One thing is certain for Head Coach Brooks Thompson and his 2015-2016 squad, this is the most overall athletic team and most depth at guard that he's ever fielded. The addition of Jr. Harris (Jr.), Nick Billingsley (Jr.), and Nick Allen (Fr.), have bolstered the athletic makeup of the team, combining with returners: Christian Wilson (So.), Austin Karrer (So.), and Phillip Jones (Jr.), there's an immediate difference when see you the 'Runners on the floor.
"I think it might be our most athletic and deepest on the perimeter. I think we're gonna have to play a little bit differently with them moving the clock to 30 seconds back from 35. I think with our depth in the back-court that we're gonna be able to do things to press and kind of try to slow people down and play that way. There's no doubt that we're very athletic and I'm excited about it, but we gotta calm it down a little bit and get a little more disciplined," said Head Coach Brooks Thompson.
In the past weeks, the team has been focused on implementing a new offense, with a familiar look. Coach Thompson and his team are going back to more of a dribble drive or penetrate and kick, set-up in the half court. Over the last couple of seasons the 'Runners had gone more to a motion offense. The dribble drive system was what the 'Runners used during the days of Devin Gibson, so going back to that type of set is indicative of the talent that Coach Thompson feels he has on the court.
Former walk-on Gino Littles returns after starting 22 of 27 games as a true freshman. As a sophomore he's now even more vocal and shows that he's the undisputed floor leader. Just like he did as a frosh, he knows where to be, make the right calls for offense and defense, he's an extension of the staff on the floor. Littles will put the ball on the floor, attack and look to create for those around him. He's the engine that's driving the car.
As Thompson mentioned above, because of their athleticism and skill, look for the 'Runners to press more than they have recently on the defensive side, and to start out, man to man will be the half court defense. Of course there will always be a use of zone, but it won't be primary to start the 15-16 season.
The biggest obstacle the 'Runners will have is the lack of height on the roster and a "Go-to-Guy" outside of senior Ryan Bowie. Lucas O'Brien and James Ringholt are the only players listed at 6'9" or bigger. O'Brien has noticeably added strength and muscle, around 25lbs since the end of last season, and his jump shot has been falling with much more consistency. Ringholt has also packed on weight, now standing in at 230lbs.
After averaging 13pts a game and going for 20 or more four times, the scoring load will be falling on the senior, Bowie. He can light up in a hurry, nailing 62 3-pointers as a junior and shooting at a 37% clip. From long range, he's UTSA's most consistent deep threat. So who will step up to help him? Could it be the young sophomores Wilson or Karrer? Will JC signee Jr. Harris be given the shot right away to assert himself on the offensive end.
True freshman A.J. Cockrell could very well end up being a starter or logging starters minutes before the season is done. He's surprisingly thick 230lbs and is a heavy load to move in and out of the paint. Allen is more of a wing, but he has a cut frame and at 205lbs, is stronger than most freshman. He's shown good leaping ability and is not afraid to bang down low, getting on the glass and cleaning it.
Overall depth and lack of size will be critical to overcome as the 'Runners arguably have their toughest non-conference schedule in the Brooks Thompson era, facing Texas, Creighton, Clemson, and then battling C-USA heavyweights UAB, Old Dominion, Middle Tennessee, UTEP, and Louisiana Tech. It's a shortcoming UTSA will have to overcome in order to match their win total from last season.
"It's a bear, there's no doubt about that. The travel and things of that nature, but I feel we have to play that. Hopefully it will pay off with our new guys and our veterans understanding what it takes to play at other places. We're gonna play in some great environments, there's no doubt about that. We got the "Main Event" tournament that we get to play 4 games and schedule 31. I wanted to schedule as many games as we could in the non-conference to try and get prepared for C-USA. We don't want to throw them into the fire in C-USA, we want to throw them in the fire early and see what they can do," said Thompson.
As recent as last week, there were 5 starters identified in practice, but by the end of the session, 3-4 others were already rotating in with the 1st team.
(Potential Starters selected during practice)
PF/C Lucas O'Brien 6'10" 245lbs (Jr.)
PF Nick Allen 6'7" 205lbs (Fr.)
SG Austin Karrer 6'3" 180lbs (So.)
SG Ryan Bowie 6'1" 185lbs (Sr.)
PG Gino Littles 6'0" 160lbs (So.)
(Other potential starters running w/the 1st team)
PF/C A.J. Cockrell 6'8" 230lbs (Fr.)
PF Phillip Jones 6'6" 210lbs (Jr.)
SF/SG Jr. Harris 6'4" 170lbs (Jr.)
PG/SG Christian Wilson 6'2" 170lbs (So.)
(Other returnees and signees)
C James Ringholt 6'10" 230lbs (So.)
F Garrett Thibodeaux 6'8" 220lbs (Fr.)
F Terrell Scruggs 6'6" 195lbs (Jr.)
F George Matthews 6'6" 230lbs (Sr.)
G Omer Aksu 6'2" 180lbs (Fr.)
G/F Nick Billingsley 6'4" 185lbs (Jr.)