UTSA’s Steve Henson: It’s time to suit up in the fight against cancer

Steve Henson. UTSA lost to 23rd-ranked Florida Atlantic 112-103 in overtime in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson says he remains committed to the cause of raising cancer awareness. His Roadrunners host the Tulane Green Wave tonight. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Earlier this week, UTSA coach Steve Henson delivered a poignant message on the importance of “Coaches vs. Cancer – Suits and Sneakers Week.”

It’s a week when basketball coaches nationwide join together to promote the importance of raising awareness and generating funds for research into the nature of a disease that still does not have a cure.

I have always admired the coaching fraternity for doing this.

But, somehow, the effort rings with a little more clarity for me going into tonight’s UTSA home game against the Tulane Green Wave.

In the past few years, cancer has taken so many people close to me, it’s been almost like a bad dream.

My mom. My friend, Ken Burmeister, the former head basketball coach at UTSA and the University of the Incarnate Word. Also, a few close allies from my days at the downtown newspaper.

All of that is why coach Henson’s message on video sort of slapped me out of my comfort zone and made me think.

“This week,” Henson said in his message, “I suit up for my dad. My father’s overcome several types of cancer in his lifetime, and he’s cancer-free today. But we still have a lot of work to do.”

On Tuesday afternoon, I asked the coach about the video. He responded by relating how the National Association of Basketball Coaches remains committed to the effort after 30 years.

“Suits and Sneakers weekend, it’s been a big deal for the NABC and Coaches vs. Cancer for years,” Henson said. “(We’ve) raised a lot of money, raised a lot of awareness. Covid affected it. Coaches stopped wearing suits during Covid, (and) a lot of coaches haven’t gone back to it.

“We just didn’t want to let it lose its significance, because it’s such an important cause. So the (UTSA) coaches will wear suits and ties with our sneakers and hopefully will give it as much media attention and social media attention as we can, and keep fighting for a cure.”

Henson’s dad is a special guy, by all estimations. Mike Henson was a longtime high school basketball coach in Kansas. He was also Steve Henson’s coach, at McPherson High School.

“He was a freshman coach when I was growing up,” the coach said. “As soon as he got out of college, he got the freshman coaching job. There was a legendary high school coach there at the time, Jay Frazier, and they had won a bunch of state championships.

“So, I grew up watching my dad coach the freshman team. Every single game. I’d walk from grade school to the junior high … The year that I became a freshman, he moved up to the JV spot, so I didn’t play for him as a freshman.

“He got the (varsity) job my sophomore year, so I played for him for three years.”

Henson noted that his father “enjoyed a ton of success,” but he added with a wry grin that, “I didn’t help him much.”

“He won three state titles or four state titles after I left. My brother (Brian) was a part of three of those,” Henson said. “(My dad) had a great, great career there. He’s in the Hall of Fame in Kansas. Just a really good coach.”

For the record, Mike Henson was inducted into the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2009, the same year, incidentally, that Steve Henson went into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

After playing for his father, Steve starred four years at Kansas State and later played in the NBA. Henson has been UTSA’s head coach for eight seasons.

“The town I grew up in was a really good basketball town,” Henson said. “When we were growing up, we heard about the state championships. Coach Jay Frazier won three state titles in the ’70s. We’d see those guys around town.

“On Wednesday nights, we’d go to McPherson College and play pick up, and those guys would come in and just tear us up, talk trash. We had pretty good records my three years (at McPherson). We didn’t win it. But my dad and my brother, they both won a bunch of ’em.”

Asked about playing for his father in high school, Henson paused and said simply, “It was a dream come true for both of us.”

Mike Henson has been cancer-free for several years now, his son said.

Tonight, Steve will be thinking about him again prior to UTSA’s 7 p.m. tipoff against Tulane. Also, the coach of the Roadrunners, who also serves on the national council of Coaches vs. Cancer, will be reminding anyone who will listen to be more aware.

To get tested.

“One of the things that happened during Covid is, people stopped getting screened, and cancer rates skyrocketed,” Henson said.

“Now,” he added, “one of the big things we’ve talked about for the last few years, there’s a lot of people who need treatment that don’t have rides. Think about that. How can that be?

“The treatment is there but people aren’t getting it because rides aren’t there?”

At that, the coach arched his eyebrows. I could see the passion in his expression. I could sense his fervor for the cause. Maybe, after hearing from the coach, it’s time we all suited up.

Coming up

Tulane at UTSA, Wednesday, 7 p.m.
UTSA at South Florida, Saturday, 3 p.m.

Records

Tulane 12-6, 3-3
UTSA 7-12, 1-5

Notable

Forward Kevin Cross and guards Jaylen Forbes and Sion James will lead Tulane into tonight’s game at the Convocation Center.

James had 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists Sunday in an 81-79 victory over No. 10 Memphis. In Tulane’s first victory over a top ten program since 1983, Cross had 21 points for his eighth 20-point game of the season. The Green Wave is coached by Ron Hunter, in his fifth year at the helm.

UTSA is coming off a 112-103 home loss in overtime Sunday against the 23rd-ranked Florida Atlantic University Owls. Of the Roadrunners’ four straight losses, two have come to nationally-ranked teams in overtime. The other was a 107-101 setback at then 13th-ranked Memphis on Jan. 10.

Against FAU, UTSA guard Jordan Ivy-Curry lit it up for a career-high 38 points. UTSA leads the American Athletic Conference in threes per game (10) and attempts per game (29.1). The Roadrunners rank 10th in the nation in long-distance attempts and 16th in makes.

Just in time: Shots are starting to fall for UTSA’s Dre Fuller Jr.

Dre Fuller Jr. UAB beat UTSA 78-76 in the men's basketball American Conference opener on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Over the last three games, Dre Fuller Jr. has come alive as an offensive threat for the UTSA Roadrunners, who play on the road tonight against the Memphis Tigers. – File photo by Jerry Briggs

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Quietly, one of the key players in the UTSA Roadrunners’ rotation has started to ratchet up his production.

Averaging 16.3 points and 4.6 rebounds over his last three games, Dre Fuller Jr. is doing it with such ease and smooth efficiency that it has almost gone unnoticed.

In that stretch, the 6-foot-6 graduate student from Fayetteville, N.C., has hit 51.5 percent of his shots from the field and 57.9 percent from three-point distance.

He capped the surge with a 23-point effort on the road against Rice last Saturday, a welcome sign for UTSA, which will play perhaps its toughest road game of the season tonight at the FedEx Forum against the 13th-ranked Memphis Tigers.

An all-around player with multiple skills, offensively and defensively, Fuller had been mired in a bad shooting funk, hitting only 7 of 36 from long distance in six games prior to his last three.

Because Fuller does so many things for the Roadrunners, coaches kept his playing time fairly level during the slump, which may have aided the turnaround.

Fuller said he appreciates it that UTSA coach Steve Henson hung in there with him as he worked things out.

“It showed he has the confidence in me,” Fuller said. “He sees me in here every day. So he knows how serious I take it. After the games, he’s telling me, ‘Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Let the game come to you.’ ”

Last year, Fuller went through some hard times while caring for his ailing mother.

He left Central Florida after three seasons, enrolled briefly at Florida Atlantic and then exited Division I basketball altogether when it became apparent that he needed to go home to help his mom.

All last year, he’d play pickup ball wherever he could and then visit with family. Tragically, his mom eventually passed away in March.

