UTSA women have excelled lately even when Jenkins struggles

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA women’s basketball team is built around junior forward Jordyn Jenkins, the Conference USA Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year.

Jordyn Jenkins. UTSA women's basketball beat No. 21 Middle Tennessee 58-53 on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

C-USA Player of the Year Jordyn Jenkins played through foul trouble and scored 22 points in 25 minutes Thursday against Rice in the conference tournament quarterfinals. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Ask anyone why UTSA has been able to forge a 9-3 record over the past six weeks, after starting the season with 15 losses in 19 games, and you will hear all about Jenkins, the best player in the program since Monica Gibbs led the 2008 and 2009 teams to a pair of conference titles and NCAA tournament appearances.

Just this week, however, fans have started to realize that UTSA is not a one-woman show.

The Roadrunners have started to blossom into a team that can play championship-caliber basketball even when Jenkins isn’t on her game or is saddled with foul trouble. Just yesterday, Coach Karen Aston’s ball club pulled itself out of a 15-point deficit to win its second game in two days at the C-USA tournament, rallying to beat the Rice Owls, 62-54.

In victories over Florida Atlantic and Rice in the past two days, Jenkins has played only 21 and 25 minutes, respectively. When she was not on the floor, the team did not cave in as sometimes happened back in November and December. The team keeps playing. Thus, UTSA will play tonight in Frisco against the WKU Lady Toppers in the C-USA semifinals.

Here is a look at a few players not named Jordyn Jenkins who have elevated the team into one of the four still alive and vying for the C-USA title:

Freshman point guard Sidney Love

Sidney Love. UTSA beat Florida Atlantic 77-61 in Conference USA women's basketball on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Sidney Love keeps the defense honest with her ability to drive to the bucket. She’s also cut down on turnovers drastically over the last four games. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Love is playing with confidence and doing what she does best, which is scoring. Utilizing her quickness and ability to dribble drive either to the right or left, the freshman from Steele High School hit eight of 16 shots from the field against Florida Atlantic and five of eight against Rice. She’s scored 33 points in the tournament, none more important than the 11 in the fourth-quarter comeback yesterday against Rice.

Junior guard Kyra White

Ms. Versatility is also one of the most competitive kids I’ve ever seen. White handles the ball, distributes, plays defense, rebounds. Everything. Even with a shaky first-half performance against Rice, she pulled herself together and continued to play hard in the third and fourth quarters. She even got a few shots to go down. Looked to me like she just willed it to happen, and it did.

Kyra White. UTSA women's basketball beat No. 21 Middle Tennessee 58-53 on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Kyra White produced nine points, eight rebounds and five steals against the Rice Owls. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Sophomore center Elyssa Coleman

The 6-foot-3 sophomore from Atascocita has 18 points, 17 rebounds and six blocked shots in two games at Frisco. Going back to the start of UTSA’s 9-3 push toward respectability, she’s been a defensive force. Not quite as fast as Jenkins, she can run the floor well and always causes problems for opponents driving the ball. Coleman isn’t always highly involved in the offense, but when she is, she seems to deliver. She was four of eight from the field against Florida Atlantic and four of 11 against Rice.

Guard Hailey Atwood

Hailey Atwood has emerged as Coach Karen Aston’s go-to defender against the opponent’s best perimeter threat. Atwood also brings a tremendous amount of energy. She started off slowly this year as she worked her way back in injury rehabilitation, but she is now entrenched as a valued starter. Other players in the rotation during the tournament have included Deb Nwakamma, Siena Guttadauro, Maya Linton, Queen Ulabo and a cameo yesterday by Madison Cockrell. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Kyleigh McGuire or Alexis Parker tonight against WKU, either.

Elyssa Coleman. UTSA beat Rice 66-53 in Conference USA women's basketball on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA sophomore Elyssa Coleman is a post player who made the C-USA’s all defensive team. — File photo by Joe Alexander


Looks to me like center Nissa Sam-Grant will be a solid contributor next year. She is 6-4 and can run pretty well. She’s a transfer who sat out all this season.

