Austin Claunch delivers a strike in his first pitch at UTSA

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

On his first pitch at UTSA, new men’s basketball Austin Claunch threw a strike.

It came on a hot and muggy Tuesday afternoon in a ceremonial sequence just before the Baylor Bears played the Roadrunners in softball. The 34-year-old Claunch toed the circle and threw under-handed, just as they do in the women’s fast pitch game. His left-handed offering was true, and it appeared to be in the zone on the inside corner.

New UTSA men's basketball coach Austin Claunch was at the Roadrunners softball game on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, at Roadrunner Field to throw out the first pitch. - Photo by Joe Alexander

New UTSA men’s basketball coach Austin Claunch completed his duties as an assistant coach at the University of Alabama on Saturday when the Crimson Tide lost in the Final Four to the eventual champion Connecticut Huskies. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Claunch, who grew up in Houston, is in town fresh off a trip to the NCAA Final Four.

He worked for the past season as an assistant coach in the resurgent basketball program at the University of Alabama. The Crimson Tide, under head coach Nate Oats, marched all the way to the Final Four in Glendale, Ariz., where they lost in the NCAA semifinals Saturday to the UConn Huskies.

The Huskies beat the Tide 86-72 and then polished off the Purdue Boilermakers in Monday night’s NCAA title game.

At the end of UTSA’s season in March, the university elected not to renew Steve Henson’s contract, setting the stage for a new head coach to come in and take charge.

Four days after the Roadrunners were eliminated in the first round of the American Athletic Conference tournament, the university announced on March 17 that it had hired Claunch.

As one of the youngest Division I coaches in the nation, Claunch led the Nicholls State (La.) Colonels to 90 victories in five seasons and a couple of Southland Conference regular-season titles.

Claunch is expected to meet the media Thursday afternoon.

New UTSA men's basketball coach Austin Claunch was at the Roadrunners softball game on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, at Roadrunner Field to throw out the first pitch. - Photo by Joe Alexander

New UTSA men’s basketball coach Austin Claunch showed his stuff Tuesday afternoon by throwing out the first pitch. And, yes, he is a lefthander. – Photo by Joe Alexander

South Florida men rally past UTSA

Carlton Linguard Jr. South Florida beat UTSA 66-61 in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Carlton Linguard Jr. had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds against South Florida. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Joe Alexander

(Editor’s note: Jerry Briggs was not able to be at tonight’s game.)

South Florida outscored UTSA 12-2 over the final 3:05 of the game to avoid an upset and the Bulls won 66-61 in men’s basketball at the Convocation Center.

The victory keeps South Florida at the top of the American Athletic Conference at 13-1 and 20-5 overall. UTSA fell to 2-12 in conference and 8-19 on the season.

UTSA led 59-54 after Christian Tucker made two free throws with 4:00 left in the game. The Roadrunners’ only points the rest of the way came on a Carlton Linguard Jr. dunk with two seconds left.

South Florida scored eight of their final 12 points on free throws as UTSA was forced to foul late.

Christian Tucker. South Florida beat UTSA 66-61 in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Christian Tucker scored a team-high 15 points. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Tucker led UTSA with 15 points and six assists. Linguard had 10 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks and Chandler Cuthrell had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Selton Miguel led South Florida with 17 points off the bench and Chris Youngblood had 15 points. The Bulls turned 19 UTSA turnovers into 19 points.

The loss was the seventh in a row for UTSA. The Roadrunners play their next game on the road Saturday against North Texas before returning to the Convocation Center on Feb. 28 to play Tulsa.

Chandler Cuthrell. South Florida beat UTSA 66-61 in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Chandler Cuthrell had 10 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA announces that Ivy-Curry and Reyna are eligible to play

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA basketball players Jordan Ivy-Curry and Juan Reyna are eligible to play for the remainder of the 2023-24 season, starting with a road game set for Sunday at Oregon State University, according to an athletic department news release.

“Based on the latest guidance from the NCAA and the preliminary injunction regarding the residency requirement for multi-time transfers, UTSA men’s basketball athletes Jordan Ivy-Curry and Juan Reyna are now eligible to compete for the remainder of the 2023-24 season,” the release said. “They will be available for competition beginning with Sunday’s game at Oregon State.”

