Men’s: New season brings hope of reviving glory days
UH is bringing back one of its most popular fraternities.
“It’s going to be Phi Slamma Jamma,” freshman guard Joseph Young said.
“That’s what I’m hoping it’s going to be.”
The Cougars have overhauled their roster after last season’s 12-18 performance, and assembled a cast playmakers to team with last season’s holdovers.
Young is one of the key members of the Cougars’ makeover.
Something of a local hero, and the son of Phi Slamma Jamma alum Michael Young, Joseph led Yates High School to back-to-back state titles and averaged 27 points as a senior.
In addition to his scoring, Young will also contribute in a role that he hasn’t played since eighth grade as the Cougars’ starting point guard — a transition that started last season when he redshirted.
“Growing as a point guard, all it was was hard work,” Young said.
“If I came in last year, I would have had no IQ of the game because this is a different speed. I had to pick up my game and match the speed of college basketball.”
In the Cougars’ exhibition opener against Concordia, Young showed the sweet stroke that he was known for at Yates (26 points, 5-6 from three-point range), and promise as UH’s point, but by no means is he a finished product.
“Joe turned it over five times in the first half, but took really good care of it in the second half,” head coach James Dickey said.
Young’s starting backcourt mate Darian Thibodeaux will provide stability to a team with eight new players, five of which are freshmen.
“We want him to assume more of a leadership role,” Dickey said. “He’s a very good defender and can shoot the three.”
One ingredient missing from last season’s team was a go-to scorer that could create his own shot. That problem should be alleviated with the addition of Young, as well as junior-college transfer Jonathan Simmons.
The 6’6 swingman will be a catalyst for the Cougars this season.
“Oh man, he’s going to bring everything,” Young said prior to UH’s exhibition win. “Rebounds. He might get a couple of dunks in, shots, anything you need, defensive steals, run throughs.”
Young looked like a smart man after Simmons’ performance against Concordia, scoring 21 points and tallying eight rebounds, nine assists and five steals.
Freshmen point guard J.J. Thompson and LaRon Barnes look to be promising additions to the backcourt as well.
At forward, sophomore Alandise Harris and junior Kirk Van Slyke return, while freshman TaShawn Thomas and junior college transfer Leon Gibson will look to replace the departed Maurice McNeal and Kendrick Washington.
Thomas was impressive in his preseason debut with UH, notching a double-double — 14 point, 10 rebounds — while rejecting three shots.
Thomas rebounding and shot blocking will be a welcome addition after the Cougars ranked last in points allowed and had a -1.8 rebounding margin last season.
“Don’t even worry about last year; just focus on this year,” Thibodeaux said.
“It’s a totally different team.”