Since then, Fuller has been through an emotional roller coaster, first signing with the Roadrunners and then reporting to the UTSA camp in the summer and trying to get his game back together.

Fuller enjoyed a promising start to the season, scoring 16 at Minnesota in the second game and then pitching in a career-high 24 at Houston Christian.

Pretty soon, though, his shot started missing the mark. Fuller was 0 for 6 from three against Incarnate Word. Then 1 of 8 from the field against Lamar. At Oregon State, Fuller was two for 10 afield and 1 of 7 from three.

Frustration mounted.

“I wouldn’t go talk to (the coach),” Fuller said. “(But) I had to ask somebody, ‘What going on?’ He told me. He said, ‘Your day will come.’ (He said) just keep working. What you do in the game, it’s all going to fall in place.

“Listening to family, they’re telling me the same thing. I just tried to settle my body down and just keep playing.”

Heeding the advice has worked. Against Prairie View A&M, he started slowly, taking four 3-point shots and making three of them. Against the UAB Blazers in the American conference opener, he hit six of 12 afield, including another three from long distance.

Then he exploded against Rice on Saturday, knocking down eight of 17, including five of nine from three. Seven-foot power forward Carlton Linguard Jr., a transfer from Kansas State, came alive as well, scoring 24 points on four of eight shooting from distance.

“Those two guys, Dre and Carlton, can and do impact the game in so many other ways,” Henson said. “(If) they make two or three threes in a game, that just adds to it.

“We don’t have to have that for those two guys to make an impact. And now both of those guys have had games where they’ve made four or five (from beyond the arc). And then we’re really in good shape.”

While Fuller sat out last year for personal reasons, Linguard was at UTSA, working on academics to regain his eligibility and rehabilitating some nagging injuries.

Maybe it’s just taken both of them some time to get into their groove? Henson said part of it may stem from coaches just now finding out how all the pieces fit together.

“As we’ve gone along, we’ve learned more about our guys,” he said. “We’ve kept our play book pretty simple. This team doesn’t need or want a big play book. They make enough basketball plays that, we keep it simple, and they can move the ball.

“You call somebody’s number and expect that we’re going to get him the ball in a spot two or three times a game, they like that. We’ve kind of been able to do that.

“We’ve got a handful of plays, we just know, we have to call it two or three times a game, every single night, and something good usually happens.”

Fuller said he likes the flow of the game now because so many of his teammates are getting involved on a nightly basis.

“We have a lot of guys that, once people scout us, they’re like, ‘Ok, there’s not just one person scoring. Everybody is scoring,’ he said. “That’s what makes us a tough. But, like I say, we’re still learning every day. We got 13 new guys.

“(We’re) still learning and hopefully we’ll start picking it up real soon.”

Records

UTSA 7-8, 1-1
Memphis 13-2, 2-0

Coming up

Charlotte at UTSA, Saturday, 7 p.m.

After whirlwind of a week, Roadrunners are set to play Sunday at Oregon State

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

Hard-charging guard Jordan Ivy-Curry is expected to play for the first time this season today at Oregon State. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

What a week it was. The UTSA Roadrunners will arrive on Sunday at Oregon State University as a team that is deeper and more talented, by quite a bit, than it was only a few days ago.

Guards Jordan Ivy-Curry and Juan Reyna have been cleared to play for the first time this season after sitting out the first 10 games under NCAA transfer rules.

After a hectic week when a court case in West Virginia yielded a result that led to the addition of Ivy-Curry and Reyna to the travel squad, coach Steve Henson acknowledged the upgrade on his roster.

UTSA coach Steve Henson. UTSA defeated Incarnate Word (UIW) 90-80 in a non-conference men's basketball game at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Steve Henson on Saturday announced the addition of two players — Jordan Ivy-Curry and Juan Reyna — who will be eligible for the remainder of the season. Both had sat out the first 10 games of the season under transfer rules. – File photo by Joe Alexander

“To add a player (in Ivy-Curry) who was a good player (for us) at the Conference USA level, it’s a big shot in the arm,” the coach said.

Additionally, Adante’ Holiman is expected to return after sitting out the past two games with concussion symptoms.

Naturally, the two players making their season debuts are eager to see what they can do to help the Roadrunners (5-5) win a game against the Beavers (6-3) of the Pac-12 Conference.

“I know our team has been missing, like, a little energy,” Ivy-Curry said Saturday morning in San Antonio. “I feel like, with me and Juan, we’re energy guys … I feel like we can do a great job of bringing more defense to our team and more offense.

“I feel like we’re going to have a great year,” he added. “We want to pick this thing up, and get this thing moving.”

Reyna couldn’t hide his excitement during an interview after practice.

Asked how it felt to be a few hours away from boarding a commercial flight to Oregon, en route to the locale where he will play his first game for the Roadrunners, the San Antonio native and former standout at Antonian College Prep unleashed an ear-to-ear smile.

“It feels great,” Reyna said. “I honestly didn’t think I was going to be able to play this year. It just feels great to have an opportunity to help contribute. You know, to help this team win.”

UTSA released the news on Ivy-Curry and Reyna just after the start of a 9 a.m. practice on the team’s home court.

Afterward, Roadrunners Henson said newcomer Justin Thomas also had an opportunity to start playing in games, as well, and he declined.

Thomas, one of the most talented players on the squad, instead will sit out the remainder of the season. He will have two years of eligibility remaining, starting in 2024-25.

Ivy-Curry and Reyna are eligible for the rest of this season and for all of ’24-25, the coach added.

How did this all happen? Weren’t Ivy-Curry and Reyna expected to sit out the year? They were. So, what give? Here’s a brief explainer:

Out of the blue

From a federal courthouse in West Virginia, the news came rumbling out of the hills. Or, as Henson said, “out of the blue.”

Basketball coaches around NCAA Division I could hear the sound, metaphorically speaking, because it stood to make so much of a difference in the quality of their teams.

For Henson, he had more on the line than most.

The eighth-year coach of the Roadrunners had three talented players sitting out as multiple-time transfers who might be able to start suiting up in games depending on the outcome of the proceedings in an antitrust lawsuit.

Initially, on Wednesday, the news was good for Henson. Lawyers for the plaintiffs representing a coalition of seven states argued, essentially, that the transfer rule represented a restraint of trade. The judge agreed, and so he issued a temporary restraining order.

What did it mean? It meant that Henson and others in his profession might be able to start to playing players who otherwise might never have seen the floor this season.

The Roadrunners suddenly started to feel optimistic, like they might be able to start playing games with Ivy-Curry, Thomas and Reyna, all of them considered as two-time transfers.

But as so often happens in court proceedings, more drama and uncertainty ensued. The judge said previously ineligible players could only participate in games over a 14-day period.

Then came Thursday and more concerning news.

Word out of the NCAA was that players who played in games during the TRO might face consequences. News flashed that if the court reversed itself, then those players could be finished for the season after playing in only a few games.

By Friday, the cloudy skies cleared, so to speak. Representatives of the seven states filing the lawsuit huddled with officials from the NCAA.

Even though UTSA had nothing to do with the case, the Roadrunners benefited immensely from the meeting of the minds, which yielded an agreement.

The two sides would request from the judge an injunction that would allow athletes affected by the transfer rule to play in games through the end of the season without concern that they might be ruled ineligible.