Furthermore, UTSA coach Steve Henson said in the release, “We are very happy for our kids. These young men really wanted to be Roadrunners. Now they have the opportunity to suit up and help our program, immediately. They have both been practicing extremely well and they are very excited to compete.”

After a court case played out this week in West Virginia, all multiple-time transfers in NCAA sports became eligible through the spring. The three multi-time transfers for UTSA men’s basketball were Ivy-Curry, Reyna and Justin Thomas.

While Ivy-Curry and Reyna wanted to take the chance to play immediately, Thomas elected to sit out the remainder of the season, Henson said.

Making such a decision will allow the 6-foot-7 forward to have two years of eligibility with the Roadrunners — in the 2024-25 season and ’25-26.

Henson said that the Ivy-Curry and Reyna will have the remainder of this season and all of ’24-25 to complete their UTSA eligibility.

Picked to finish last? Roadrunners irritated by C-USA poll results

The UTSA Roadrunners carried plenty of motivation into practices this fall. They didn’t have the success they wanted last year, and they wanted to make sure they did everything they could to make amends.

For sure, they didn’t need a preseason poll to get fired up to come to practice.

All that notwithstanding, waking up to news that they had been picked to finish last in the official Conference USA preseason poll gave at least a few of the players an extra something to think about.

“That was the first thing I saw on Twitter today,” Roadrunners forward Isaiah Addo-Ankrah said after Thursday’s practice. “I can’t lie to you. It (ticked) me off a little bit. I know it (ticked) some of the guys off because we were talking about it.

“You can’t worry about other people’s opinions. We know what we got. We just got to stay together and prove people wrong and prove ourselves right.”

For the second-straight season, UAB has been voted by the C-USA’s head coaches as the preseason favorite to win the regular-season championship.

Western Kentucky was pegged second and North Texas third. UTSA was picked 11th, or, last, in the poll. Questioned about the news, UTSA coach Steve Henson shrugged it off.

“I just told (players) to be smart at how they handled it,” Henson said. “But I’m sure they didn’t like the way it looked. It is what it is. Some of them will use it as extra motivation. I’m not the kind that’s going to print it out and stick it on the lockers.

“I got enough reasons to be motivated to play good basketball. My concern was to have a good practice today, not where we were picked in the league.”

One certainty is that nobody will remember the preseason poll five years from now.

“No, but some will use it as motivation,” Henson said. “It’s not the right way to get motivated to be a good team. There’s a lot of good reasons to compete and to line up and try to have a good practice and have a good first game.

“I’m (thinking) more about being a better team when we line up to play Schreiner in two weeks. That’s what I’m focused on.”

The Roadrunners play Schreiner in their one and only exhibition on Nov. 2. On Nov. 7, they open the regular season against at home against Trinity.

C-USA preseason poll

1. UAB
2. WKU
3. North Texas
4. Middle Tennessee
5. Florida Atlantic
6. Louisiana Tech
7. Rice
9. Charlotte
10. FIU
11. UTSA

Preseason player of the Year

Jordan Walker, UAB

All conference

Alijah Martin, Florida Atlantic – sophomore guard
Cobe Williams, Louisiana Tech – junior guard
Teafale Lenard Jr., Middle Tennessee – sophomore guard
Tylor Perry, North Texas – senior guard
Quincy Olivari, Rice – junior guard
Eric Gaines, UAB – sophomore guard
Jordan Walker, UAB – senior guard
Emmanuel Akot, WKU – graduate senior guard
Dayvion McKnight, WKU* – junior guard
Jamarion Sharp, WKU – senior center

Nostalgia flows freely as Keaton Wallace returns to UTSA

Five years ago, a skinny, a left-handed shooting guard from the Dallas area arrived at UTSA without much fanfare, but with a will to win matched by only a few players in school history.

Along with his four-year teammate, Jhivvan Jackson, Wallace forged a career that ranks as one of the university’s greatest, up there with the likes of Derrick Gervin, Devin Brown, Devin Gibson and Jeromie Hill.

