Long arms of the law? Coaches encourage UTSA forwards to bring intensity, defense

Aleu Aleu. The UTSA men's basketball team lost to Louisiana Tech 79-63 on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Forward Aleu Aleu says UTSA is ready “to surprise the outside world” as the new season opens Monday night with a home game against Trinity. — File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The video did not lie. About five minutes into an exhibition game at the Convocation Center last Wednesday night, the UTSA Roadrunners imposed their will to create a highlight-reel moment. The play was significant for a few reasons.

First, it started with a drive to the bucket by Japhet Medor, a 6-foot newcomer who has shown on numerous occasions a knack for bringing out the best in his teammates. As Medor drove to the bucket on the right side, he threw up a floater that caromed off glass and rim. From there, 6-9 Josh Farmer made a play on it, tapping it out.

Josh Farmer, a 6-foot-9 freshman forward from Houston Sharpstown, at the first day of UTSA men's basketball practice. - photo by Joe Alexander

Josh Farmer, a 6-9 sophomore from Houston, is regarded as one of the team’s most improved players. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Lamin Sabally, at 6-8, grabbed the ball and promptly dished under the basket to Aleu Aleu. In the chaotic aftermath, a few Schreiner bodies went down like bowling pins, and the 6-8 Aleu powered up and threw down an emphatic, two-handed dunk. It was an energy play that reverberated for, basically, the rest of the half.

For the next 15 minutes or so, the Roadrunners outscored the outmanned Division III Mountaineers by 28 points. Schreiner was lacking athletically in many ways against UTSA, as expected, but it still was a good sign for the home team to see a play unfold with such dramatic effect.

“You seen the game,” Aleu said. “It was back and forth for a little bit. Then you (saw) me, Josh and Lamin come in, and coach told us to pick it up. So we got a lot of stops and converted on the offensive end. Really glad we could bring the energy. That’s what we’re here for, and we’re going to continue to do that.”

After downing Schreiner 93-60 in the exhibition, UTSA hopes to continue pressing the action, and Monday night, the regular season starts for real. Once again, the opponent is a Division III foe. It’s the cross-town Trinity Tigers, in the house for a 7 p.m. tipoff at the Convo.

Most of the attention in UTSA camp since the players reported for fall semester duties has centered around Medor and John Buggs III, two transfer guards who seem to have solidified the entire program after a 10-22 season a year ago. But in the wake of the Schreiner exhibition, the potential for the long-armed trio of Aleu, Sabally and Farmer has sparked some discussion, as well.

Lamin Sabally. UTSA beat Dallas Christian 101-48 on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, in the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Lamin Sabally, a 6-8 sophomore, is bidding to play a bigger role after averaging 12.3 minutes last year. – Photo by Joe Alexander

While the three of them had a limited impact last season, the potential now seems pretty clear. If they can learn to play under control and play without fouling, they could give Henson all sorts of options on personnel groupings moving forward.

Henson and staffers talked to each player individually and to some in groups recently. The discussion centered on roles. With the three fowards, Henson said, “We kind of challenged ‘em collectively. (We asked) what would happen if you three went to the scorer’s table together and walked in, arm and arm, and said, ‘We’re going to make a big impact on this game with our defense and our length.’ ”

Aleu said the players got the message. They’ve been having good practices in that vein for several weeks now, anyway. “We kind of processed it, like, ‘OK, these are three long guys,” he said. “All quick. All can jump. All athletic. Can move. Can play defense. And we just … we get in the game and it’s hard for people to score.

“At practice, looking back on it, every time we’re on the court together, it’s hard for the blue team to get in their offense,’ Aleu added. “We’re blowing everything up. Josh is protecting around the rim. It’s a pretty good lineup, pretty big. With Japhet and Buggs and the three of us, we just shut everything down. We definitely take pride in that.”

For Aleu personally, this is a season in which he’d like to make up for lost time. Last season, he played in only 10 of 32 games, limited by right knee and left quadriceps injuries in the fall and then later, another right knee injury in January that knocked him out for the season.

It was an ordeal that tried his resolve. Aleu acknowledged that it was tough to make it through the days following the injury, which happened in UTSA’s Jan. 15 road game at Charlotte.

“My knee was stuck,” he said. “It was stuck for about three or four days. I couldn’t unlock it because the meniscus had flipped over. They couldn’t unlock it until I got into the surgery. Yeah, that was a lot. A lot.”

In explaining his situation, Aleu said it was a “bucket handle” meniscus injury to his right knee. He said it was his understanding that if the meniscus had been removed, he might have faced a knee replacement in two or three years.

“So the best thing to do is repair it, and just stitch it back together,” he said. “That’s what kept me out for so long. You got to let it heal. It took me about seven months to rehab. We went into the summer and Ji (trainer Jiana Hook) told me we’d just take our time with it.”

