UTSA’s Allen isn’t fazed by any late season adversity

Nick Allen (25) was among four players honored in Senior Day ceremonies Sunday

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

UTSA has lost three in a row at a critical juncture of the season.

The UAB Blazers are in town today looking to put a fourth straight loss on the Roadrunners.

On top of that, Jhivvan Jackson, UTSA’s leading scorer, may be at less than 100 percent.

Less than 45 minutes before tipoff, Jackson, who injured his left shoulder Thursday night against Old Dominion, was not on the floor warming up.

But with about 15 minutes remaining to tipoff, Jackson took the floor and started to shoot.

I haven’t talked about any of this today with UTSA senior Nick Allen, but I can tell you emphatically that he is not fazed at all.

He will play his heart out, no matter what.

How do I know?

Well, for one thing, it could very well be the last time he plays a game at the Convocation Center.

He’s a senior scheduled to graduate in May.

Unless the Roadrunners play a postseason home game, this will be it for Allen.

Maybe more importantly, I know he will play with an edge today because he has seen much greater adversity than this.

Four years ago, in his first year on campus, the 6-foot-7 native of Arizona toiled through a season that ended with a record of 5-27.

It was a humbling experience marked by some ugly losses and long stretches of utter futility.

By February of that year, it became apparent to those close to the program that head coach Brooks Thompson likely would be dismissed.

Sure enough, UTSA fired Thompson after the 2016 Conference USA tournament and struck out on a search for a new leader.

The situation involving the future of the basketball program was unsettling enough for Allen, who would no longer get to play for the coach who recruited him to campus.

But when he found out that Thompson was critically ill, it was a shock.

After Steve Henson and the new staff arrived at UTSA, the emotions for Allen continued to churn.

They crashed down on him completely when Thompson died at age 45.

A week or so later, Allen was among the UTSA players who gathered at a memorial service in the Hill Country to pay respects to a man who had led the Roadrunners for a decade.

Allen acknowledged in an interview Friday that the passing of his former coach was a difficult time in his life.

“Once he did pass, it was the strangest part of my basketball life ever,” Allen said.
“He was a super-duper human being … It was almost like, you lost a big piece of your why. Why you do stuff. Why you do this. Why you do that.”

Allen paused for a moment and continued, with his thoughts drifting off into a decidedly spiritual realm.

“It was just super-duper tough,” Allen said. “But, it is what it is. I thank him. I’m super thankful for him. I know he’s listening in. He knows how I feel about him.”

Allen has been a key element in UTSAs turnaround as a program.

He has played in 126 games and started 96 in his career, ranking fourth in starts and first in games played.

Allen expressed a wide range of emotions in discussing what senior day will mean to him.

“It’s a blessing,” Allen said. “I’m so appreciative of the city of San Antonio, of all the people that supported us.

“So appreciative of the college, of UTSA, and so thankful for the coaches and what they’ve done for me.

“I really can’t express how grateful I am. Honestly, it’s a lot to invest in some kid like me.

“I just owe them everything. This is a huge step in my life, and I’m so thankful everyone who’s been a part of it.”