Jhivvan Jackson, Keaton Wallace. UTSA beat Southwestern Adventist from Keene, Texas, 123-43 in a non-conference game on Thursday, March 4, 2021, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Teammates Jhivvan Jackson (left) and Keaton Wallace emerged as the top to scorers in UTSA school history. Jackson scored 2,551 and Wallace 2,080 in four years from 2017-18 to 2020-21. — File photo by Joe Alexander.

Given Wallace’s stature and his trademark humble, soft-spoken nature, his appearance at a UTSA practice on Tuesday afternoon seemed almost as cool as the breezes blowing through the oak and cedar.

Wallace entered the building just as Coach Steve Henson’s practice was getting underway. After speaking briefly with a reporter at courtside, he walked down and under the south end basket, circling toward the players’ side of the floor.

Once there, he found a ball, took a seat in a courtside chair and dribbled between his legs, all while taking in every nuance of the two-hour workout.

Afterward, Wallace met with the players, including two of his former teammates, seniors Jacob Germany and Erik Czumbel. He also met with Henson and other coaches who recruited him to campus out of Richardson High School.

Later, as he reminisced with a reporter, the nostalgia started to flow freely. First, the reporter told Wallace a story.

In 2017, UTSA had returned from a scrimmage at Sam Houston State, and coaches were buzzing about a freshman sharp-shooter. The buzz centered on Wallace, who had hit six three-pointers in Huntsville in his unofficial debut for the Roadrunners.

The performance was not a fluke.

Wallace went on to score 2,080 points. He also knocked down 715 field goals, including 346 threes. All three totals would rank second in school history to Jackson, his teammate and backcourt partner.

Known as the “UTSA Splash Brothers,” Jackson and Wallace led the Roadrunners to three winning records in four seasons.

Wallace, preparing to enter his second season in the NBA G League, came through San Antonio to spend some time before he returns to Southern California, where he will join the Clippers’ minor league camp in about a week.

“It’s really good to see everyone again,” Wallace said. “A lot of good memories here, a lot of good moments we had with the fans and the team and with the school. Just a lot of love.”

Most who remember the Jackson-Wallace era at UTSA will recall a home game against Old Dominion in which the Roadrunners erased a 17-point deficit in the final few minutes to win.

The building seemed to be shaking with noise after Wallace hit an off-balance three out of the corner during the rally.

“It was one of the greatest moments in the Convo,” he said. “We (were) down big in the second half, by 17, and we just found a way. We found a way to make it happen.”

UTSA coach Steve Henson said it was “terrific” to see Wallace again.

“It’s great to have him around,” the coach said. “He’s going to be around for several days this week. He was excited to be here. We were all excited to have him around.”

Henson said that the start of Wallace’s career came up after practice when players gathered at center court.

“We were just talking about him, what he was like as a senior in high school and what he weighed when he got here as a freshman in college — 161 pounds — and how he transitioned into his sophomore year,” Henson said.

From his first year to the next, Wallace put in the time and put on some pounds. As a result, his scoring averaged rocketed from 11.4 as a freshman all the way to 20.2 as a sophomore in 2018-19, the first of three straight years in which he was named to the all-Conference USA second team.

Wallace finished his four years averaging 16.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He played in 125 games.

“Keaton was guy who, right away when he got on campus, he did the things we’re talking to our guys about (now),” Henson said. “He took care of his body. Still does. Got his sleep. Ate right. Got his treatment. Put in tons and tons of hours shooting the basketball.

“He just had a mature approach to (taking care of) his body. Some guys get that. Some guys don’t.”

Though neither Jackson nor Wallace heard their names called in the 2021 NBA Draft, both are still playing professionally. After nearly a year rehabilitating a shoulder injury, Jackson spent a short time last summer in a Spanish pro league. He signed recently with a team in Belgium.

In 2021, Wallace played for the Memphis Grizzlies’ summer league team. Later, he was selected with the ninth pick in the second round of the G-League draft by the Wisconsin Herd. He was subsequently traded to the Ontario Clippers, where he finished the remainder of the G-League season.