The request for an injunction from both sides of the lawsuit apparently is expected to be granted by the court.

It’s a sweeping change that will affect dozens of players nationally.

“All these multi-year transfers (around the nation) are eligible,” Henson said. “You know, this thing changed three times during the week. And a couple of our kids, their decisions went back and forth.”

Henson recalled a moment in time on Wednesday when the team was in Little Rock, and he and his staff tried to figure out how to defend the Little Rock Trojans.

“They had a two-time transfer,” Henson said. “We thought he was going to play. Our guys (Ivy-Curry, Thomas and Reyna) weren’t on the trip with us. We literally joked about getting them a flight and getting them there by that night.”

Guard Juan Reyna works in a defensive drill during a Saturday morning practice at the UTSA Convocation Center. The San Antonio native and former standout player for Coach Rudy Bernal at Antonian College Prep has been cleared to play for the rest of the season.

UTSA men need to ‘keep building’ in a rematch with Lamar

PJ Carter. UTSA defeated Incarnate Word (UIW) 90-80 in a non-conference men's basketball game at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Guard PJ Carter came off the bench to average 13 points on 50 percent shooting in home games last week against Jacksonville State and Incarnate Word. He scored a season-high 17 against UIW last Saturday afternoon. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Last week, the hot-and-cold nature of UTSA Roadrunners men’s basketball was on full display. Two victories in a three-game stretch. A few minutes of cohesive play at one moment in time, followed by a stretch of mind-boggling inconsistency.

During a two-point victory at Houston Christian University, a head-scratching 15-point home loss to Jacksonville (Ala.) State and a bounce-back victory 24 hours later on the same floor against Incarnate Word, attention to detail on defense would come and go.

The UTSA offense would click nicely in one 10-minute stretch, and then it would suddenly short-circuit and stagnate.

“We’re still searching offensively,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said after knocking off Incarnate Word, 90-80, on Saturday afternoon. “We’ve got to identify … what can we expect every night. With Adante’ (Holiman) and Dre (Fuller), we need those guys to be playmakers, in addition to (being scorers). We need an occasional post up. We need a back door. Just keep building. As we learn more about our team, I hope our offense will get better.”

Coming off their first two-win week of the season, the Roadrunners will return to action tonight at the UTSA Convocation Center. First, Coach Karen Aston’s women’s team hosts the Texas State Bobcats at 5 p.m. Next up, Henson’s men’s team will take on the Lamar Cardinals at 8 p.m.

The men’s game will serve as an opportunity for UTSA (3-4) to take another crack at Lamar (4-3). It’s a chance for the Roadrunners to show some growth after allowing the Cardinals to clobber them on the boards and on the scoreboard on Nov. 14 in Beaumont.

In the earlier meeting, Lamar registered a 90-82 victory. In that game, a smaller and quicker team out-hustled UTSA in winning the rebounding battle, 57-45. On the offensive glass, the Cardinals claimed a shocking 25-12 advantage. Not even a 22-point explosion from UTSA guard Holiman could make up the difference.

Tonight in the rematch, the Roadrunners will need to contain the Cardinals duo of 6-foot-9 Adam Hamilton and 6-6 Terry Anderson, who combined for 13 offensive boards between them. The two also combined for 36 points. Meanwhile, UTSA will also need to keep an eye on guards B.B. Knight and Ja’Sean Jackson.

Jackson, from San Antonio’s Wagner High School, hurt UTSA at the end of both halves. In the first half, he made a 45-foot, three-pointer at the buzzer. In the last few minutes of the game, he created a layup by dishing for an assist and then knocked down four straight free throws to ice the victory.

Tonight

Texas State at UTSA women, 5 p.m.
Lamar at UTSA men, 8 p.m.

Coming up

The UTSA women (4-2) are playing two games in four days. After tonight’s game against the Bobcats (3-2), they’ll host the UTEP Miners at noon on Sunday before they take a pause in the schedule. They won’t play again until they host the Houston Cougars on Dec. 14.

For the UTSA men, the Lamar game is the last one they’ll play until after the break. They’ll be back on the court for a Dec. 10 home game against Arkansas-Fort Smith.

Notable

Doing a couple of things more consistently, running consistent offense to get open looks on long-distance shots and generating easy baskets, might solve a lot of problems for the UTSA men. As it is, they’re shooting 40.8 percent from the field for the season. The percentage ranks 13th of 14 teams in the American Athletic Conference. The Roadrunners are hitting only 30.1 percent from three, which ranks 10th. UTSA has made only 52 threes in seven games, for an average of 7.43. They hit a season-high 10 against UIW.

Fuller scores 24 as UTSA holds off Houston Christian, 89-87, ending a three-game skid

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners gave up most of a double-digit lead in the final minutes Monday night and then escaped with an 89-87, non-conference road victory against the Houston Christian Huskies. Forward Dre Fuller Jr., who led UTSA with a season-high 24 points, said he will take it.

“Winning on the road is extra, extra hard,” Fuller told Andy Everett on the team’s radio broadcast. “You walk in the gym (seemingly) down 20 already, with the refs and the opponent, so we just had to just fight and keep going.”

Ahead by one point at halftime, the Roadrunners built leads as large as 11 points three times in the second half, only to see the Huskies keep battling. In crunch time, UTSA’s Isaiah Wyatt hit a layup for an 81-70 lead with 5:40 remaining.

But the Huskies kept playing and stayed within striking distance. The Roadrunners also pushed back, with Adante’ Holiman driving to the rim and getting fouled with six seconds to go. Holiman missed the first one and made the second for a three-point lead.

On HCU’s next possession, Fuller fouled Michael Imariagbe just as he advanced past halfcourt. Imariagbe made the first free throw and then missed the second one on purpose. Bruce Carpenter rebounded and had a decent look at the basket inside the top of the key, but he misfired at the buzzer.

“Road wins are good, however they come,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Should have been a little cleaner. Wish it would have been a little smoother down the stretch. Both halves, we had good stretches in the middle … built that lead and then didn’t hang on to it very well.”

For UTSA, the win was a relief after dropping three in a row — all on the road — at Minnesota, Lamar and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Along with Fuller, point guard Christian Tucker played well. Tucker finished with 15 points, eight assists and five rebounds. Chandler Cuthrell came off the bench for 10 points and six boards.

Marcus Greene led the Huskies with 23 points. Jay Alvarez scored 19. Imariagbe enjoyed a big night with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Bonke Maring scored 16.

Records

UTSA 2-3
Houston Christian 0-3

Coming up

Jacksonville State (Ala.) at UTSA, Friday, at noon

Notable

After beating Western Illinois at home to start the season, the Roadrunners embarked on a stretch of four straight games away from home. They lost by 26 points at Minnesota, by eight at Lamar and by 10 at Texas State before winning by two at Houston Christian.

UTSA coach Steve Henson shuffled his starting lineup against the Huskies. He started Trey Edmonds and Dre Fuller at the forwards, Isaiah Wyatt on the wing and Adante’ Holiman and Christian Tucker at guard. Wyatt, a 6-4 swing man, was the new starter replacing 7-foot Carlton Linguard Jr., who came off the bench.

Henson said his original starters weren’t do anything wrong so much as he just wanted to shake things up after a few losses.

“We lost a couple of ball games, so we wanted to mix things up,” Henson said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys that have earned the opportunity to play and start. Also was hoping Carlton would relax a little bit. Coming off the bench sometimes that helps guys. He’s a big part of what we do. We need him to be really comfortable out there.”