C-USA women’s tournament

Friday’s semifinals

No. 1 Middle Tennessee (26-4) vs. No. 4 UTEP (20-10), 4:30 p.m.
No. 2 WKU (18-12) vs. No. 6 UTSA (13-18), 7 p.m.

Saturday’s championship game

Friday’s winners, 4:30 p.m.

UTSA women engineer a monster comeback to win again in Frisco

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Basketball is their game, and they all play on the same team, but it has become clear in the last month or so that the UTSA Roadrunners are more than that. Way more. They’re a group of women who keep getting more remarkable by the day.

Karen Aston. UTSA beat Rice 66-53 in Conference USA women's basketball on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Karen Aston’s UTSA Roadrunners have rebounded from a 4-15 record to win nine of their last 12 games, including six in a row. – File photo by Joe Alexander

They started the season with a string of frustrating losses, and now here they are, one win away from playing for the Conference USA postseason title.

“Gosh, it’s hard to put into words how proud I am of this group,” UTSA coach Karen Aston said Thursday, after her sixth-seeded Roadrunners rallied from a 15-point, first-half deficit to stun the three-seed Rice Owls, 62-54, in the C-USA tournament quarterfinals.

With the victory, UTSA claimed its sixth win in a row and made a little bit of school history by winning for the second time in two days in the tournament being contested at The Star in Frisco.

Not only did the Roadrunners earn a spot in Friday night’s semifinals against the two-seed WKU Lady Toppers, but they also became the first UTSA women’s basketball team to win multiple games at a conference postseason tournament in 14 years.

The last one to do it? The Monica Gibbs-led 2009 Roadrunners, who swept three games in Katy to claim the Southland Conference postseason title and a No 15 seed in the NCAA tournament.

This time, it was Sidney Love, Kyra White, Jordyn Jenkins and others who created the magic. They stayed focused against the Owls even when it appeared as if they were more likely to be on the bus ride home to San Antonio later in the evening, rather than having dinner together and preparing a game-plan for the semifinals.

“The coaches said it in the locker room later,” Aston said. “The players kind of checked themselves at halftime. We didn’t play very well in the first half. We played … sort of how we played early in the year, and somewhere in the second half they sort of found themselves again. And remembered who they really are.

“I just thought we dug really deep,” the coach added. “Started to get stops. Obviously, got more aggressive. I thought Kyra and Sidney’s aggression in the second half was really the difference in the game. It opened up some stuff for the other players. So, really it was just a mindset. We changed our mindset in the second half.”

White, a junior guard from Judson, sat next to her coach in the postgame interviews and put her own spin on what she thought it was that changed for her teammates.

“The want to not go home,” she replied. “We just all wanted to be as connected as we could in the last 20 minutes and fight for one another. It’s too early to go home for us. So we just kept that in mind and kept (focusing) on the bigger picture.”

White’s inference might make some in the C-USA administration a bit nervous.

Could a team with a 13-18 record win two more games in Frisco and claim the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAAs? Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad thing, considering the talents of Jenkins, Love, White and others.

Jenkins, a 6-foot junior transfer from Southern Cal, brushed off foul trouble to finish with 22 points and seven rebounds. In the fourth quarter, the C-USA Player of the Year took over with 12 points, including nine in the last two minutes.

Backcourt mates Love and White also were very good when it mattered. Love had 11 of her 13 points in the fourth, including one stretch when she scored eight in a row. White finished her day with nine points, eight rebounds and five steals.

The 22-win Owls played well early, running off to a 29-14 lead with 3:56 left in the half. They also led 31-19 at intermission and 42-34 at the end of three quarters. But as it turned out, their tournament came to a close, as did their five-game winning streak.

India Bellamy and Ashlee Austin led Rice with 14 and 10 points, respectively.


