JJ’s Journal 6.21.16

InsideRunnerSports’ JJ Perez offers his opinions on several UTSA-related topics.

JJ’s Journal for 6.21.2016

I’ve struggled to find words to discuss the passing of former UTSA Men’s Basketball Coach Brooks Thompson. I didn’t know Brooks beyond our UTSA-related interactions. But for whatever reason, it’s been difficult to think or talk about him. I think it’s because when good people pass away, your life is left a little empty knowing they’re gone. I knew Brooks for the better part of a decade and I’m here to report that he was good people. If you never met or spoke to Brooks Thompson, it would be easy to look at his sideline demeanor and cast him away as another hard-nosed coach who only cared about wins and losses. You could often find Brooks on the sidelines ripping into an official about a missed call or screaming at his team to execute plays or grab rebounds. Known in his playing days as a super-fierce competitor, that mentality translated to the sidelines when he became UTSA’s Head Coach. In fact, early on in his career we noticed that Brooks would get so riled up that he’d often lose his suit jacket. The closeness and intensity of the game being played was always a direct correlation of how and when Brooks would remove his jacket. Sometimes it would be a calm removal handing it to an assistant, other times he’d flung it in the air or to the ground it a fit of rage over a bad call, and sometimes he’d just remove it in the locker room out of halftime. It became so frequent that we began tracking when it happened with the term “Jacket Stat.” And while that was Brooks’ personality on the basketball court, his personality off the court was completely the opposite. You will be hard-pressed to find a nicer, genuine, more caring person than Brooks Thompson. His family, his coaches, and his players meant everything to him. He’d go out of his way to help people. And he’d go out of his way to talk to people. Brooks’ name to fame was through basketball. I always tell people that Coach Thompson was a very good basketball player. Widely considered the best point guard in Oklahoma State history, Brooks could ball. But Brooks Thompson the man was an even better person than he was as a player or coach. From Littleton, Colorado to Texas A&M to Oklahoma State, to the NBA and ultimately UTSA, Coach Thompson made his mark on the game of basketball. Along the way, he touched many lives, mine included. Friends, family, and colleagues gathered this past Saturday to pay tribute to Brooks Thompson’s life. Like many people, I met Brooks in his early years at UTSA. Over the years I’ve been able to accumulate a decade worth memories, too many to list here but here are just some of them: 2011 in Katy and Dayton, that stage in Arlington, countless games vs A&M-CC, SFA, SHS, TX ST, the road trips, the practices, and very much more. But the biggest thing I’ll always remember about Brooks is something I shared with his wife Michelle Saturday. Brooks was so kind, open, and genuine to me and our business in the early days. He went out of his way to help us. A large reason I’m able to continue to pursue my career as a member of the sports media is because Brooks Thompson. And he wasn’t that way just with me. He gave his trainers, interns, and staff the same time of day and opportunity that he gave me. I will always be thankful for that and I know there are many others who feel the same. Aside from wins and losses and other basketball accolades, those who knew Brooks were better because of him. The last few months of his life could not have been easy for him or his family. So while it’s sad that he’s no longer among us, there is a bit of relief that he’s no longer in any pain. Rest in peace Coach Thompson. And continued thoughts and prayers to his family. 

New hoops Head Coach Steve Henson has been very busy since he arrived in San Antonio. On Monday he finalized his coaching staff with the official announcement that Adam Hood would be coming aboard. And pending some NCAA clearance, his 2016 team appears to be taking shape. Giovanni De Nicolao (a 6’3” PG from Italy) and George Willborn (a 6’4” SG from Chicago) are expected to join previous signees Byron Frohnen (6’5” SF from Nevada) and Mitar Stanojevic (a 6’7” F from Serbia) to round out Henson’s inaugural signing class. The additions will join the existing players to form the 2016-17 version of the UTSA Men’s Basketball Team. The team’s schedule is still in the process of being finalized but we do now know that the Roaidrunners are expected to host I-35 rival Texas State the day after Thanksgiving. To keep updated with all of the happenings with UTSA Basketball, be sure to visit the hoops section of the UTSAInsiders Forum (CLICK HERE).