Linguard finished with 10 points, six rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots. Wyatt had seven points and four rebounds in 21 minutes. Leading the way were Fuller and Tucker, who serves as a lead guard along with Holiman. Tucker came up big with 15 points, eight assists and five rebounds.

New-look UTSA hosts Trinity tonight in exhibition opener

Adante' Holiman. UTSA men's basketball practice on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Sophomore point guard Adante’ Holiman, a transfer from UT Rio Grande Valley, is expected to play a major role in the backcourt this season for the UTSA Roadrunners. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Hoping for a fast start with a new-look roster, the UTSA Roadrunners will host the non-scholarship Trinity University Tigers in an exhibition opener tonight at the Convocation Center.

“I just want to see what we can carry over (from practices),” eighth-year UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “They’ve worked hard. I like the pace that we’ve had. There are certain actions that we’re defending pretty well.

PJ Carter. UTSA men's basketball practice on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Junior college transfer PJ Carter is perhaps the most improved newcomer on the team after coming in from Georgia Highlands College. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“It doesn’t mean we’ll see that from Trinity tomorrow. Probably will be some surprises. Always just curious about what will transfer. We’ll play a bunch of guys and see what our conditioning looks like.

“Hoping to see a great defensive effort. A great rebounding effort. Hope we’ve got some pace. The offense will take care of itself if we’re locked in on the other end of the floor.”

After tonight, the Roadrunners will continue practicing before hosting McMurry University next Monday to wrap up the exhibition schedule. The regular season opener is Nov. 6 at home against Western Illinois.

For the fans, the exhibition against Trinity will serve as an opportunity to take their first look at the Roadrunners since the roster was almost totally revamped during the offseason.

First-year players in the program who are expected to see action tonight include the likes of Adante’ Holiman, Dre Fuller, Jr., Nazar Mahmoud, PJ Carter, Isaiah Wyatt, Chandler Cuthrell, Trey Edmonds and Josh Reid.

Another player making his UTSA debut will be seven-foot center Carlton Linguard Jr., who is eligible for the first time after rectifying academic issues following a transfer in the summer of 2022 from Kansas State University.

Returning players from last year’s squad include Christian Tucker and Massal Diouf.

Jordan Ivy-Curry, Justin Thomas and Juan Reyna, who are all scheduled to sit out this season under NCAA transfer rules, are not expected to play against Trinity. It’s possible that they could be cleared at some point, but it would require a waiver from the NCAA. So, those three, along with guard/forward Blessing Adesipe, who is rehabilitating an injury, won’t be on the floor against Trinity, the coach said.

Initially, UTSA fans might notice lineup combinations in the frontcourt that will have more heft, if not more height, than last year.

In the interior, Henson might play Linguard (7-foot, 225 pounds) in the post along with Diouf (6-9, 240) or Edmonds (6-10, 255). A more traditional set could feature any of the three big men, paired with Cuthrell (6-8, 220) at power forward.

In addition, the Roadrunners also could go smaller on the front line with the versatile Fuller (6-6, 220).

In the backcourt, the Roadrunners believe they have some speed with the likes of Holiman and Tucker, both of them point guards, along with a grouping of wing players who will be tasked with running the floor, shooting and defending.

That group would include Carter, Mahmoud, Wyatt and also Fuller, a former three-year veteran from the Central Florida Knights who sat out all of last year following the death of his mother.

Henson said it’s possible that he might play both Tucker and Holiman, possibly one of the most natural scorers on the team, together.

“They both earned the right to be out on the court, so we’ll play them together quite a bit, I would anticipate,” the coach said. “Christian’s done a really good job for us. He’s taken a good step (forward) for us on both ends of the floor. He’s the (player) most familiar with what we’re doing, the most experienced in our program. So, yeah, both of those guys will play a lot.”

Asked to identify the newcomer who has made the biggest jump from his time of arrival earlier this summer, Henson didn’t hesitate in saying that it has been Carter, a 6-foot-5 wing player from Atlanta, who averaged 16.3 points and shot 43 percent from three last year at Georgia Highlands College.

“He’s doing now what we saw on film, what we anticipated,” Henson said. “When he first got here, he wasn’t in very good condition. I don’t think he did a lot in the spring. He was finishing up his academics. I don’t think he was on the court a lot certainly with intense game action of any kind.

“His condition (in the summer) prevented him from playing the way we anticipated. We were concerned early on, but his condition just got better and better. He’s been a good, solid player. Versatile. Good feel for the game. High IQ guy. He’s been really good since he got in shape.”

Another player who has made significant strides, the coach said, has been Wyatt. Last week, the 6-4 Ohioan who shot 46.9 percent from beyond the arc last year at Division II Chadron State, Neb., went on a six for seven, three-point shooting binge during a 15-minute full court, full-speed scrimmage.

“He had a lot to do academically this summer and that was wearing him down,” Henson said. “But once he got through that, we had to work on his conditioning. We knew he could shoot the ball well. He’s picked up on our schemes defensively. He’s improved on that end a lot.”

Players that have been better than expected? Henson talked about Edmonds, who played last year at Utah Tech. Edmonds is expected to be a defender and a rebounder, primarily. “He’s such a conscientious player who wants to do things right, on and off the court,” Henson said.

The coach also mentioned Mahmoud, a 6-5 freshman guard from the Austin area.

“We started recruiting him several years ago, Henson said. “I loved him when I first saw him. We were fairly aggressive with him, I guess, it was the summer before his junior year. I thought he had terrific upside. He’s a little better than I anticipated. He’s got some work to do defensively. But he knows (offensively) how to set his man up, make cuts, reads defenses and shoots it with confidence.”

After putting in all the work, UTSA players are anxious to test themselves against an opponent. Wyatt said that, with Trinity at the Division III level, he wants to see the Roadrunners win by at least a double-digit margin.

“We worked our butts off to get to this point, and now we’re heading into the season,” Wyatt said. “I already know, a lot of people have a different narrative about how UTSA basketball is, and we definitely want to change that.

“We’ve got quite a few new faces, and a lot of them have been through junior colleges, he added. “If anyone knows anything about junior colleges, we all have a chip on our shoulder. We all have something to prove.”

Notebook

UTSA has played Trinity in exhibitions each of the past two seasons. Two years ago, the Roadrunners rolled to a 97-66 victory and last year, they shot the ball poorly but still won easily, 74-47.

The Tigers enter the game under the direction of fourth-year coach Jimmy Smith, who is expected to depend heavily this season on returning all-conference guards Tanner Brown and Jacob Harvey.

Harvey averaged 12.4 points per game for the Tigers last year. He hit 68 three-pointers and shot at a 42-percent clip from beyond the arc. Brown averaged 11.6 points and 4.5 rebounds. Trinity is 53-15 under Smith, who is entering his fourth season at the university.

UTSA forward Dre Fuller Jr. expects to feel a presence during practices, games

Dre Fuller Jr. at UTSA men's basketball practice on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Forward Dre Fuller Jr. hopes to honor the memory of his mother this season with a strong performance as a UTSA graduate senior. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA forward Dre Fuller Jr. doesn’t want a little pain to stop him from completing his daily routine in preseason training camp. Not now. No way. The 24-year-old Fuller, the oldest player on the Roadrunners’ roster, has been through way too much heartache over the past year to allow knee and shoulder soreness to slow him down.