Rice 22-8
UTSA 13-18

C-USA women’s tournament
At The Star, in Frisco

Thursday’s quarterfinals

Middle Tennessee State 84, Charlotte 53
UTEP 64, Louisiana Tech 54
WKU 71, UAB 67
UTSA 62, Rice 54

Friday’s semifinals

No. 1 Middle Tennessee (26-4) vs. No. 4 UTEP (20-10), 4:30 p.m.
No. 2 WKU (18-12) vs. No. 6 UTSA (13-18), 7 p.m.

Saturday’s championship game

Friday’s winners, 4:30 p.m.


The Roadrunners have had their struggles this season, starting out 2-7 in the nonconference phase of the schedule. Entering C-USA play, things didn’t get much better. They played the first half of a 20-game conference slate and put down a 2-8 record. In the second half, the Roadrunners started to click, winning seven of their last 10. Now that they’ve beaten Florida Atlantic and Rice on back-to-back days at the tournament, it means that since the last weekend of January, they are 9-3.

Surging UTSA women open C-USA tourney today against Florida Atlantic

Karen Aston. UTSA women's basketball beat No. 21 Middle Tennessee 58-53 on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Karen Aston (right) says junior guard Kyra White has taken ‘complete ownership of our program’ in a 7-3 run to close the team’s 20-game Conference USA schedule. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA coach Karen Aston says it’s been amazing for her to watch the growth of her team over the last five weeks of the season. She says she’s excited about the “vibe” from the fans on campus.

Starting today in Frisco, Aston hopes to expand the interest even more when her sixth-seeded Roadrunners play the No. 11 Florida Atlantic University Owls in the first round of the Conference USA women’s basketball tournament.

Leading the way will be forward Jordyn Jenkins, who was named Tuesday as UTSA’s first Player of the Year in the C-USA, and former Judson High School standout Kyra White.

Both transferred from Southern Cal in the offseason to join Aston in a rebuild of a team that has been down for years.

“I really do believe word of mouth is getting out and that people are starting to believe in our program,” said Aston, in her second year at UTSA. “When you have a player like Jordyn, in particular, that chose to come here and take a chance on our vision … (and) you see Kyra White come home and take complete ownership of our program, it’s really fun to watch.”

The Roadrunners (11-18, 9-11) and the Owls (12-17, 5-15) will play today at 2 p.m. at The Star, the multi-purpose training site for the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.

If UTSA wins, it would advance to take on third-seeded Rice (22-7, 13-7) on Thursday in the quarterfinals. The semifinals are set for Friday night and the finals on Saturday afternoon, with the C-USA postseason champion earning an NCAA tournament berth.

Aston says she wants her players to believe they can win their way into the NCAAs.

“I want ’em to believe,” she said. “Absolutely. I think we’ve played well enough to believe. We’ve got to go out and do it, and we understand that, but I think we’ve played well enough. This isn’t a fluke, as far as how well we’re playing, and I think they need to believe that.”

Confidence built gradually over the past month for the Roadrunners, who posted a 7-3 record in the second half of the 20-game C-USA schedule. During the run, UTSA posted victories over three teams that finished in the top five in the standings, including No. 1 seed Middle Tennessee State.

C-USA tournament
Today’s openers at Frisco

Women — (8) FIU vs. (9) Charlotte, 11 a.m.; (7) North Texas vs. (10) UAB, 1:30 p.m.; (6) UTSA vs. (11) FAU, 2 p.m.

Men — (8) Western Kentucky vs. (9) UTEP, 5:30 p.m.; (7) FIU vs. (10) Louisiana Tech, 8 p.m.; (6) Rice vs. (11) UTSA, 8:30 p.m.

