Family life has always shaped UTSA forward Phoenix Ford

Phoenix Ford. Florida Atlantic beat UTSA 73-64 on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

After three seasons at UTSA, Phoenix Ford is set to play his last two games at home for the Roadrunners this week. UTSA hosts North Texas on Thursday night and Rice on Saturday afternoon. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special Report for The JB Replay

UTSA senior Phoenix Ford is a family man in more ways than one. He grew up in a loving home in Florida as one of 11 siblings. When the 6-foot-7 power forward arrived in San Antonio in 2019, he said he had the same feeling on his first day with the Roadrunners.

He said it felt like everyone embraced him. Now, Ford has a family of his own. On Christmas Eve, his wife Alicia gave birth to the couple’s first child, a daughter named Genesis. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind ever since.

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

UTSA forward Phoenix Ford became a father for the first time on Christmas Eve. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Between school and practice and games and road trips, not to mention a few late nights with a crying infant on his shoulder, life for the Roadrunners’ resident girl dad has been a bit hectic.

“Ah, just changing hats every hour,” Ford said Wednesday. “When I’m home, I put my dad hat on. When I come here, I got to put my student-athlete hat on. It’s fun, a lot of time management.

“I (get) back home from practice, and (I’m) pretty tired. But coming home to my family every day gives me a boost of energy to keep going.”

Allowing the nostalgia to flow freely, Ford reflected on his UTSA career as he prepared to play his last two games at home with the Roadrunners, against North Texas on Thursday night and against Rice on Saturday afternoon.

“My favorite memories?” Ford asked rhetorically. “Umm, I mean, there’s a ton, I would say.”

Mostly, he’ll remember all his teammates, who he claimed he will have relationships with for the rest of his life. Even this year, as the Roadrunners struggle with a 9-20 record, Ford pointed out the positives.

Specifically, he praised the way Head Coach Steve Henson and his staff have carried themselves through a down season.

“When things are hard, and we’re not having the season we would (like) … they still come in every day with the right approach, with a positive attitude,” he said. “That takes a lot of character. I really respect all the coaches for that.”

A little more than one calendar year ago, things were different. This time last season, the vibe was lit. The Roadrunners had Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace, and the two senior guards were starting to heat it up on offense. The team was winning.

At the same time, Ford’s world off the court had turned upside down with news from Florida – his father was seriously ill. After the C-USA tournament, Henson urged him to go home and be with his dad and then return in the fall.

That way, he could play another year and finish up with his work on a multidisciplinary studies degree. It was an emotional time for everyone involved.

“Last spring, during the second half of the season, I got word that my dad had gotten pretty sick,” Ford recalled. “He was dealing with heart issues, congestive heart failure. I’d come in (to practice), and I tried to leave my personal stuff off the basketball court.

“When the season ended, I decided to go back home because things were getting worse. I wanted to see him before he passed. So, I got a chance to say goodbye before he passed in April.”

Alfredo Luis Ford III, a member of the Mt. Zion Progressive M.B. Church, was 64 when he died last April 17. Phoenix’s father, who was born in Colombia, had worked for the U.S. government at the Veteran’s Administration. Together, Alfredo and Denise Ford raised 11 kids. Yes, 11.

How did they do it? “I don’t know,” Phoenix said, grinning at the question. “I don’t know. I still have questions now, especially having my own child. I don’t know how they did it … but they did it.”

Basically, while Alfredo worked at the V.A., Denise would look after the home front. She home-schooled all the kids. Five of them played sports, so getting to and from practices and games was always an adventure.

“We had an 11-passenger van, a white van,” Phoenix said. “I was so embarrassed by it when I was younger. But it got us from Point A to Point B. They loaded us all up, and wherever we had to go to, they dropped us all off. Then they picked us up at the end of the day.”

As fraternal triplets, Phoenix and Keanu and Griffin Ford were the youngest in the family. All of the brothers played ball, and they became teammates at St. Petersburg High School.

“We were (teammates),” he said, grinning again, “(even though) some of us got more playing time than others … But it’s definitely awesome getting to play with your brothers. I played with the triplets and then I played with a brother ahead of us. It was nice.”

At UTSA, Ford’s calling card is his defense and his ability to knock taller players off their spot on the low post.

“I think he’s enjoyed knowing he’s going to play every night this season,” Henson said. “Some nights more than others. Started him at the four a few nights (when) he and Jacob (Germany) played alongside each other. For the most part, he’s been Jacob’s backup at the center.”

Henson said Ford is healthy now but has struggled with issues in the past.

“Previous years, he’s struggled with some tight back issues,” he said. “He hasn’t really had any issues with that in several weeks. He’s feeling pretty good. He dunked in a game the other night. Might be the first dunk he’s had in a game.

“He just doesn’t dunk very often in practice. Our guys were excited for him in that regard. He’s just such a good teammate. Very mature. All about team. Very unselfish.”

Henson said that since the baby was born, he hasn’t noticed that much of a change in the way Ford carries himself at practices or games.