Aleu acknowledged that it was difficult to make it through the days following the injury, which happened in UTSA’s Jan. 15 road game at Charlotte. It was also painful to sit and watch the team implode at the end of the season.

“It felt bad just to sit there and watch my teammates go through what we went through,” he said. “So, I’m just happy to be back and (I hope) to do whatever I can to help the team, and not repeat what happened last year.”

Aleu’s return to full speed progressed gradually. He was limmited in late August and September. By the start of official preseason drills, the native of Kenya, who played in high school in Austin and in junior college at Temple, had ramped up to full-speed work.

A few weeks ago, Aleu raised eyebrows when he caught a pass on the fast break and tried to tomahawk dunk over freshman Massal Diouf. The ball didn’t go down, as Diouf hustled back to get a piece of it. But UTSA teammates took notice.

“Aleu, he just got to stay healthy,” guard Isaiah Addo-Ankrah said. “Aleu always could hoop. I call him my African Splash Brother. He just got to stay healthy and keep getting confident. Today, he went up and tried to dunk on somebody. I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s the Louie I know.’ ”

Henson said he was impressed with how hard Aleu practiced last month after being out for so long in rehabilitation.

“Then he had a stretch where he was shooting the ball so well,” the coach said. “(If) he mixes those two things and carries the shooting over to the games, he could have a huge impact for us. Because, he can play a couple of positions. He can guard multiple positions. Can pass it. Attack. Block a few shots. Rebound it. Defend.

“So, transitioning it from practice to the games, is kind of the key there.”

Aleu said he’s encouraged by the team’s play in general.

“Our confidence is pretty high,” he said. “I think that goes back to the guys around you. Everybody’s pretty supportive of each other. We encourage everybody to play their game and be themselves. That makes everyone feel confident. We’re past last year. But it’s, like, in the rear-view mirror. We also still think about it sometimes. It fuels us to keep getting better.”

If the Roadrunners win this year, it won’t be a surprise to them.

“For sure,” Aleu said. “We know what we can do. We’re ready to surprise the outside world, for sure. I think it’ll be a good season, and we won’t be surprised at all. We all know the work that we put in. We all know the sacrifices we’ve made.”

UTSA routs Dallas Christian and halts a three-game losing streak

Jordan Ivy-Curry. UTSA beat Dallas Christian 101-48 on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, in the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jordan Ivy-Curry sank five of UTSA’s 17 three-point baskets Monday in a blowout victory over the Dallas Christian Crusaders. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The UTSA Roadrunners needed a game to rediscover their offensive rhythm, and they seized it on Monday night by passing for 21 assists in a 101-48 non-conference victory over the Dallas Christian College Crusaders.

In snapping a troublesome three-game losing streak, the Roadrunners shot 48.7 percent from the field, including 52.9 percent in the second half, to rout the outmanned visitors from the National Christian College Athletic Association.

Only two days ago, the Roadrunners were humbled in a Conference USA game in Alabama.

They lost 87-59 on Saturday to the powerful UAB Blazers. While the Crusaders play at a few levels below the 14 teams in the C-USA, the home game at the Convocation Center still represented a chance for UTSA to work on execution for an offense that has been erratic at best.

Lamin Sabally. UTSA beat Dallas Christian 101-48 on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, in the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman Lamin Sabally produced 15 points and six rebounds. Sabally was 4 for 4 from the three-point arc. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“A lot of positives,” Coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio broadcast. “A lot things we can take away from it. The 21 assists (were) good. I thought we turned down some pretty good shots for some great shots.

“(In) rebounding (UTSA, 63-28), we kind of expected that (with our size advantage).”

UTSA entered the Dallas Christian game shooting 37.5 percent, including a cool 32 percent over losses to UT Rio Grande Valley, Illinois State and UAB. The Roadrunners responded against the Crusaders by making 19 of 42 afield in the first half, and 18 of 34 down the stretch.

Jordan Ivy-Curry knocked down five 3-point shots as UTSA hit a season-best 17 in 37 attempts from distance for the game.

Ivy-Curry scored 17 points to lead five UTSA players in double figures. Freshman Lamin Sabally scored a season-high 15 points, while Aleu Aleu and Darius McNeill added 13 apiece. Jacob Germany scored 10.

Aleu Aleu. UTSA beat Dallas Christian 101-48 on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, in the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Aleu Aleu started for the second straight game and ignited UTSA with two 3-point shots in the first two minutes. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Point guard Christian Tucker led the Roadrunners in assists with six in 24 minutes. Tucker also scored five points and pulled down nine rebounds. Lachlan Bofinger also started and produced a team-high 10 rebounds. Off the bench, 6-foot-9 freshman Josh Farmer had nine points on 4 of 7 shooting and nine boards.

UTSA rolled to a 12-point lead in the opening minutes, bumped it to 43 at the halftime break and increased it to as much as 56 at the end.