Seedings in parentheses

A scoring mentality: UTSA’s White adds jump shot accuracy to her overall game

Kyra White. UTSA women's basketball beat Florida International 85-79 for Senior Day on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Former Judson standout Kyra White scored 44 points on 18 of 31 shooting from the field in two home games last week. — Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA guard Kyra White says she isn’t doing anything different, from a technical standpoint, when she shoots her jump shot.

She says her recent hot streak is just a matter of months of practice finally producing results.

That, and a heightened sense of confidence.

“We’re just working on getting to my spots and having the scoring mentality,” she said after practice Tuesday. “I believe that, in the beginning of the season, I was just looking to be a play maker. Making plays for my team. Now that I’m figuring out that my shot is going in, all this extra work is coming to the surface, and I’m just feeling a lot of confidence right now. My teammates trust me to shoot the ball, so I’m going to continue to go out and do that.”

All season, White has been one of the Roadrunners’ best players.

On the ball at point guard or on the wing, the former Judson High School standout has facilitated the offense, averaging 4.5 assists. She’s crashed the boards, averaging 4.3 rebounds. And she’s also supplied offense when needed, producing 7.6 points.

Lately, though, the offense has been eye opening.

In two games at home last week, White scored 44 points — 22 each in victories over the FAU Owls and the FIU Panthers — all while knocking down a combined 18 of 31 from the field.

The 5-foot-9 junior, a transfer from Southern Cal, sparked a UTSA comeback by taking five jumpers and making all of them in the third quarter of UTSA’s 85-79 victory over FIU on Saturday afternoon.

UTSA assistant Jamie Carey says there’s no secret to White sizzling at 58 percent in the two home games after shooting just 33 percent for the season.

“It’s gym time,” Carey said. “It’s a perfect example of what hard work does. She’s in the gym every day before practice, every day after practice. When you put in that time, your confidence does grow. I mean, I think (her shot) is coming off her hand cleaner. There’s a lot that she’s doing really well, but you don’t accomplish that if you haven’t been in the gym.”

White arrived at UTSA last fall with some fanfare as one of the key players on Judson’s 2019 state championship team. But in three seasons at Southern Cal to start her collegiate career, she averaged only 1.8 points and 1.6 assists in 18.1 minutes.

Last season, she shot 47.6 percent on 10 of 21 shooting. But her playing time had been reduced from 24.9 minutes in 2020-21, down to 12.2.

This year, back home in the San Antonio area, she has flourished.

“I’m just so blessed to be with an amazing program, with amazing girls and amazing staff,” she said. “We’re in March and I’m playing basketball. You gotta love it.”

Coming up

UTSA at Charlotte, Thursday, 5 p.m.
end of regular season
UTSA at Conference USA tournament, March 8-11, at Frisco

A ‘wonderful surprise:’ UTSA women listen to an NIL proposal

A financial proposal under the new Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) rule in college sports was presented Tuesday morning to members of the UTSA women’s basketball team.

Roadrunners coach Karen Aston said it’s the first deal of its kind for her team as a group.

Details weren’t immediately available, but it sounded as if it might involve an appearance or appearances. At the end of practice, Aston invited two men attending the workout to talk to her players at center court.

The two spelled out the terms to the players and invited them to participate. Afterward, some players were reading the paperwork on the court.

“That’s a huge deal for this program, to have somebody invest in our young women,” UTSA coach Karen Aston said. “No matter what the amount and what the transaction is, or whatever you want to call it, just to have people that really care about women’s basketball and athletics in this city is something that I think could catch fire.

“It takes somebody to step up to the plate and be generous … and we’ll go from there. Like I said, I hope it catches fire.”

Aston declined to disclose the details, saying she wanted to go through the “proper channels” before she makes any statements in that regard.

“I knew they were coming to practice but I didn’t know they were presenting that,” she said. “That was a wonderful surprise for our coaching staff and our players. I’m happy for ’em. Again, every little bit matters.”

Aston said her team has individuals with “small building blocks of NIL,” but as for the whole entire team, “that was unexpected.”

“It was very generous,” she said.