In 31 regular season games, he averaged 18.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists. Though Wallace was recently waived out of the Los Angeles Clippers’ camp, it’s possible that he could be a candidate for a call-up on 10-day, NBA contract sometime this season.

“If I get a call up, I get a call up,” he said. “I don’t think about it too much. I just try to do my job every day, every game.”

Wallace has always dreamed of playing in the NBA.

He mentioned it a few times during his UTSA career. It’s now even possible that he and his younger brother, University of Kentucky freshman Cason Wallace, could both be playing at the highest level some day.

All the emotions notwithstanding, Keaton Wallace said he can’t afford to dwell on being one transaction away from the big time when he knows that every-day improvement in his game is so crucial.

“It’s just part of being a pro,” he said. “You just come in every day, trying to get better. You try to go and, you know, just do your job. That’s how I see it.”

Camp report: UTSA coach Steve Henson tinkers with a small lineup

As UTSA coach Steve Henson continues to tinker with different player combinations during preseason camp, he went with a small lineup more than a few times on Monday afternoon.

Jacob Germany played center. Isaiah Addo-Ankrah was the power forward. Erik Czumbel played the wing/small forward. The shooting guard, meanwhile, was John Buggs III. Initiating the offense at point guard was Japhet Medor.

Henson acknowledged that he has run with that lineup “quite a bit” through six practices of the team’s 30-practice preseason allotment.

In assessing the five-man combination, Henson said he likes having a guy like Addo-Ankrah to knock down threes, some of them from deep, which stretches the opposition’s defense and potentially could make an opponent’s big man come out from under the bucket.

With Czumbel and Buggs in the game at the same time, it gives the coach aggression and physicality on the perimeter.

Other positives? In Medor, the Roadrunners have a point guard who is emerging as a solid distributor.

The best shooters from distance in that group would be Addo-Ankrah and Buggs.

Granted, it is not the Roadrunners’ lineup with the tallest, longest-armed defenders, but the coach likes the way Czumbel and Buggs are playing defense with a physical style, fighting through screens and such.

“We’ve been messing around with that lineup quite a bit,” the coach said.

The drawback to that type of unit might be its size. Medor and Buggs, two standout newcomers, are 5-foot-11 and 6-2, respectively. Czumbel, who finished last season with a half-dozen solid performances on both ends of the court down the stretch, is 6-3. Then there is Addo-Ankrah at 6-6. Germany stands at 6-11.

Czumbel’s competitive fire apparently will give him a shot to start as a senior in spite of a spotty start to last year when he couldn’t hit shots.

“He’s doing kind of like he always does,” Henson said. “He (competes) like crazy. He took a knee in the thigh the other day and I thought he’d be out for a week. Shoot, practice started today and I forgot all about it. He’s relentless defensively. His teammates respect him. He just handles his business.

“We saw late in the season last year he started getting a little bit more aggressive (on offense). He’s continued to be that way offensively (in camp).”

At Monday’s workout, Czumbel’s outside shot looked good. Even the ones that didn’t fall. He seemed to be shooting with more confidence than early last season, when he struggled mightily.

“We need that (shot to go down),” Henson said. “We need him to get back the way he was his first two years. He was on a pretty good trajectory as a freshman and sophomore, and then, our shooting woes got contagious last year.

“He hasn’t been shooting it well up to this point but he had a good day today. Driving it. Driving it and kicking it.”

Czumbel’s calling card this year will be his defense.

“He just sticks his nose in there. He can blow up a dribble-handoff. He can help and switch onto bigger guys. He’s physical. He’s just relentless on that end.”

Roadrunners display ‘great energy’ in opening workout

Josh Farmer at the first official UTSA men's basketball practice of the season on Sept. 26, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Sophomore Josh Farmer continued to practice well as the UTSA Roadrunners opened full-session, preseason drills Monday afternoon. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Hoping to rebound from last year’s season of discontent, the UTSA men’s basketball team engaged in an intense 2 and 1/2-hour practice Monday afternoon on the first day of full-session, preseason drills.