While a few players sat out for various reasons, the Roadrunners were looking for any and all players to take advantage of the opportunity to play. Aleu made the most of it, hitting two early threes to get the team going.

“I think I can be the energy guy,” Aleu told broadcasters Andy Everett and Tim Carter on the post-game show. “On defense, come in, guard, get rebounds. (On offense), make wide-open shots. Just kind of that role, whatever is needed.”

First half

The UTSA Roadrunners opened with back-to-back, 3-pointers from Aleu. They went on to hit 12 threes in 24 attempts in building a 55-12 halftime lead.

Darius McNeill. UTSA beat Dallas Christian 101-48 on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, in the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Senior Darius McNeill had 13 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists off the bench. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Playing with a decided advantage in size and athleticism, the Roadrunners seized momentum by scoring 12 points in a row at the outset. A few minutes later, it was 20-2, and a dozen minutes into the game, they were still rolling, leading 37-4.

Several Roadrunners contributed in the opening minutes, Sabally with nine points, Ivy-Curry with eight, and Aleu and McNeill with seven each. Sabally was 3-for-3 from three-point range.

The offensive outburst, even against an inferior opponent, was a welcome sight for the Roadrunners who have struggled on offense this season. UTSA came into the game averaging 67 points, while shooting 37.5 percent from the field. The Roadrunners were hitting only 26.1 percent from three-point territory.


For Dallas Christian, which plays in the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association, it was the team’s fifth exhibition against an NCAA Division I program.

The Crusaders have been beaten previously by Texas A&M, Tarleton, Northwestern State (La.) and the University of the Incarnate Word. UIW downed Dallas Christian 90-45 on Sunday afternoon in San Antonio.

Late in the first half, McNeill was helped off the court, assisted by a trainer. The senior transfer from SMU returned to play in the second half. UTSA’s Dhieu Deing, Cedrick Alley Jr. and Phoenix Ford did not play.


UTSA 7-7
Dallas Christian 1-4

Coming up

Thursday, 7 p.m. — Southern Miss at UTSA
Saturday, 3 p.m. — Louisiana Tech at UTSA

Sabally’s return to practice boosts Roadrunners

Lamin Sabally is a 6-foot-7 freshman guard who comes to the UTSA men's basketball team from Germany. - photo by Joe Alexander

Lamin Sabally is a 6-foot-7 freshman guard/forward from Germany. – photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman forward Lamin Sabally has returned to drills with the UTSA Roadrunners after sitting out four or five practices with a concussion early in the preseason camp.

UTSA coach Steve Henson said Tuesday that Sabally has been working his way back into form since re-joining the team on the floor last Saturday.

“He’s been fine (physically),” Henson said. “He didn’t lose much in that short of time. No effects of that whatsoever. He just jumped right back into it.”

UTSA has been in practices for nearly two weeks in preparation for a Nov. 9 season opener against Trinity.

Sabally, at 6-7 and 195 pounds, plays a fluid style that should complement the Roadrunners’ other rotation pieces in the frontcourt.

“We’ve never had a roster with that many long forwards, guys that could play multiple positions, (with) that much length, and pretty skilled at that position as well,” the coach said.

Henson said he has liked the looks of his team’s defense to this point but acknowledges that “we’re searching a little bit right now” in terms of identifying an offensive style.

“We’ve got different guys with the ability to create, and move the ball,” he said. “We can trust virtually everybody to make plays, which is a good sign.”

Henson said the Roadrunners are hopeful of being multi-dimensional on offense, with several scoring threats.

“Everybody can handle it well enough on the perimeter that we can play with five guys on the perimeter quite a bit,” the coach said. “If we can get four guys around (center) Jacob (Germany), that looks pretty good, as well.

“Still searching for a little more attack, seeking fouls, driving it down into the paint. We’re going to continue to look for that.

“There are times in practice when we make a lot of threes, we’re shooting off the pass, and shooting it pretty well,” he said. “It’s kind of across the board. A guy will make one. Another guy will make one.

“It’s not like one or two guys are carrying the load in that regard.”


Sabally, from Berlin, in Germany, is from a basketball family. Satou Sabally, his sister, has played two seasons in the WNBA with the Dallas Wings. She was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft out of Oregon. Nyara Sabally, another sister, is a junior at Oregon.

Lamin Sabally played internationally for the ALBA Berlin U18 team in 2018-19 in the Munich League before coming to the United States. He also played for the club team Tusli Lichterfeld in Berlin. Sabally moved from Germany in 2019 to play prep basketball in Arizona.

UTSA forward Aleu Aleu, a 6-8 junior transfer, has sat out most of the team’s camp with an unspecified injury. He was out again Tuesday after making it through about half of Monday’s workout …

Henson said walk-on point guard Christian Tucker, from Chandler, Ariz., has played well. “He’s been terrific,” Henson said. “He’s been really, really good.”