A few weeks ago our associates over at AlamoCityHoops.com held their inaugural Alamo City Hoops Fest. It was an invitational AAU tournament that showcased some of the top talent in the area, region, and state. Teams from all over flocked to San Antonio to participate in the event. It went off without a hitch. You can read a recap of some of the tournament by CLICK HERE. It’s exciting to see the basketball environment in San Antonio grow. Until a few years, there weren’t many options for AAU teams to play locally. San Antonio has talent. Players like Andre Roberson (Oklahoma City Thunder) and Jordan Clarkson (Los Angles Lakers) are just some of the names that have come out of the area recently. There are many more who will make their mark in the very near future. Be sure to following Alamo City Hoops on Twitter (CLICK HERE) to stay up on the latest happenings on the local basketball scene. They’ve already made plans for a Top 100 combine as well as a girl’s tournament.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last few months, you already know that UTSA Football’s 2017 recruiting class currently stands at eight (8) verbal commitments. The summer of 2016 is shaping up to be huge for UTSA’s future. The coaching staff wrapped up their satellite camp series last week and we’ve heard nothing but positive reviews. With one big camp remaining at the Alamodome next month, UTSA is hoping to capitalize on their recruiting moment to potentially land some more commits prior to the start of the season. Currently the recruiting class is made up of three 3-star recruits and five 2-star recruits. It’s also a 3/5 split between offense and defense. You can see an overview of each of the commits by CLICKING HERE. Overall, it’s a good mix of talent for UTSA. New Head Coach Frank Wilson and his staff have hit the ground running and have done about as well as anyone could expect of them. And on the local level, UTSA is making a name for themselves. They’ve already landed one San Antonio recruit and are in the mix for others. Summer Sixteen. So far, so good. 

Predictions are beginning to roll into for the 2016 football season. And to no one’s surprise, the so-called experts are forecasting that UTSA won’t do too much. While there seems to be enough talent on the roster for UTSA to compete, many questions from outsiders surround first-year Head Coach Frank Wilson. Known nationally as an exceptional recruiter, the biggest question seems to be how will that recruiting prowess translate to the field. As a first-time head coach, Wilson has a lot on the line when the season kicks off in September. And while it all remains to be seen how things will play out, there’s a feeling in the pit of my stomach that tells me Wilson will exceed many of the expectations in his first season. I haven’t gotten to interact much with Wilson since he was hired (outside of a few interviews here and there) but everyone I talk about him tells me the same thing: he’s focused, he’s driven, he’s very intense, he has an attention to specific details that is beyond what anyone expects, and he has a very good football mind. Furthermore, Wilson’s addition of strength and conditioning personnel dedicated just to football is something that has flown under the radar to this point. Add all of that to his recruiting ability and I’m of the belief that things will be looking up in 2016. Two publications have predicted that UTSA will finished in the bottom three of CUSA in 2016. If that isn’t bulletin board material, I don’t know what is.

The NBA season came to an end this week with Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers making history. With nothing but baseball, the Olympics, and a few other minor events this summer, we are all left to countdown the seventy-some-odd days between now and the beginning of the 2016 football season. I’ll take a small vacation in late July before gearing up to start fall practices but beyond that, I’m in limbo just like everyone else. What will we do? Fortunately, the greater San Antonio area is a good place to be in the summer time. Theme parks, shopping, fishing, swimming, camping, and various recreation can be found within a stone’s throw. I barbequed this past weekend. Next weekend I think I’ll find a river to lounge in and the following one after it I think I’ll make my long awaited return to Medina Lake (which is finally at capacity after years of drought). I’d encourage everyone to get out and do the same. Top Golf, in-door sky diving, heck, even mix in a wedding or baby shower. Whatever it takes to break up the dog days of summer because once football comes back in August, it will be all football, all of the time. At least for me, and most of you. Just hold on until then. 

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