attended the town’s segregated school for blacks. When the Anvil-Herald in 1998 ran a story on a Ligon family reunion, it also published what was labeled as a 1939-40 class picture of the Hondo Colored School.

Included in the picture were students identified as Cleveland “Babe” Grant, Sterling Jasper Fuller and Roy “Banky” White. In a separate issue of the newspaper published to commemorate local World War II veterans, Fuller’s name was on the list of those who served.

The names of Grant, Fuller and White, in turn, were listed on baseball websites that chronicled the Ligon All-Stars’ games in Canada in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Meaning that, the players on those long bus rides out of Hondo, to Canada, and back again all shared a unique bond.

Some of them likely were neighbors as kids. Maybe a few of them walked to grade school together. At least one (Fuller) served in the military and all of them, to a man, loved to play the game – no matter what. They’d travel for hours on end knowing that, in some places in America, they just weren’t welcome.

“You have to know where they don’t want you (to play), and then … don’t play there,” recalled George Ligon, Jr., in the 1982 edition of the Brawley News.

Laurence Ligon, 60, a California native who lives in Maryland and works in computers, said he didn’t know much about the All Stars until a reporter showed up at the family’s home to interview his father in the early 1980s.

“I had heard some of those stories, but (with) the guy asking some pretty good questions, they sat there and talked for a good five hours,“ Ligon said. “And I started hearing a lot more about it.”

On and on went the conversation.

“I was blown away,” Laurence Ligon said, recalling the day his father laid it all out for the visiting reporter. “I just didn’t know that my dad had done all that.”

Ligon said he sometimes jokes about his “gypsy” heritage with friends and family.

“I tell guys, ‘That’s where I get this gypsy blood of mine,’ “ he said. “I love getting in the car and traveling. My dad drove the bus. He managed the team. He drove that bus from Hondo all the way up to Saskatchewan.

“Then they’d come over and play in California and go down into Mexico and play, and then head back to Hondo.”

In 1947, Jackie Robinson made headlines around the nation and changed the game when he broke the color barrier in the major leagues with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Around the same time, the Ligon All-Stars were putting in almost 200,000 miles on their bus over one four-year stretch.

Ligon’s Baseball Club would hit the road in a bus for trips that would carry them thousands of miles. Photo, courtesy Laurence Ligon

All the while, playing in front of some white fans who perhaps had never seen a black athlete on a baseball diamond. Cutting up. Having fun. Sometimes playing with a catcher who would tease the crowd by sitting behind home plate in a rocking chair.

“I have heard about that one, yes,” Laurence Ligon said with a laugh.

One day, Ligon said he hopes to return to Hondo to have some work done on the exterior of the old cemetery. He said he wants to preserve the peaceful setting, in a rural area a few miles north of Interstate 90, with head stones dating back to the Civil War.

“It’s a really nice (place),” he said. “I don’t know what (kind of) plants they have (on the grounds, but) I remember they’re like a bush, and at the very top (of the plant) it’s kind of heavy. They’ve got like a seed pack on the top, and when the wind blows, these seed packs kind of rattle.

“It just makes this really calming sort of noise. I go out there and I just want to sit down and just kind of take it all in. It’s really beautiful.”

Making the right decision ‘wasn’t necessarily easy’ for the Red Sox

Former San Antonio Missions manager Ron Roenicke has had his hands full in his first season as manager of the Boston Red Sox.

To this point, the Red Sox haven’t quite figured it out on the field, struggling to a 10-21 record. For a franchise that traditionally has been one of baseball’s best over the past two decades, times are tough.

Nevertheless, Roenicke might have enjoyed one of his finest hours in his job Thursday afternoon in Buffalo.

The game between the Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays had been called off, postponed as one of 10 in the majors scrapped in the last 44 hours since a wave of protest in professional sports commenced.

The protest has centered on the nation’s latest crisis on race relations, the tragic shooting of an African-American citizen by a police officer in Wisconsin.

“You know, this is a really important time in our country, and what are we going to do?” Roenicke asked. “These (athletes) have a platform to discuss some things that are serious issues … (things) that we need to straighten out.”

Roenicke, a California native, has roots in San Antonio.

He played for the San Antonio Dodgers as a minor league outfielder in 1978 and 1979. He also managed here in the 1990s, leading the 1997 San Antonio Missions to the Texas League title.

His leadership showed up again Thursday in handling a sticky situation that evolved after Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr., the team’s only black player, told management that he planned to sit out the Thursday night finale of a three-game series against the Blue Jays.

After Bradley made his intentions clear, the Red Sox engaged in discussions that led to a 4 p.m. team meeting at Sahlen Field, according to a published report at masslive.com.

“It was not an easy decision for a lot of us,” outfielder Kevin Pillar told the website. “We do stand with Jackie and we want to be in support of him, but a lot of us understand that us playing is an escape for a lot of people and the realities going on in the world. It is an opportunity for a lot of people to get away from the news and all the evil and bad that’s going on and be a distraction. This is what we do. It’s our responsibilities as athletes to come to the field and play.

“Ultimately, we came to a decision as a group that it is one game,” Pillar added. “It is a game but the power and impact that we have standing with those guys and their decision hopefully speaks volumes. We all believe we made the right decision even though it wasn’t necessarily an easy one.”

Speaking at the meeting were Bradley and Red Sox coach Tom Goodwin, a former Missions player. Bradley told the players why he planned to sit out and also said he would be OK with everyone if they wanted to play.

Goodwin, who is black, discussed “reasons why it might be prudent” for the Red Sox to play the game as scheduled, according to masslive.com. The Red Sox ultimately decided as a group to support Bradley and not play.