“It’s been great,” the coach said. “Again, he’s so mature. We knew he’d be a great father. For the most part, I don’t think there’s been any detriment to it at all (in his basketball). He came in the other day and looked like he hadn’t slept. Baby was up most of the night.

“A day later, he came in and looked refreshed. That’s part of parenthood.”

In terms of his future, Ford has no illusions about pro basketball. The likelihood that he will see much interest from pro franchises is not high. Scheduled to graduate in May, he said he hopes to go into real estate, and he hopes to pursue that dream in Texas.

“I want to stay here for a few years,” he said. “I really like San Antonio. I’ve fallen in love with the city, with the culture. I do like Florida. I do miss the beaches and stuff like that. But I like San Antonio a lot, so I think I’ll start out here first and then see what’s next.”

As for life at home, Ford has a mental road-map on how to approach fatherhood through his own experiences years ago.

“Umm, just trying to do what’s best for my child,” he said. “My parents did make a lot of sacrifices, so seeing them, and the way they raised us (was a good example). Even though we had a lot of kids, they gave us each our own individual attention and love. I don’t think anyone was left out of the picture.”

Coming up

Thursday — North Texas at UTSA, 7 p.m.
Saturday — Rice at UTSA, 2 p.m.

Conference USA tournament

Tuesday — UTSA vs. Southern Miss, at Frisco

With C-USA play looming, UTSA is set to get three players back

Starting point guard Jordan Ivy-Curry and reserve center Phoenix Ford are set to re-join team activities Sunday night, and reserve forward Aleu Aleu is expected to return on Monday as the UTSA Roadrunners prepare for the start of the Conference USA schedule later this week.

UTSA coach Steve Henson delivered the news in a telephone interview Sunday afternoon, saying, “We anticipate everyone being ready to go. Aleu has some Covid protocols to finish up (but) I anticipate having him tomorrow. Everyone else should be good to go tonight.”

The Roadrunners (6-6) are set to pay at Middle Tennessee State (9-4) on Thursday and at UAB (10-3) on Saturday. Both are afternoon games.

It’s been an up-and-down ride for the Roadrunners in the pre-conference phase of the schedule. Early on, they were blown out at Oklahoma and then were beaten at home by Division II Texas A&M-Commerce.

But just as they started to play better, winning five of seven in one stretch, Henson learned late in the evening on Dec. 15 that Ivy-Curry and Aleu had been placed in health and safety protocols, both of them dealing with issues related to Covid.

Both were unavailable for the team’s last two games, at home against UT Rio Grande Valley on Dec. 17 and on the road at Illinois State on Dec. 21, both losses. Ford also did not travel for the Illinois State game, as he was dealing with a personal matter.

But he, too, has returned after the birth of his first child on Christmas Eve, said Henson, who gave all of his players the last 3 and 1/2 days off for the holiday break.

After Sunday night’s workout, scheduled to consist of weights, an hour-or-so on the court and film study, the Roadrunners were set to get back into their normal routine starting Monday.

For Ivy-Curry and Aleu, the workouts will be important as they try to strengthen their legs and their bodies after 10 days in isolation.

“Oh, for sure,” Henson said. “That’s always the concern for the whole group (after) 3 and ½ days off. Those guys had a longer break. It’ll be a concern.

“Sometimes there (are) positives with that,” the coach added. “Guys are banged up and bruised up. For Aleu, that was not the case. He was just starting to come into his own and get back into good shape. He certainly didn’t need that kind of setback.

“With Juice, I don’t think it’ll be a big deal for him. I expect him to get right back in there. But the timing of it was unfortunate. There’s never good timing to be shut down in the middle of the season.”

Before the Covid issues hit, the Roadrunners had been on an upswing, winning three out of four, while gradually starting to work some of the kinks out of their offense.

But without Ivy-Curry on the floor, the progress stalled, with UTSA hitting only 25 percent from the field against UTRGV and 37.9 percent against Illinois State.

Teams around the country have been plagued with Covid-related problems, so Henson is trying to take the setback in stride.

“Just like you do, I see games getting canceled and postponed and rescheduled and all that,” Henson said. “Right and left, teams are dropping out. In the (football) bowl games. (Also) in that Christmas (basketball) tournament in Hawaii.

“Of four games to be played in Hawaii on Christmas Day, two of them were shut down, including the championship game. But, (the virus) is here, and everyone’s dealing with it.”

Coming up

Thursday — UTSA at Middle Tennessee State, 4 p.m.
Saturday — UTSA at UAB, 3 p.m.
Jan. 6 — Southern Miss at UTSA, 7 p.m.
Jan. 8 — Louisiana Tech at UTSA, 3 p.m.


Even at full strength, Henson knows that the Roadrunners will need to improve both offensively and defensively in order to finish in the upper half of the C-USA standings.

“It’s going to get tougher in league play,” he said. “We know that. Our league is really, really good. So we got to keep improving.

“We got to put those last two games behind us. Get back to the things we were focusing on going into the Grand Canyon game, (and in) the Sam Houston game … getting the ball moving more, taking quality shots.

“In the Sam Houston game, they forced us to go make plays, but we did. We liked the direction we were taking heading into those two games. We’ve got to recapture that. Build on that. We’ve got to get better this week. That’s the bottom line.”