He knows he needs to push through it. Besides, Fuller will have what he believes to be a heavenly force looking over him after his mother, Stephanie Johnson, passed away in March following a battle with breast cancer. After taking a year off from college basketball to help care for her, he says he thinks about his mom constantly.

Assistant coach Kurtis Darden at UTSA men's basketball practice on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

First-year UTSA assistant coach Kurtis Darden says he has known Dre Fuller Jr. for 13 years. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“Oh, yeah, every day,” the 6-foot-5 playmaker said after practice recently. “I have my necklace with her on it … She’s not leaving. I can feel her right now.”

With that comment, Fuller smiled, laughed a quiet laugh and shook his head slightly. Perhaps it’s a sign that Stephanie Johnson’s youngest child is beginning to heal emotionally.

Whatever the case, the UTSA graduate senior who last played in the 2021-22 season for the University of Central Florida Knights is definitely looking ahead to brighter days.

He said he thinks he will feel his mother’s presence constantly during his first season with the Roadrunners. “For sure,” he said. “I think she’s going to be right by my side. She’ll be telling me to work harder.”

First-year UTSA assistant coach Kurtis Darden doesn’t doubt that for a moment. Darden has known Dre Fuller and his family for more than 13 years.

The relationship began in 2010 when Darden was starting a new job as basketball coach at Village Christian Academy in Fayetteville, N.C. Much to the coach’s surprise, a kid much too young to be in high school would hang out constantly in the Village Christian gym.

It was Dre Fuller. “He was just always in there,” Darden recalled. “Whether we were having practices (or) whether we were not having practices, he was just always hanging around the gym. I always noticed him. He was a lot smaller than he is now.

“I’d just joke with him. I’d say, ‘Hey, you’re going to grow up and be a pretty good basketball player if you stick with it,’ and that’s what ended up happening.”

Fuller is now a strapping, 215-pound guard/forward. He is expected to play a substantial role for the Roadrunners, who will tip off in their exhibition season opener next Tuesday night against Trinity University.

A playmaker on the wing who likes to drive into the paint and create opportunities for his teammates, he once started 27 out of 67 games over three seasons for Coach Johnny Dawkins and the UCF Knights of the American Athletic Conference.

UTSA will open a new era in the American this season.

Back in the day in North Carolina, Fuller and his mother were a constant presence around the Village Christian basketball program. When Darden first met the mom, her daughters had already graduated, but she volunteered to keep the scorebook for all the team’s home games, anyway.

Her upbeat personality was infectious.

“She was very fiery,” Darden said. “She coached Dre hard. She basically was a basketball coach that was a mom, as well. She would coach him from the stands — in a good way. You know, you have parents who holler and scream and they don’t know nothing about basketball, but then you have those other parents who know about basketball and are able to coach ‘em up.

“That’s what kind of lady she was. Her kids were her everything. When I first got to Village Christian, I didn’t know anybody. But she kind of gave me the scoop. She just volunteered. Her son wasn’t even playing varsity, and she was keeping score for the varsity team. Just out of the goodness of her heart.”

After Fuller’s freshman year at Village Christian, his family moved to St. Petersburg, Fla. There, he played three seasons at Farragut Academy and became a three-star college prospect. He signed with Dawkins at UCF. With the Knights, Fuller’s career was up and down.

As a redshirt freshman, he barged into the starting lineup in UCF’s fifth game and started to make a major impact on a team that had been in the NCAA tournament the previous season. A highlight came in a 13-point, 8-rebound performance at Oklahoma in December 2019, when he hit a three with a minute remaining to pull the Knights within one.

At the end, he missed a three at the buzzer, as the Sooners escaped with a 53-52 victory. “Dre played well,” Dawkins said at the time. “He made plays for us…I was proud of him, as a freshman in this type of environment.”

Fuller’s success was uneven, at best, at UCF. Though he averaged 6.3 points as a freshman and 7.0 as a sophomore, by his junior year, his minutes were slashed. He was no longer a starter and his scoring averaged dipped to 4.0. Frustrated, he put his name into the transfer portal.

Once again, though, the stars just would not align for him. He briefly joined the program at Florida Atlantic University, enrolling in summer classes in 2022. But it was a short-lived stay in Boca Raton. In the infancy of the Owls’ preparation for what would be a startling run to the NCAA Final Four semifinals, he elected to exit the program after about a month.

By the end of July, Fuller was gone.

“That’s when I started taking care of my mom,” he said. “I called them and told them, ‘Thank you.’ I was like, ‘Ya’ll are good. Ya’ll are going to make it far.’ I didn’t know, Final Four far. I just told them I had some things to work out.

“They just said thank you for coming and, like, wished me the best of luck. They didn’t know my mom was sick at the time. They just wished me the best and asked me why. I told ‘em I (couldn’t) really say. I was just hurtin,’ you know.”

From there, Fuller’s basketball journey veered into some murky waters. He traveled back to Orlando, where he took one class at UCF to gain his bachelor’s degree. Not too long after that, Fuller tried to stay active, playing basketball recreationally wherever he could find competition.

But as the months advanced, his attention turned to his mom, who passed away on March 17. At the funeral, he encountered a friendly face in the gathering. It was Darden, who had coached him for a few years at Village Christian in North Carolina.

“Just going there as a friend of the family,” Darden explained. “One of the last things he told me (after the service), he said ‘Coach I’m trying to play this last year for my mom.’ ”

Darden was determined to assist if he could. At the time, he was still working at Campbell University as the operations director for the basketball program, and he mentioned Fuller’s name to the Fighting Camels’ coaching staff as a potential prospect.

“But they weren’t recruiting him at the time, or whatever,” Darden said, “so I called some other schools about him, just trying to help him out. We would just talk and text. Then I land up here (at UTSA, in May) and as soon as I get here, he’s one of the first names I brought up to the coach.”

Not too much later, Fuller committed to Roadrunners head coach Steve Henson, and he was announced as a signee on July 11. “He’s a great kid,” Henson said. “We’re excited about him. He’s done a good job. We’ve got to get him 100 percent healthy. But he brings a great element to our team.”

Henson called Fuller an instinctive player whose best attribute is his ability to create.

“He seems to have a real joy for the game,” Henson said. “He seems to enjoy playing. Can’t really describe that real well. Told him a story. We coached Toni Kukoc and Shareef Abdur-Rahim (with the Atlanta Hawks). Shareef was a terrific player. An all star. We were trying to get them stacked up on the weak side. And tell them, ‘You pick for him. Shareef, you pick for Toni (and) just play.’ It was just fascinating. Toni loved it. Just the freedom to do whatever. You know, just play.”

Henson said Fuller reminds him of Kukoc, in that regard.

“It’s just, ‘Coach, let me go. Give me a little idea of where I need to start the possession and let me read (it),’ ” the coach said. “He’s a good cutter. A good penetrator. He wants to pass the ball. He just seems like he has fun playing. Drills may not be his favorite thing. But as soon as we’re actually playing, he just makes instinctual plays. (He has a) good (basketball) IQ and (is) very versatile.”

Perhaps more than anything, motivation may emerge as a key to his overall performance.

