UTSA’s improvement like seeing ‘the dark side of the moon’

By Jerry Briggs

For theJBreplay.com

I always knew I had to return to write about the UTSA basketball program. After being sidelined last year in my first year outside the world of daily newspapers, it was tough to attend games and not have an insight into what was going on in the locker room.

It just felt weird.

So when the opportunity arose to get back into the flow with the development of this website, I figured it would be fun to start talking to the young ball players again. To sit down and pick their brains on any number of subjects.

That’s the beauty of writing about the game at this level.

Athletes are appreciative of the attention. They’re much less guarded than the guys playing in the Power 5 programs, or at the next level, in the NBA. You can carry on a conversation and get to know them.

I had my first such encounter recently with Nick Allen, UTSA’s starting power forward. I knew Nick a little a bit two seasons ago, my last year on the beat for the San Antonio Express-News. But I never knew about his appreciation for classic rock music.

A few days after the Roadrunners returned home from Huntsville, where they played their first exhibition last weekend against Sam Houston State, I ran into Nick in the hallway outside the dressing room. I approached him and asked a leading question: “You guys hit 15 threes against Sam?”

Allen smiled. Compared to last year, when the Roadrunners would play for weeks and not make 10 shots from long distance, it was a change. It was different. Almost, other worldly. “Kind of like the dark side of the moon,” Allen said, with a straight face.

The statement stuck with me.

It came to mind again Sunday when UTSA played its season opener at the Convocation Center and pumped in 11 threes. On the strength of 47 percent shooting from the field and 35.5 percent from long distance, the Roadrunners hammered the East Central (Oklahoma) Tigers, 92-59.

Two freshmen, Keaton Wallace and Jhivvan Jackson, combined to nail nine of them. Wallace, if you remember, hit six from long distance in Huntsville. He hit another six against the Tigers, a Division II team from Ada, Oklahoma.

I do know that Wallace and Jackson probably won’t shoot like that every night. For instance, as soon as the Roadrunners get off the bus Wednesday in San Marcos, I’m fairly certain the Texas State Bobcats will be in their faces.

UTSA’s I-35 rivals from the Division I Sun Belt Conference likely are already scheming to stop them. It will be the first true test for the Roadrunners this season.

One thing is for sure, however. After the first game of the season, I’m happy I got to know Nick Allen a little better. The 6-foot-8 native of Surprise, Ariz., is surprisingly well-versed in old-school rock. Being sort of an old dude myself, I like that.

But how did Allen acquire enough of a taste for a band like Pink Floyd, who started making psychedelic music in England in the 1960s, to be able to quote from a lyric to an inquiring sports writer?

“Just growing up, my oldest brother, he liked classical rock,” Allen said Sunday. “Between me and him, there’s 16 years. He’s a lot older than I was. I don’t know. Just riding in the car and stuff, it was all Pink Floyd, all types of old classical rock. It was what we always listened to.”

So, there you have it. From Nick Allen. UTSA’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ tour, coming to a college basketball arena near you.