Starting point guard Jordan Ivy-Curry and reserve center Phoenix Ford are set to re-join team activities Sunday night, and reserve forward Aleu Aleu is expected to return on Monday as the UTSA Roadrunners prepare for the start of the Conference USA schedule later this week.
UTSA coach Steve Henson delivered the news in a telephone interview Sunday afternoon, saying, “We anticipate everyone being ready to go. Aleu has some Covid protocols to finish up (but) I anticipate having him tomorrow. Everyone else should be good to go tonight.”
The Roadrunners (6-6) are set to pay at Middle Tennessee State (9-4) on Thursday and at UAB (10-3) on Saturday. Both are afternoon games.
It’s been an up-and-down ride for the Roadrunners in the pre-conference phase of the schedule. Early on, they were blown out at Oklahoma and then were beaten at home by Division II Texas A&M-Commerce.
But just as they started to play better, winning five of seven in one stretch, Henson learned late in the evening on Dec. 15 that Ivy-Curry and Aleu had been placed in health and safety protocols, both of them dealing with issues related to Covid.
Both were unavailable for the team’s last two games, at home against UT Rio Grande Valley on Dec. 17 and on the road at Illinois State on Dec. 21, both losses. Ford also did not travel for the Illinois State game, as he was dealing with a personal matter.
But he, too, has returned after the birth of his first child on Christmas Eve, said Henson, who gave all of his players the last 3 and 1/2 days off for the holiday break.
After Sunday night’s workout, scheduled to consist of weights, an hour-or-so on the court and film study, the Roadrunners were set to get back into their normal routine starting Monday.
For Ivy-Curry and Aleu, the workouts will be important as they try to strengthen their legs and their bodies after 10 days in isolation.
“Oh, for sure,” Henson said. “That’s always the concern for the whole group (after) 3 and ½ days off. Those guys had a longer break. It’ll be a concern.
“Sometimes there (are) positives with that,” the coach added. “Guys are banged up and bruised up. For Aleu, that was not the case. He was just starting to come into his own and get back into good shape. He certainly didn’t need that kind of setback.
“With Juice, I don’t think it’ll be a big deal for him. I expect him to get right back in there. But the timing of it was unfortunate. There’s never good timing to be shut down in the middle of the season.”
Before the Covid issues hit, the Roadrunners had been on an upswing, winning three out of four, while gradually starting to work some of the kinks out of their offense.
But without Ivy-Curry on the floor, the progress stalled, with UTSA hitting only 25 percent from the field against UTRGV and 37.9 percent against Illinois State.
Teams around the country have been plagued with Covid-related problems, so Henson is trying to take the setback in stride.
“Just like you do, I see games getting canceled and postponed and rescheduled and all that,” Henson said. “Right and left, teams are dropping out. In the (football) bowl games. (Also) in that Christmas (basketball) tournament in Hawaii.
“Of four games to be played in Hawaii on Christmas Day, two of them were shut down, including the championship game. But, (the virus) is here, and everyone’s dealing with it.”
Thursday — UTSA at Middle Tennessee State, 4 p.m.
Saturday — UTSA at UAB, 3 p.m.
Jan. 6 — Southern Miss at UTSA, 7 p.m.
Jan. 8 — Louisiana Tech at UTSA, 3 p.m.
Even at full strength, Henson knows that the Roadrunners will need to improve both offensively and defensively in order to finish in the upper half of the C-USA standings.
“It’s going to get tougher in league play,” he said. “We know that. Our league is really, really good. So we got to keep improving.
“We got to put those last two games behind us. Get back to the things we were focusing on going into the Grand Canyon game, (and in) the Sam Houston game … getting the ball moving more, taking quality shots.
“In the Sam Houston game, they forced us to go make plays, but we did. We liked the direction we were taking heading into those two games. We’ve got to recapture that. Build on that. We’ve got to get better this week. That’s the bottom line.”