It was January 2019 when the men’s basketball team embarked on its furthest and toughest road trip of the season: The Carolinas.
UTA entered its Jan. 10 matchup against Appalachian State University seeking a win after dropping its last two games against Georgia State University and Georgia Southern University — the teams projected to finish first and second in the league, respectively.
With a 4-11 record, that trip to the East Coast became a turning point for UTA and helped the team find leadership in some of its newest transfers. Big performances from guard Brian Warren and forward TiAndre Jackson-Young led the team to an 82-72 win against Appalachian State, securing UTA’s first Sun Belt Conference victory of the regular season. Warren and Jackson-Young, both transfers from Tyler Junior College, scored 20 and 14 points in the game, respectively.
Two days later, another transfer showed up during a crucial time to give the Mavericks their second consecutive Sun Belt win, this time over Coastal Carolina University. With 1.8 seconds left on the clock, junior guard Radshad Davis hit the game-winning 3-pointer to exit Conway, South Carolina, with a 61-58 victory.
“At that point, our team just kind of got some confidence, and we rolled off five or six [wins] in a row,” Ogden said.
Davis, Warren, Jackson-Young and forward Jabari Narcis are now heading into their senior season at UTA. Before joining the Mavericks, Warren and Jackson-Young led Tyler Junior College to the NJCAA national tournament in the 2017-18 season. Davis picked up an NJCAA Region XVI championship when he was at Missouri State University-West Plains, while Narcis helped Jacksonville College to a NJCAA Region XIV South Division title.
Ogden said bringing in transfers like he did last season is a positive because they’ve been with other programs and have a sense of urgency since the clock on their collegiate careers is running out.
After the Carolina road swing, the Mavericks only lost five more games, bringing their overall record to 17-16 and their conference record to 12-6. UTA used its newfound momentum to secure the second seed in the conference tournament, where it ultimately fell in the championship game to Georgia State by a score of 73-64.
The transfers came together to take UTA past its original projection of 11th place in the conference, something Ogden said the team wouldn’t accept.
Davis said everyone on the team started trusting each other more as the season went along, letting him execute his role.
Despite finishing the season on a high note, Warren said it wasn’t enough because the Mavericks didn’t meet their ultimate goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament.
The objective for the transfers remains the same, especially now that they are all seniors.
“That’s the goal for me as a senior, to lead some of the young kids and the returners as well to the conference championship and win it,” Warren said.
Ogden said the team’s leaders will enter the new season with a fresh mentality because of the experiences they gained last year.
“This year will be a different mind-set and mentality, and I think they’ll accept it because they just want to win,” Ogden said. “We play for championships, nothing else.”