Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Spurs host open practice at Frost Bank Center

Wembanyama, Vassell, Branham play in Silver versus black scrimmage
Reginald Thomas II/San Antonio Spurs

SAN ANTONIO – The last time the San Antonio Spurs played a home game in San Antonio was on March 29, in what used to be the AT&T Center. Now 192 days later, the Spurs played its inaugural game at the newly renamed Frost Bank Center. 

San Antonio hosted its annual open scrimmage on Saturday afternoon, where the Spurs squad split up into two teams – Silver and Black – in a glorified practice. The free-to-the-public scrimmage had a game-like feel, with there being referees, timed quarters and shot clocks, and, of course, over 13 thousand fans in attendance to see the hometown team. 

The excitement among the fans was evident in the arena. It is rare there are lines formed outside hours before an open practice. There were loud cheers and chants from the crowd as if it were a regular season home game. 

It would be fair to attribute the fans’ enthusiasm to the city’s newest star, the 7-foot-5 Frenchman Victor Wembanyama. The No. 1 overall pick from the 2023 NBA Draft, along with young returners Devin Vassell and Malaki Branham, put on a show in the public practice, with the Silver squad walking away with the 74-65 victory. The San Antonio Silver included Dominick Barlow, Charles Bassey, Sandro Mamukelashvili, Branham and Vassell. 

Branham, who is entering his second year in the league, is an underrated piece on San Antonio’s roster. The Ohio State alum earned more playing time towards the end of last season, even leading the team in scoring in six games. 

“I was here all summer,” Branham said. “And then when I wasn’t here, I was in D.C. working out with Julian [Champagnie].”

Like most professional athletes, the offseason can tend to have more strenuous workouts than in-season workouts. Whether that is hitting the gym, working on your handles or shooting, the countless summer reps show up when fall camp starts.

For Branham, he addressed all of those.

“Just getting stronger. The first year, I really wasn’t as strong as I needed to be. I feel more strong,” Branham said. “I feel more confident getting to the rim, getting the and-ones, driving to the basket, and even playing defense. Guys can’t bump me off my spot when they’re going to the rim.”

The 6-foot-4 guard seemed to be more confident in Saturday’s scrimmage. Branham pulled up for 3-pointers, drove to the basket and made some tough shots with contact. 

Branham will not let his confidence boost or sophomore leap change his mindset, though. Understanding the Spurs’ development timeline with other young stars and having one of the greatest coaches on the sidelines in Gregg Popovich, Branham will approach his second season the same. 

“Same mindset,” Branham said. “I’m just ready to do whatever coach needs me to do and the team needs me to do. Just being confident in who I am.”

The aforementioned Wembanyama is among the players in San Antonio who bring in extra attention. The Spurs’ season ticket sales, nationally televised games and overall excitement for the upcoming season are the highest it has been in a few years, and the players can feel it. 

“It’s a lot more excitement which is good,” Branham said. “It’s going to bring more cameras and more people out to the games. That first game is going to be crazy.”

The Spurs host three preseason games before their season opener against the Dallas Mavericks on Oct. 25. The first home preseason game for the Spurs will be against the Miami Heat at 6:30 p.m. Friday, at Frost Bank Center.

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About the Contributor
Luke Lawhorn
Luke Lawhorn, Sports Editor
Luke (he/him) is an English major at UTSA and is set to graduate in the Spring of 2024. This is his fifth semester at The Paisano and his fourth as the Sports Editor. Along with covering UTSA sports and events, Luke also covers high school sports and local events for the San Antonio Express-News and covers the San Antonio Spurs for The Paisano. He has a huge passion for covering sports and giving his opinion on them. Outside of writing and talking about sports, Luke's hobbies include playing basketball, watching movies and all things outdoors.

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