“A lot has been placed on him and that’s important to all of us,” Roenicke told masslive.com. “It’s important to these players, realizing that Jackie is our lone Black player on the team and they want to support him in any way they can. Just supporting in what we did today is telling him, ‘Jack, we’re hearing what you’re saying, we’re hearing what the rest of the guys are saying, we want to make a difference and we want to support you in any way we can.’ ”

In a video produced by the Red Sox, Roenicke encouraged baseball fans to have meaningful conversations about race. At home. At work. He said talks about sensitive issues are important.

“We understand how important baseball is,” Roenicke said. We’re playing through a pandemic. We know it’s all important. But we know the issues in life are more important …

“If you’re a kid and you turn on the TV tonight … and you ask your parents, ‘Why aren’t the Red Sox on?” I hope the parents have a serious discussion with their kid.

“We need to discuss these things more. We need to listen more. That’s the only way we’re going to change,” Roenicke said. “There needs to be a change in this great country that we live in.”

Baylor beats Texas, 74-73, in double OT for fourth straight win

Forward Terry Maston scored 26 points Monday night as the Baylor Bears beat the Texas Longhorns, 74-73, in double overtime.

In a hotly-contested Big 12 Conference game played at Austin, Texas guard Kerwin Roach II scored on a layup with 21 seconds left, lifting the Longhorns into a 73-72 lead.

But Baylor answered on the other end, with guard Manu Lecomte driving and missing a layup that 7-foot center Jo Lual-Acuil, Jr., followed with a dunk for the game-winning points.

With the win, the Bears improved to 16-10 and 6-7 in the Big 12 to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive.

The Longhorns, alternately, fell to 15-11 and 5-8 after a performance regarded as damaging to their NCAA chances.

Baylor built an eight-point lead with four minutes left in regulation and couldn’t hold it.

With 12 seconds left, Matt Coleman knocked down two free throws to cap a UT rally and tie the game, 56-56.

Baylor, on the last possession, passed it to forward Nuni Omot, who missed a wide-open, off-balance three.

Lual-Acuil’s follow shot from close range bounced off the rim at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.

In the first OT, Maston produced two quick baskets and hit two free throws in the opening minutes.

A jumper by Lecomte gave the Bears a 64-60 lead with 45 seconds left.

But once again, Texas didn’t flinch.

The Longhorns rallied to tie on two free throws each by Coleman and Roach.

When Lecomte missed a long three-pointer with two seconds left, the game moved into the second OT tied, 64-64.

Quotable

Baylor forward Terry Maston said the Bears are “just clicking right now on offense and defense.”

“Our zone has been really tough and Manu (Lecomte) is really leading us,” Maston said in comments posted on the UT website. “He’s hitting big shots and Jo (Lual-Acuil Jr.) is getting big rebounds. Me, Nuni (Omot) and Mark (Vital), I mean everybody, is just really playing well.”

As Texas players held a post-game meeting in the dressing room, Longhorns coach Shaka Smart described the mood as angry.

“They’re really, really upset and some of those guys are really angry, because it was a game that they really put their egos aside and really came together in terms of attacking and hanging in there together,” Smart said. “But obviously, we came up one stop short or one basket short depending on how you’re looking at it. The guys are really upset.”

Texas notes

The Longhorns have lost three straight and four of their last five. Four of their losses in conference have come by three points or less.

Texas freshman center Mo Bamba produced 16 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks. He hit 7 of 17 from the field.

Dylan Osetkowski, Coleman and Roach all scored 15 for the Longhorns, who shot poorly as a team at 36.1 percent.

Baylor notes

Baylor’s Terry Maston, a senior from Desoto, is the nephew of former Texas Tech star Tony Battie.

Bears guard Jake Lindsey is the son of Dennis Lindsey, the general manager of the Utah Jazz. Dennis Lindsey worked as assistant general manager of the Spurs from 2007-12.

Lecomte finished with 16 points and 7 assists. He struggled shooting the ball, hitting only 5 of 15.

Lual-Acuil had a double-double with 14 points and 11 boards.

Baylor swept two games from Texas this season, both in grind-it-out fashion. The Bears won 69-60 in Waco on Jan. 6.

,

UTSA will host ‘Hoop Dreams’ duo tonight at the Bird Cage

Brothers Will Gates, Jr. (left) and Jalon Gates play for the Houston Baptist Huskies. Courtesy: Houston Baptist athletics

The sons of former Chicago basketball playground legend William Gates, a subject of the critically-acclaimed documentary “Hoop Dreams,” will play in San Antonio tonight.

Senior William Gates, Jr. and his brother, sophomore Jalon Gates, are members of the Houston Baptist University Huskies.

The Huskies (3-6) and the UTSA Roadrunners (5-5) will play tonight at 7 on the UTSA campus, at the Convocation Center.

It’s a homecoming of sorts for the Gates brothers, who both played in high school locally at Clemens.

Gates, Jr., a transfer from Furman, starts for the Huskies and averages 8.7 points on 56.5 percent shooting from the field.

Jalon Gates comes off the bench and averages 9.7 points. Gates leads HBU with 40 percent shooting from three-point distance.

The Gates brothers, both of them guards, will have their hands full with the Roadrunners.

UTSA freshman guard Jhivvan Jackson leads the team in scoring (17.6) and is coming off a 31-point game at Oklahoma.

Jackson and fellow freshman guard Keaton Wallace (14.4) have combined to hit 52 of UTSA’s 104 three-pointers.