Back in early April we dropped a few lines in our Insider Forum and Social media, about big time talent coming into the top high school program in San Antonio. On Friday it became public knowledge, and people all around the city of San Antonio and State of Texas took notice.
Go back more than two months, and the wheels of motion were set when the Cornerstone National team was dismantled. Talks immediately surrounded the top two national prospects, 6’10” Jerrell Colbert (2021) and 6’2” Austin Nunez (2022).
Colbert has been ranked as high as a Top 25 prospect nationally, starred for Team USA on the USA Basketball National Junior team last summer, nearly earning 5-Star status, and being one of the more dominant performers in Colorado Springs. The low post is already committed to Will Wade and LSU.
Nunez is a Top 75 recruit, 4-star prospect, and is approaching near a dozen offers, with Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Georgetown, Memphis and others already on the table. The point guard can facilitate and is a knockdown shooter with plenty of range, a perfect 1-2 combination as they showed this past year with Cornerstone.
The Thunderbirds were hit hard by graduation losing key seniors Journee Phillips, Braelon Seals, and Isaiah Kennedy all to the next level. The infusion of talent with returning senior and San Antonio Express News Player of the Year, Jasean Jackson, another guard with unlimited range and who can light up the score sheet in a hurry, vaults Wagner to the Top of Region IV in their road back to 6A later this fall.
Having an athletic, dominating 6’10” low post presence is almost unmatchable in the Tri-Regions. The perfect compliment to Colbert are shooters like Nunez and Jackson. Add what could be the best 2024 in the city, in Emmanuel “Mannie” Robinson, and anything short of a State Title would be a failure for Head Coach Rodney Clark and his staff.
Coincidentally, the last team that somewhat resembled this much talent on paper, would be the 2016-2017 Wagner team which fell in the 6A State Final to Cy Falls. That team featured future Baylor signee, 6’9” Tristan Clark, and young talented underclassmen in Kevin McCullar (Harlan HS/Texas Tech signee 2018), Jalon Jackson (University of North Texas signee/2019), and a budding freshman in Journee Phillips (Texas A&M-International Signee/2020).
The stark difference is Nunez and Colbert are national prospects and their talents and recruitment are on different levels. Secondly, and just as important both are shooters who will hurt opponents when they try to mitigate the damage by Colbert. The road through the Alamodome is highly likely to feature size whether it be a DFW or Greater Houston team, the difference this time is San Antonio will have a big of their own and more to counter.
What is frustrating is that the bigger picture which will more than likely be chastised and scoffed at by San Antonio area high school coaches. There has been no public school in the modern era with this type of talent infusion in Greater San Antonio. Yes, there has been the failed attempts by Cornerstone, St. Anthony’s and Athlos. So why the big deal? Wagner is a public school that falls under the UIL, not TAPPS, TCAL or any other governing body.
For nearly two decades, DFW and Greater Houston high schools have dominated the boy’s high school public hoops scene in impressive fashion at the 5A level or higher. It was the mid-court miracle by John Jay’s Chris Ross in 2002 that brought the last UIL boys State Championship that was won on the court (Sam Houston HS/04’-05’ by Forfeit). In seven years, San Antonio won 3 State Titles on the boy’s side, East Central in ’95, Fox Tech in ’97, and the Mustangs in 2002.
So what has changed? Why has it been 18 years and counting for San Antonio to triumph. The answer is quite simple, fair or not, the High School game has changed, and how players end up at certain schools. Three high school coaches all with ties to DFW or Houston, confirmed to AlamoCityHoops, that they have a mutual understanding within their districts when it comes to transfers. A talented player/transfer ends up at a school, and the coaches within the district do not veto the transfer, so as if their program lands a lauded prospect themselves, there is no blowback or retaliation. Right or wrong, this is the mentality in DFW and Houston. It has been that way for nearly two decades if not longer. Can San Antonio ever compete again or catch up? The Wagner Thunderbirds are the answer to that question, and we are not lacking confidence in saying that the expectation is for them to end the drought.
If a transfer is done correctly, verified, and approved, why should the student athlete not be allowed to compete and participate? Colbert and Nunez have transferred out of a National Program that was eliminated. Many in the narrow minded and near-sighted San Antonio basketball community will not care. They’ll see it as cheating, recruiting, or unfair. Throw any other excuse in there possible.
Instead of asking, how are DFW and Greater Houston doing this? The UIL is approving and allowing it. Or a deeper question that would surely follow with a heated exchange, why are kids wanting to transfer to Wagner? It surely could not be because of their heavy loaded non-district schedule that they play going to tournaments around the State of Texas. Not because of their 32 minute havoc wreaking style of getting up and down the floor. Nor that they have produced at least 7 college basketball signees in the last 4 years. I can guarantee you, that will not be thought about.
Here are the facts. Jerrell Colbert and Austin Nunez are now at Wagner High School. The T-birds will have to win a State Championship for the negativity and envy to be lessened. DFW and Houston have been assembling their basketball programs like this since the turn of the century. If you still feel that we’re crazier than Dave Chappelle on a cocaine rant, than just look at the 18 years of drought in being able to compete against those regions for a State Title at the 5A level or higher. I am sure landing talented prospects and transfers doesn’t have anything to do with it all. In traditional San Antonio fashion, let us light another candle, say a prayer and continue to hope the basketball God’s smile down upon the Alamo City. It hasn’t worked for 18 years, why stop now!