After all, it’s a powerful thing when a young man wants to honor someone who sacrificed so much for him. The words Dre Fuller once heard from his mother back in Fayetteville, N.C., will always be remembered during wind sprints at UTSA basketball practices in coming months. Said Fuller: “If I want to stop, I always have a little voice inside my head saying, ‘Keep going.’ And, ‘One more. You can do one more. You’re not tired.’ ”

Coming up

Oct. 24 — Trinity at UTSA, exhibition, 7 p.m.
Oct. 30 — McMurry at UTSA, exhibition, 7 p.m.
Nov. 6 — Western Illinois at UTSA, regular-season opener, 7 p.m.

AAC men’s basketball gets an infusion of talent from Conference USA

Florida Atlantic coach Dusty May. No. 24 Florida Atlantic beat UTSA 83-64 in men's basketball on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Dusty May and his FAU Owls won the Conference USA title and advanced all the way to the NCAA Final Four last spring. The Owls are now picked to win the American Athletic Conference in their first year as a member of the league. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

With the departure of Houston, UCF and Cincinnati from the American Athletic Conference, a compelling question looms. Will the glory days of AAC men’s basketball soon fade into the frayed and yellowed pages of history?

Or, with the arrival of six schools from Conference USA, including Final Four darling Florida Atlantic, has the AAC actually started to trek down a road to become a better league — from top to bottom — than it has been in recent years?

Steve Henson. UTSA lost to UAB 83-78 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson talked to reporters Monday in Dallas at the AAC media day. – File photo by Joe Alexander

“I think we’re going to have the best roster of coaches in men’s and women’s basketball that we’ve ever had,” Commissioner Mike Aresco said at the televised AAC media day on Monday morning in Dallas. “I think this conference is deeper than it’s ever been.

“We’ll lose Houston, and they obviously did a lot for the conference. When you really think about what Kelvin Sampson (the Houston men’s coach) meant and what he did for the conference, I want to really applaud him. But this conference is now deeper, and it will be better, than it was before.”

On a local level, another weighty question is being asked.

Can UTSA, picked to finish last in its first season in the AAC, ever contend on a consistent basis in what officials hope will become a conference that annually sends multiple teams to the NCAA tournament? Or, are fans of the Roadrunners destined to feel more misery than euphoria in the years ahead?

UTSA coach Steve Henson, whose teams have finished 10-22 in each of the past two seasons, brushed off the poll results and said he’s energized with a roster of players that turned over almost entirely from last year.

“We’re excited about those new guys,” Henson told an ESPN media crew. “We set out this summer, tried to get ’em in as early as possible. It was a little bit of a challenge to get ’em signed, to get ’em all committed, get ’em on board and get ’em to class.

“But the majority of them were around (campus) in the summer. We anticipated needing to do some team bonding, to facilitate some chemistry. But they kind of handled all that on their own. So that was exciting. That was issue No. 1, getting those guys to gel.”

Once coaches started to work with the new group, which features three strong post defenders, a few quick point guards and some wings that can run the fast break, the identity of the squad came into sharper focus.

“We like our versatility,” Henson said. “We’re an older group. We’re not alone in saying that, in this day and age. There’s a lot of older teams right now. But we think this group’s got a chance with our versatility and hunger and desire to do something special.”

Asked about the program in general, Henson said it’s an exciting time to be in UTSA athletics.

“It’s just an exciting time to be at UTSA,” he said. “We’re a young university. A young athletic department (with) a young football program that’s absolutely crushing it. Football in Texas — it’s kind of a big deal. We just try to piggy-back off that momentum. It’s a good basketball city with the Spurs traditionally. Renewed interest there with (rookie Victor Wembanyama) coming to town.

UAB coach Andy Kennedy. UTSA lost to UAB 83-78 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Andy Kennedy and the UAB Blazers are picked to finish fourth in the AAC. – File photo by Joe Alexander

“So, it’s a great place to live. It’s a thriving university. If you drive near our campus, (there’s) construction everywhere. It’s one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. People don’t realize we’re the seventh-largest city in the country. Sounds like we’re closing in on No. 6. It’s just a fun place to be right now. A lot of excitement.

“People talk about the River Walk, which is great. If you visit San Antonio, you’re going to go to the River Walk. We’ve got our own separate area around our campus, which is thriving like crazy.”

At one time, Roadrunner basketball was thriving under Henson, who is entering his eighth season at the school. The team posted winning records in three of four seasons in one stretch and finished in the upper division of C-USA with Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace leading the way. Despite the Roadrunners’ recent struggles, Henson firmly believes UTSA basketball can become a contender again.

“Our kids are going to play extremely hard,” he said. “You know, the polls (picking UTSA for last place) are out. We’re not going to have to do a lot of putting that up on the walls. You know, our kids are going to see it. They’re going to use that as motivation. We won’t over-do that with them.

“They’re going to be hungry. They’re motivated. We literally had one kid cry when we offered him a scholarship, he was so thrilled to come in. (But) this group’s going to play hard. We’ve always played fast. This team is built to play fast. We have shooters. We’ve got three big guys on the interior that are all defensive-minded and talk. We’re excited about it.

“Again, this group will use the polls as motivation.”

Last year, the postseason tournaments served as a reminder that Conference USA teams entering the American would be competitive. For instance, after FAU won the C-USA, it turned around and beat AAC champion Memphis in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Columbus, Ohio. Then it went on to win 35 games en route to the school’s first berth in the Final Four.

Furthermore, both North Texas and UAB won berths in the National Invitation Tournament, and both kept winning until they met in the finals in Las Vegas. Once in the title game at the Orleans Arena, North Texas downed UAB, 68-61. In addition, Charlotte won the College Basketball Invitational, downing Eastern Kentucky, 71-68, in the finals at Daytona Beach, Fla.

Combined, the four teams posted a combined record of 117-35. In the AAC preseason poll, FAU was picked to win, with Memphis second, Tulane third and UAB fourth. UAB Blazers coach Andy Kennedy told ESPN on Monday afternoon that the new-look AAC will need to earn its respect in November and December.

“Ultimately, you make your hay in the non-league (games),” Kennedy said. “We’ve certainly challenged ourselves, and I’ve looked around at the other schedules around the league, and a lot of our teams are going to challenge themselves early. We have to win some of those games, so that when we get into the gauntlet of league play …

“People ask me all the time, I’ve coached in the Big East. I’ve coached 12 years in the SEC. And they say,
What’s the hardest league in the country?’ I say, ‘It’s the one you’re in.’ That’s how coaches look at it. So the league is going to be very, very challenging.

“I think if we can do what we need to do as a group, heading into conference play, we’re going to put ourselves into a position to be a multi-bid league.”

AAC Preseason Coaches Poll

1. Florida Atlantic (11) 167
2. Memphis (3) 159
3. Tulane 142
4. UAB 128
5. East Carolina 105
6. North Texas 100
7. SMU 97
8. Wichita State 90
9. South Florida 62
10. Tulsa 59
11. Rice 56
12. Temple 49
13. Charlotte 46
14. UTSA 14

Notes: First-place votes in parentheses. Florida Atlantic, UAB, North Texas, Rice, Charlotte and UTSA are set to play in the AAC for the first time this year after splitting away from Conference USA.

UTSA’s Linguard dreams of a ‘packed’ home arena setting as he embarks on a career comeback

Carlton Linguard Jr. at UTSA men's basketball practice on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Center Carlton Linguard Jr. says he hopes to see the UTSA Roadrunners start to win, generate excitement and attract crowds to the Convocation Center this season. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay

At this time a year ago, seven-foot center Carlton Linguard Jr. arrived on the UTSA campus ineligible to play but with a positive outlook and a desire to kick-start his college basketball career.