In basketball-related developments, senior Hailey Atwood and junior transfer Kyra White have stepped up their level of activity in practices. Both took part in team drills.

Since the fall semester started, players have attended workouts and have worked out mostly on their own. Tuesday, both were involved in team sets on a limited basis.

“They’ve been in some halfcourt stuff,” Aston said. “They’re limited right now to half court. Kyra is a little bit ahead of Hailey. As far as being able to go a certain amount of minutes. But it’s definitely progress.”

Aston said she’s encouraged because both are experienced players. White played 77 games the past three seasons at Southern Cal. Atwood played 27 games and started 12 for the Roadrunners last season.

As a team, the coach said she likes the way the group is progressing defensively.

“I feel like any time you work on skills and actions in the summer and fall your defense is typically a little bit behind, and it is,” Aston said. “But we’ve concentrated (on it) the last couple of days, so I think we’ve made a little progress.”

The Roadrunners open their season on Nov. 7 against Stephen F. Austin.

White feels ‘blessed’ to play in front of family and friends again

When the UTSA women’s basketball team tips it off Monday in the first official practice session of the preseason, guard Kyra White will not be at full strength physically.

But, mentally? White will be as focused as anyone, trying to make the best of a fresh start in her career.

The former all-state player at Judson transferred from Southern Cal to UTSA in the offseason to continue her college studies, to play for coach Karen Aston and to play again in the San Antonio area.

“It feels amazing,” she said Thursday. “I’m truly blessed that coach Karen gave me the opportunity to come home and play in front of family and friends and, honestly, people who have seen me grow up and cheered for me, who always wished for my success.

“I’m honestly just ready to play with my team and get this thing started.”

White, nursing a quad strain, might not be able to go full speed right away. She’s working her way back slowly.

“I’m getting there,” she said. “I’m really ready. I believe I’ll be able to do a few things here and there. In no time, I’ll be out there on the court with my team, ready to play 100 percent.”

That should be good news for fans of the Roadrunners, who may remember her individual and team success at Judson.

With the Rockets, she played on teams that reached the state tournament in Class 6A three years in a row. In 2019, her senior year, Judson won state, claiming the crown with a three-point victory over DeSoto at the Alamodome.

White was one of the best players in the city. She was a three-time all-state, first-team honoree. She produced 1,600 points, 580 rebounds and 300 assists in her career.

A memorable moment came a little more than three years ago when the Rockets claimed the gold medal in the Class 6A state tournament.

“I had just turned 18 that year,” she said. “I’d gone to the state tournament the previous two years. So, in my senior year, we were like, all right, we got to do this. No ifs, ands or buts on our last time. So we just made it happen.”

UTSA women’s basketball has been down for several years, but it’s a trend that looks like it’s about to change.

The Roadrunners have eight new players on the roster, including White and all-Pac 12 forward Jordyn Jenkins, who both came from USC.

With both in the transfer portal last spring, UTSA coaches reached out to them. Both were aware of the possibility that they could continue as teammates. But, initially, White didn’t think it would happen.

“Jordy is a phenomenal player,” White said. “She’s one of the top three players I’ve ever played with. So when the conversation came about, I was a bit surprised.

“I didn’t really believe she wanted to come down here and make a difference with me, but all in all, we did plan this decision to come home, to play together and get some wins under our belt, and just put on for the city of San Antonio.”

White said she doesn’t know who talked to Aston first.

“There were never conversations from coach Karen, like, ‘Hey, you two come together,’ ” White said. “She was treating us both as individuals and just trying to win us both over, to play for her, not just as a package deal.”

When decisions were made, UTSA made announcements on the two separately, one day apart last April. White said she felt a surge of emotion when she found out that Jenkins would join her in playing for the Roadrunners.

“A lot of emotions ran through my body,” she said. “We had our journey out in California together, and just to be able to come down here, and put something else together and start a new chapter of our life together, it felt really good. We’re just ready to do it.”

