Summer workouts prepare House mentally, physically for college grind
When freshman forward Danuel House first arrived at UH, he wasn’t hitting game-winning shots like he did Wednesday to lift the Cougars to a victory against Texas at Hofheinz Pavilion. In fact, he had a hard time staying on his feet at first.
“I always go back to one of his first days of practice. He was practicing with Leon (Gibson) and guys that are grown men basically,” said Bryan Lewis, assistant director of Sports Performance. “He was 18, and he was driving in the lane and landing on his back almost every time.”
Lewis said summer practice allowed House to get prepared for the season because he got knocked down several times. House saw that he needed to get into the weight room and that he couldn’t be content to just work on his jump shot. He had to get stronger to prepare himself for the physicality of the college game.
Summer practices allowed House to get ready for the pace of college basketball, said assistant coach Daniyal Robinson, because the speed of the game was faster than the tempo House saw at Fort Bend High School.
If he continues to build strength, House could be handing out the punishment, Robinson said.
“With added strength, not necessarily having to get bulky, he’ll be putting guys on their back — not falling on his,” Robinson said.
Because he put the work in before the season, House has been a contributor on the team since the first game of the season. More importantly, said head coach James Dickey, the players and coaches expect him to to make big shots late in the second half, because he has a track record.
“He made the huge shot against Texas Southern here to put the game in overtime,” Dickey said. “And when he got that ball against Texas, I felt very good that it had a good chance to go in, and he made it. I was really worried about how much time was going to be left and defending on the other end.”
Taking big shots is nothing new to House. He has the confidence to take shots in crunch time, because he has been taking them since eighth grade. He estimates that he has hit six game-winners during his career.
“It takes a lot of heart, and it takes a lot of hard work to work on it. It takes a lot of mental focus,” House said.
But for House to live up to the five-star expectations placed on him by his ranking coming out of high school, he has to take another developmental step. He is already making his way partially up the ladder.
House is the Cougars’ third-leading scorer with 12.4 points per game and was named Conference USA’s freshman of the year. He was also named to the league’s five-man All-Freshman Team after being named C-USA Freshman of the Week three times. House had five 20-point games, including a career-high 28 points during the Jan. 9 game against SMU.
House is the first Freshman of the Year in any league in school history.
Dickey said the offseason will be instrumental in House and the team’s development next season, because House is surrounded by a young but talented team. The Cougars’ top four scorers are freshmen and sophomores. UH has only one senior, forward Leon Gibson, who hasn’t been a consistent starter this season.
The Cougars will also add Danrad Knowles to their front line. Knowles — who had offers from Baylor, Arkansas and Missouri and was the seventh-ranked high school player in Texas — will join their front line after sitting out a year.
House said the Cougars will just need to connect a complex puzzle to reach their goals for next season.
“We are just going to have to connect the pieces. That’s how I look at it,” House said. “The offseason gives us a lot of time to connect them and get stronger with one another and trust one another even more.”