As the season progressed, he made the most of a tough situation, trying to be a supportive teammate, practicing when he could and, perhaps most importantly, staying focused and committed to rectifying his ineligibility with hard work in the classroom.

UTSA men's basketball practice on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Hoping to rebound from a 10-22 season last year, the UTSA men’s basketball team has completed five sessions since official workouts began on Sept. 25 – Photo by Joe Alexander

Still, in spite of his efforts, the former San Antonio schoolboy from Stevens High School never got clearance to play, as he had hoped, after transferring into the UTSA program from Kansas State.

Consequently, the Roadrunners never realized the dream of inserting Linguard into a lineup that could — and probably would — have benefited immensely from his presence.

What has changed for Linguard since last summer? Well, just about everything, actually. Most importantly, unlike last year, he is now fully eligible. Also, 10 new scholarship players have entered the program to replace 10 that decided to leave in March.

But with Year 2 of his Alamo City homecoming upon us, one basic tenet of his basketball life remains the same — if the Roadrunners hope to bounce back and become a winning team in NCAA Division I, he will need to play a leading role in the resurgence.

Linguard, a 2019 Stevens graduate, leaned into his new leadership role Friday by discussing last year’s frustrations, his hopes for a brighter day for the Roadrunners and his dream of packing the Convocation Center with supportive fans.

“We’re showing that we’re in shape and that we can run and really get the ball up (the court),” he said. “We’re moving the ball. We’re not selfish. We’re disciplined and buying in — buying in way more. So, we just got to keep doing that.”

Linguard can’t hide his excitement at the prospect of playing in games for the first time since his last season at Kansas State in 2021-22. His eyes lit up a bit when asked if the Roadrunners would employ a more fast-paced attack.

Chandler Cuthrell. UTSA men's basketball practice on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Baltimore native Chandler Cuthrell, a transfer from Odessa College, is competing for playing time at power forward. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“Oh yeah,” he said. “We got guards who can push it. We got guys who can fill in spots and move, actually attack, too. We got (centers and power forwards) who can do the same. So I feel like we can play the fast pace.”

UTSA coach Steve Henson isn’t necessarily looking for breakout offensive numbers from Linguard, but he said the Roadrunners will need him to impose his will as a defensive presence.

“You just notice his wingspan,” Henson said. “He’s not the quickest guy in the world, but he’s quick enough. He’s agile and he looks so natural in all of his movements. You just notice his hands, his (long) arms, his length.

“(Offensive) players get to a spot in a ball screen and try to make a pass out of there, he impacts it with his length. He’s got pretty good anticipation, and he gets to the spot … Carlton, being in that (Kansas State) system, it helped him.

“He’s skilled, he’s talented … We don’t want to put any extra pressure by over-selling him, but he’s a great teammate and he wants to help us win.”

Last year’s 10-22 record was a frustration for everyone in the Roadrunners’ camp. For Linguard, it was rough on a number of levels. For one thing, he wasn’t academically eligible initially.

He had to show a commitment in the classroom just so UTSA could put him on scholarship at the semester break. In addition, he wasn’t fully healthy until late in the season.

Nazar Mahmoud. UTSA men's basketball practice on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman Nazar Mahmoud, who grew up in Leander and last played at Spring Creek Academy in Plano, is expected to give the team length on the wing and three-point shooting. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Initially, it was a knee that slowed him. Subsequently, by December, he started to flash potential, taking over in some practices with his athleticism and above-the-rim capabilities. Just about that time, though, he suffered a concussion.

Though Linguard had progressed past all the physical challenges by February, he still wasn’t eligible to play. So, with the team struggling, UTSA officials elected to drop the appeal to the NCAA, so that he could return in 2023-24 with two full seasons of eligibility remaining.

As it was, the Roadrunners went into the Conference USA tournament with a healthy 7-footer on the bench, and they lost by one point to the Rice Owls in the first round.

Linguard, speaking after practice late Friday afternoon, shrugged off a question about how the course of 2022-23 might have been altered if he had been able to play games in February and March.

“It would have been different,” he said. “That Conference (USA) tournament would have been a lot different. Especially that first game we played. Like, that would have been way different. I mean, you can’t really say because it didn’t happen.”

Regardless, the team’s late collapse precipitated decisions by most of last year’s players to leave the program, looking for other opportunities elsewhere.

Once the dust settled, 6-foot-11 Jacob Germany joined the program at Wichita State, while point guard Japhet Medor landed at Fordham University and John Buggs III turned up at North Texas.

Linguard declined to get too deep into his feelings about the exodus except to say generally that transfers have become a part of the equation in the new world of college hoops.

He seemed much more at ease discussing the here and now of a season that will get underway on Nov. 6. For the Roadrunners, who haven’t qualified for an NCAA tournament since 2011, it is their first year as a member of the American Athletic Conference.

Justin Thomas. UTSA men's basketball practice on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Guard/forward Justin Thomas, from Baton Rouge, La., averaged 7.3 points and 4.4 rebounds last season for a 22-win team at Milwaukee in the Horizon League. Coach Steve Henson says that Thomas and Jordan Ivy-Curry will need waivers to be eligible to play at UTSA this season. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA will play in a quality mid-major conference against the likes of Memphis, Tulane and Temple. Also against Florida Atlantic, a C-USA program that made it all the way to the Final Four last April.

On a more personal level, the move will allow Linguard to see some familiar faces during the season, notably Germany at Wichita State and Buggs at North Texas. He said, in fact, that he knows people on many of the AAC campuses.

On the home front, he beamed optimism in discussing the opportunity to play home games in the Convocation Center in front of family members and friends.

One of his new UTSA teammates, walk-on guard Juan Reyna, who played in high school at Antonian, also will have that connection to friends within the local basketball community.

With that, Linguard figures that if the Roadrunners can start to win and generate excitement with all the new talent, the size of the crowds and the energy inside the school’s old home arena could start to become a factor.

As the former Big 12 player at Kansas State spoke to a reporter Friday afternoon, he glanced into the upper reaches of the arena and talked about trying to fill the seats.

Said Linguard, “Me and my teammates, we’re kind of promoting (the season) right now. We’re trying to get people to come out. There’s always a conversation. Like, ‘Hey come out an support us this year.’ We’re just trying to push the issue.

“We want to get the (arena) packed up (to the top). That’s the goal.”

UTSA notenbook

The Roadrunners have been working out on a limited basis since the start of the summer. They completed their early fall semester sessions on Sept. 22.

Twice during the last week of conditioning, coaches had the players outside at dawn, one day running on the track and another day running on a road leading out north of the campus. Another session started at 6 in the morning on the court in the Convocation Center.

“We don’t get carried away talking about boot camp,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “You know, we’re not going to war. We have people (in the military) that really do go to war. We have people that really do go through boot camp. So we try not to over-do our terminology there.”

Longer workouts, considered official preseason practices, commenced on Monday.

Included in the 30 allowed sessions are two exhibition games set for Oct 24 against Trinity and Oct. 30 against McMurry. Both will be held at the Convocation Center. The regular season opens on Nov. 6 at home against Western Illinois. A four-game road trip commences on Nov. 10 at Minnesota. Conference play starts Jan. 2 at home against UAB.

