One Goal, One Focus
By Allen Schlesinger
Sports Editor - The Paisano
The 2005-2006 season was disappointing for UTSA men’s basketball. An 11-18 finish highlighted by discipline problems ended with a first-round Southland Conference tournament loss to top seed and eventual conference champion Northwestern State.
Of the five starters from the exhibition opener last season, only one remains–Kurt Attaway, the Southland Conference Freshman of the Year in the 2003-2004 season.
Attaway has battled various injuries over the past two seasons since winning the award. The senior point guard suffered from a torn ligament in his thumb in the preseason of his sophomore year and then played through conference play last season with a fractured ankle.
Attaway feels much better going into his fourth and final year than he has in previous seasons.
“I think mentally I’m the sharpest I’ve been, and I don’t think I’ve been more excited about a season with this being my final season. I’m really excited about the team we have together, the coaching staff, and what we have before us,” Attaway said.
“Last year I played through all of conference with a fractured ankle, so I think battling through those things and kind of facing adversity makes you excited to come back.”
“I can have another opportunity because a lot of people don’t get another opportunity after injuries like that,” Attaway said.
Being the only starter returning for the Runners and the only senior expected to log significant minutes places Attaway in more of a leadership role.
“I want to be a part of a team that has one goal and one focus. If I can help direct that and help us see that better then that’s what I want to do. I think being a senior and being on a team that’s been to the dance before, I need to be able to share that with the guys. If I don’t share that, I’m holding something back that we need,” Attaway said.
Roderick Rodgers, last year’s opening day starting small forward, was dismissed in early February last year for violating team policy. Eric Young and Nkem Ojougboh transferred to other schools. Andre Owens, last year’s leading scorer, was a senior.
Coach Brooks Thompson has replaced Coach Tim Carter and has already put his stamp on the new look roster.
“We’re going to put a product out on the floor that you guys are all proud of,” Thompson said.
Thompson hit the recruiting trail shortly after he was named head coach April 18 and signed a talented recruiting class including Junior College All-American Travis Gabbidon.
“I just gotta bring what I have to UTSA and work on being an All-American here,” Gabbidon said.
Gabbidon’s expectations for the upcoming season were summed up in one word, “Win.”
Other notable signees include four other junior college transfers: Ryan Williams, Melvin Smith, Isaiah Allen, and Keith Spencer. The lone freshman from Thompson’s inaugural recruiting class is six foot three inch Dezon Otis. Andrew Francis, a transfer from the University of Houston, will be eligibile to play in December, after sitting out the mandatory year for transfer athletes, and is expected to log major minutes at the big men positions.
The upcoming season will be the first in which the Southland Conference is split into two divisions. A preseason coaches poll has the Runners picked fifth out of six in the West Division.
Coach Thompson has made conditioning a top priority as the season looms.
“I think you gotta give our young men a ton of credit because we put them through a very rigorous preseason conditioning program. I know that they’re going to be ready from a standpoint mentally because they’re tired of doing that,” Thompson said.
Gonzaga, Washington State and Oklahoma State highlight a non-conference schedule that will better prepare the Runners for Southland Conference play.
“It’s a tough schedule. We’re playing some schools to try to prepare for our conference run. I think it’s better to play a more powerful schedule early in the year to prepare your guys for conference play because conference play is no joke,” Thompson said.
The Runners will have to overcome odds and predictions to advance to their first NCAA Tournament since 2004.
“The way I see it ending is the way I came in. I’d love to be able to hang another two banners, a conference tournament championship and get into the NCAA Tournament and give us a chance; all we need is a chance. We can see what happens from there,” Attaway said.