Determined to keep winning, UTSA prepares for UAB

Steve Henson. UTSA beat Florida Atlantic 86-75 at the Convocation Center on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, in the second game of a Conference USA men's college basketball back-to-back. - photo by Joe Alexander

Steve Henson’s UTSA Roadrunners have won four straight and seven of their last eight going into a weekend home series against the UAB Blazers. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Steve Henson said Wednesday afternoon in a zoom call with reporters that the UTSA Roadrunners’ two Conference USA home games against the UAB Blazers this weekend likely would be the team’s last games in the regular season.

They’re set for Friday night and Saturday afternoon at the Convocation Center.

In addition, Henson said he expects the games also will be the last two at home in the remarkable careers of Roadrunners seniors Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace, the leading scorers in the program’s 40-year history.

Both Jackson and Wallace told reporters they have not made a decision on whether they might take advantage of an extra year of eligibility. Before the season, all Division I basketball players were given an extra year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Even so, Henson said he plans on having “Senior Day” festivities on Saturday for Jackson, Wallace and also for forward Phoenix Ford. The coach was asked how “Senior Day” might be different with the lingering possibility that one or both of his high-scoring guards could return.

“I think we’ll go through it as if it’s their last game and worry about it after that,” Henson said. “The guys, right now, they’re focused on continuing to play (into the tournament). We started talking about this weeks ago — the opportunity to start winning games, to play better basketball.

“At one point, we knew four of our final six were going to be at home. That we could go into the conference tournament with some momentum. So, they liked that.

“What we did yesterday in practice was really, really encouraging. Just from different guys making plays. The ball moving. I think our guys are pretty locked in right now. There’s always that emotional piece on Senior Night, right before the game starts. (But) our guys are still planning on playing basketball for awhile.”

UTSA hasn’t played since Feb. 13. On that day, the Roadrunners completed a two-game, home sweep of the Florida Atlantic Owls, pushing their winning streak to four. A day later, a few players came in to shoot at the Convocation Center, but with cold and inclement weather on the way, the campus was scheduled to close at 5 p.m.

As it turned out, a week of the worst winter weather in South Texas in years descended from cold, gray skies, leading to power outages all over the city.
The UTSA basketball team was not spared.

Some players — notably, roommates Wallace and Jackson — had power go out in their apartments. From a basketball standpoint, the inclement weather kept the Roadrunners off the practice floor through Thursday. Ultimately, the team’s two road games, set for Friday and Saturday at Charlotte, N.C., were scrapped.

It was a blow to the fast-improving Roadrunners, who have won seven of their last eight conference games.

“We wanted to go down there and play,” Henson said. “We just couldn’t make it happen.”

Coming up

UAB at UTSA, Friday, 6 p.m.
UAB at UTSA, Saturday, 3 p.m.
Conference USA tournament, at Frisco, March 10-13


UAB 18-5, 10-4
UTSA 12-9, 8-6


Before the season, C-USA officials left open the first week of March — next week — for any make-up games. Even so, the two games between UTSA and Charlotte likely will not be played, Henson said, because Charlotte’s end-of-week schedule is full. The 49ers are scheduled to play Covid-related makeups on the road at Marshall on March 5 and 6.

“The chances of us playing Charlotte are slim and none,” said Henson, who added that the likely cancellations have created a “pretty weird situation for us” leading into the C-USA tournament.

“We’ll go 24 days with only two games — these UAB games — in that window there, which is less than ideal,” Henson said. “So we’re still trying to find something for next week. (We’ll) see if we can schedule a game or two. I’d really not prefer to go such a long span with only two games in there. But at this point, as of right now, the UAB games will be our last regular-season games.”

Senior Day emotions

Jackson has scored 2,461 points and Wallace 1,964. Jackson has twice been first-team all-C-USA. Wallace, in turn, has been second-team all-C-USA twice. The Roadrunners have built their program around them, which means that Saturday likely will be an emotional day.

“I’ll probably be as emotional as anybody, with the exception of some of the family members,” Henson said. “Keaton’ll probably be pretty stone-faced. That’s kind of his M.O., anyway. Jhivvan will be emotional, I think.

“Once the ball gets tipped, I think they’ll play great. It’s unfortunate that we can’t have an arena full of fans come and honor them in that regard. We’re going to honor Phoenix, as well. Those guys have done a great job. Great ambassadors for our program.”

With Covid restrictions, attendance will be limited.

“Keaton and Jhivvan helped us turn this thing around,” the coach said. “Got the attention of everyone around the country, everyone around the league. Really proud of them. It’s amazing the accomplishments they’ve had. Wish we could celebrate it in more grand style. But we’ll do the best we can with Covid.”

Henson is approaching the games against the Blazers as if they’re as if they’re the last ones at home for his two stars.

“My anticipation is that they have accomplished so much, I anticipate they’re ready to move on,” the coach said. “They love it here, and we’re glad they do, and we love having them here, but they both have sights set on winning a bunch more games here and then going and playing professionally. We haven’t spent a lot of time on the details with the scholarship numbers, or anything like that.”