Positional analysis

Point guards — Adante Holiman, Christian Tucker, Juan Reyna.

Wing players (small forwards and shooting guards) — Isaiah Wyatt, PJ Carter, Nazar Mahmoud, Justin Thomas, Jordan Ivy-Curry.

Power/small forward — Dre Fuller Jr.

Power forwards — Chandler Cuthrell, Blessing Adesipe, Josh Reid.

Centers — Carlton Linguard, Jr., Trey Edmonds, Massal Diouf.

x-Thomas and Ivy-Curry are considered two-time transfers and can play this season only if the NCAA grants them waivers. Reyna and Reid are walk-ons.

UTSA coach reflects on portal craziness and efforts to rebuild a basketball roster

Steve Henson. Louisiana Tech beat UTSA 66-55 in Conference USA men's basketball on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson applauded his assistant coaches for their work in a hectic summer of recruiting after losing 10 players in the transfer portal. — File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay

One thing I’ve always admired about Steve Henson is, when he fields a tough question, he keeps his composure and answers it honestly, without getting defensive.

It’s an admirable trait that I suppose comes from all the time he spent studying at the Lon Kruger school of college basketball.

In addition, it’s clear that Henson respects those in the media and the job that they do.

As for yours truly, I didn’t ask the embattled coach of the UTSA Roadrunners all the tough questions on Wednesday afternoon.

But in the interest of good, honest storytelling, and on the eve of Henson’s eighth season on campus, I couldn’t help asking at least one or two.

I asked about the way last season ended and then about the two or three weeks of transfer portal craziness that followed.

For a refresher, Henson’s Roadrunners were playing the Rice Owls in the opening round of the Conference USA tournament at Frisco.

The Roadrunners appeared to have advanced to the quarterfinals, as point guard Japhet Medor drove for what initially was scored as a buzzer-beating, game-winning basket.

In the moments that followed, elation turned to agony, as officials ruled that Medor didn’t get the shot off in time.

“Just a heart breaker,” Henson said of the 72-71 loss.

While the pain of having a season end on an official’s review was shocking enough, the aftermath was even worse.

Back home in San Antonio, nobody liked the idea of a second consecutive 10-22 record going into the UTSA basketball history books.

But, really, who would have imagined that the Roadrunners would ultimately have 10 scholarship players enter the transfer portal over the next few weeks?

“It was a hectic spring and summer,” Henson said in an interview at his office. “Some of those guys that entered the portal, it was mutual. It was expected in several cases. They wanted bigger roles, better opportunities.

“(We had) a couple of surprises. One or two, we were disappointed and (it) surprised us. But we weren’t shocked.

“One or two just jumped in (to the portal) to see what was happening. There were a couple that went in that didn’t want to go in. A couple that went in and wanted to come back.”

A common thread in roster instability around the nation today is related to Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) payments that are now available to all college athletes.

Combined with a one-time transfer rule that allows athletes to move from school to school without having to sit out a year, it’s not surprising that so many are taking advantage of it.

Surely, it’s one of the factors that contributed to UTSA players looking elsewhere. Who could blame them, really?

If you work hard at your job and you can get better compensation elsewhere, wouldn’t you at least take a look? Of course you would.

Henson, for his part, didn’t want to comment about any of the particulars on any of his former players.

But he did discuss with some emotion the efforts to rebuild his team and the job that his staff did to make it happen.

“It was a hectic recruiting (cycle), gosh, in April and May,” he said. “We had a lot of shorter visits this spring than we had in the past. We’d bring someone in on a Monday and get ’em out on Tuesday. Bring someone else in on Wednesday and get ’em out on Thursday.

“Our coaches really, really stepped up.

“(Mike) Peck and (Adam) Hood were involved in most of that recruiting early on before coach (Kurtis) Darden joined us. I thought they did a heck of a job. You know, we’ll see. We’ll find out with this roster, what it can do when it counts.”

It may count quite a bit, with this being the last year of Henson’s contract.

In analyzing his new roster, the coach emphasized that he will be able to play with three centers in 7-foot Carlton Linguard, Jr., 6-10 Trey Edmonds and 6-9 Massal Diouf in an effort to match up with opponents in the school’s first season in the American Athletic Conference.

“We’re excited with this group,” he said of the roster as a whole. “We’ve got a lot of versatility with this bunch.

“I don’t know that we’ve ever had three centers like we have right now, in terms of size and defensive mindset, really, anywhere I’ve been.

“It’s something that’s so noticeable in our workouts right now, to have that type of physicality and presence and size at the center position.”

UTSA roster

Nazar Mahmoud, 6-5 guard, freshman
Jordan Ivy-Curry, 6-3 guard, junior
Carlton Linguard Jr., 7-0 center, redshirt senior
Trey Edmonds, 6-10 center/forward, junior
Dre Fuller Jr., 6-6 guard, graduate student
Adante’ Holiman, 6-0 point guard, sophomore
Chandler Cuthrell, 6-8 forward, junior
Isaiah Wyatt, 6-4 guard/forward, redshirt junior
Massal Diouf, 6-9 forward, sophomore
PJ Carter, 6-5 guard, junior
Christian Tucker, 6-3 guard, junior
Blessing Adesipe, 6-6 forward, junior
Justin Thomas, 6-7 guard, junior
x-Josh Reid, 6-7 forward, junior
x-Juan Reyna, 6-3 point guard, junior

Roster notes

Henson said that Ivy-Curry, who played last year at the University of the Pacific, and Thomas, a multi-skilled guard from Milwaukee, are considered two-time transfers and must get waivers from the NCAA for eligibility to play this season. Ivy-Curry, from La Marque, played in 2020-21 and 2021-22 at UTSA and then transferred to Pacific.

Edmonds (Utah Tech), Fuller (Central Florida), Holiman (UT Rio Grande Valley), Cuthrell (Odessa College), Wyatt (Chadron State, Neb.), Carter (Georgia Highlands) and Adesipe (Miles College, Montana) are eligible immediately, as is Mahmoud, a freshman from Spring Creek Academy in Plano. Fuller is making a comeback after sitting out all of last season.

Reid and Reyna are walk-ons.

Linguard sat out at UTSA last year after transferring in from Kansas State of the Big 12. He played in high school at San Antonio Stevens. Diouf and Tucker are the only two players on the roster to play for the Roadrunners last season.

Where are they?

Guards Japhet Medor, John Buggs III and DJ Richards, along with center Jacob Germany and forward Isaiah Addo-Ankrah, all played major roles for the Roadrunners last year and then elected to transfer.

This coming season, Buggs and Germany are with UTSA opponents in the American Athletic Conference. Buggs is at North Texas and Germany, a 6-11 forward, will play at Wichita State. Medor is on the roster at Fordham University in New York. Fordham is in the Atlantic 10. Addo-Ankrah is with the University of Denver in the Summit League.

Richards was announced at McNeese State earlier this summer but was not on that squad’s roster as of Wednesday afternoon.

Others from last year’s UTSA squad whose names are on college basketball rosters elsewhere are two who will play in San Antonio, including forwards Lamin Sabally at the University of the Incarnate Word and Lachlan Bofinger at St. Mary’s.

Forward Aleu Aleu is set to play at St. Edward’s University in Austin. Forward Josh Farmer and guard Azavier Johnson also elected to transfer.