For White, she said she did “a lot of self reflecting” in entering the portal. She figured that since she had earned a degree in psychology, she was ready to seek out new horizons.

“Sometimes you feel (it) when it’s your time to maybe just move on,” she said. “Ultimately, I went to USC, did what I needed to do and I just decided it was my time to get a different opportunity, be in a different environment and play for a different coach.”

Acknowledging that she had some other opportunities to play in the state of Texas, she picked UTSA.

“In talking to my family and doing some self-reflecting, I kind of knew I wanted to move closer to home,” she said. “I didn’t know if it was just in the direction of home or literally back home as I am now. But, just having those tough conversations and speaking it over with coach Karen, the rest of the staff and meeting the team, you kind of just feel where you’re supposed to be.

“When I came on my visit, I just knew I belonged.”

White’s role with the Roadrunners is expected to be multi-faceted. She played 77 games and started 22 at USC, so her experience will be invaluable.

Coaches with the Trojans didn’t ask White to shoot the ball or score. She averaged only 1.3 points. But coaches with the Roadrunners are hoping they can untap some of her offensive potential from the guard and small forward positions.

“We’re trying to get her to get confidence in her shot, really be confident shooting the basketball and attacking the rim,” Aston said. “She’s just got so much IQ and feel for the game. The key for her is getting in a good mental space so she can score the ball. You can post her up. You can do a lot of things with her … ”

When White confirmed that she has two years of eligibility remaining with the Roadrunners, a smile creased her face.

“Yes sir,” she said. “Two years. It’s great. We’re trying to start something this last year in Conference USA. We’re trying to leave the best impression we can. I believe we have the right tools and the right girls who are willing to be coachable and taught and ready to lean on each other when things get tough.

“We just want to win.”

Kyra White at UTSA women's basketball practice at the Convocation Center on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA guard Kyra White led the Judson Rockets to three straight state tournaments and the 2019 Class 6A title – Photo by Joe Alexander

S. A. area athletes in NCAA Division I women’s basketball

NCAA Division I women’s basketball

Athletes from the San Antonio area

Editor’s note: With practices in NCAA Division I basketball starting this week and next, The JB Replay is taking a look at women from the San Antonio area and where they will play this season. This list likely does not include everyone from the area in Division I. It’ll be updated when any additions come to light. — Thanks, Jerry

Hailey Adams, Rice, 6-1 guard, freshman from Clark HS

Myra Bell, UIW, 5-10 guard, a junior from Taft HS

Aja Holmes, Southern Illinois, 5-8 guard, sophomore from Steele, transfer from TCU

Sahara Jones, Texas A&M, 6-0 guard, junior from Veterans Memorial

Sidney Love, UTSA, 5-8 guard, a freshman from Steele HS

Deja Kelly, North Carolina, 5-8 guard, a junior from San Antonio Johnson HS and Duncanville HS

Amira Mabry, Tulane, 6-0 forward, a freshman from Judson HS

Aaliyah McMillan, UT Rio Grande Valley, a 5-8 guard, RS freshman from Steele; transfer from UT Arlington

Tiffany McGarity, UT Rio Grande Valley, 5-9 guard, junior from Judson HS

Bria McClure, College of Charleston, 5-5 sophomore from Steele HS

Brenna Perez, UIW, 6-0 forward, a junior from Veterans Memorial HS

Alexis Parker, UTSA, 5-9 guard, freshman from Brandeis

Zaya Price, UIW, 5-10 guard, junior from Steele

Aaliyah Roberson, TCU, 6-2 forward, freshman from Clark

Kierra Sanderlin, Houston, 5-7 guard, sophomore from Judson; transfer from Rutgers

Carleigh Wenzel, Virginia Tech, 6-0 guard, freshman from O’Connor and Antonian

Kyra White, UTSA, 5-9 guard, a junior from Judson; transfer from USC