“I was not surprised that they came with great energy and excitement,” Coach Steve Henson said. “I was hoping (they) would. We’ve been together a lot. All but one (of the scholarship) players were here this summer.

Jacob Germany at the first official UTSA men's basketball practice of the season on Sept. 26, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Center Jacob Germany, the team’s leading scorer last year, sat out the practice as he awaits medical clearance. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“(We) had a great summer,” Henson said. “Had four great weeks this fall. You always want your first official practice to have a different excitement level to it, and I think it did. They came in and played with great energy.”

Sitting out the practice were 6-11 senior Jacob Germany and 7-foot transfer Carlton Linguard, Jr. Linguard’s absence was expected. He’s been working back slowly from a left knee injury since he arrived on campus. With Germany, a medical issue surfaced last week.

After experiencing what was described as “discomfort” in his chest, the UTSA center sat out at least two practices last week. UTSA still hasn’t heard from a doctor on the results of tests conducted last Friday.

“He got the tests done late last week,” Henson said. “We’re still waiting. As soon as the doc gets a look at the results, we’ll have an answer. We were hoping to have that this morning. Just didn’t have it.

“Now we’re hoping for tomorrow. If we can get that, we’re hoping he can practice tomorrow, if everything goes well.”

Henson said he is optimistic about a positive outcome. Germany, who averaged 15.2 points and 7.3 rebounds last year, said he’s taking it “day by day” and hoping for a return in the next few days.

Steve Henson at the first official UTSA men's basketball practice of the season on Sept. 26, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Steve Henson said he liked the energy on the team’s first ‘official’ practice of the preseason. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“I’m feeling good and healthy so I’m hoping sometime this week,” Germany said. “But you never know. It’s in God’s hands.”

Asked his level of concern, Germany was philosophical.

“Oh, it’s all part of the plan,” he said. “So I’m not concerned at all, whatever happens to me. We’ve got a great training staff here. The coaches are always in contact with them. We’re close to UT Health. All these factors are really good, so I’m not too concerned.”

In keeping with a trend from the last few weeks, a trio of players including Josh Farmer, Lamin Sabally and Aleu Aleu enjoyed strong practices.

Combined with continued steady play from backcourt newcomers Japhet Medor and John Buggs III, the Roadrunners looked as if they might have some potential — even though it’s extremely early — to bounce back from last year’s 10-22 record.

A lot, naturally, will depend on Germany’s status.

Also, Linguard is a key. When the Kansas State transfer from Stevens High School in San Antonio gets healthy, he can begin practice. To play, he’ll need clearance on an academics-related matter from the NCAA.

If all that happens, the Roadrunners could have the makings of a front line that could cause problems for a lot of the teams on their schedule.

A front line contingent that potentially could go 7-feet (Linguard), 6-11 (Germany), 6-9 (Farmer), 6-9 (Massal Diouf), 6-8 (Aleu) and 6-7 (Sabally) is intriguing.

“We could have a huge front line out there that could really help us,” Germany said.

Since June, the returning players and newcomers have worked out on most days for an hour or so. It was all tied to an NCAA rule restricting players’ time spent with coaches and staff to eight hours a week.

But from now until the start of the season in November, the Roadrunners will be allowed to work out for 20 hours a week, which will in turn translate to some long afternoons in the gym.

The increased workload in the first “official” practice of the new season didn’t seem to faze the players.

Players were hustling non-stop in drills that stretched from 3:00 – 5:30 p.m.

Henson said Farmer, a sophomore from Houston, enjoyed a big day on Monday. He was active on the boards, switched to guard players driving to the rim and generated some offense, as well.

Near the end of the session, he deflected a pass, gathered it in, and raced for a layup. Soon thereafter, Farmer hit a three pointer.

“Today, Josh really stood out,” Henson said. “He got a ton of reps because we were short-handed. So, Josh was terrific. I was most proud of him early in the practice. He missed a couple of threes, but then he went down and redeemed himself on the defensive end.

“He was flying around, blocking shots.”

Monday’s video highlights

Josh Farmer

Aleu Aleu

Lamin Sabally