Sampson preparing Cougars for new season
The past weeks have marked a new era for the UH men’s basketball team, as new head coach Kelvin Sampson hosted the first practices of the season.
Sampson makes his collegiate return for the first time since 2008 when he coached at Indiana with a 43-15 record.
After a 6-year stint in the NBA, Sampson felt right at home in Houston.
“When I blew the whistle and started practice last Monday,” said Sampson, “it was like I never left.”
“I’ve been a head coach for 25 years, and I enjoy teaching. I enjoy the relationships you get to have with the players. I enjoy helping them, I’ve never lost sight of the reason you coach is to help guys grow, help them overcome some adversity in their life. I enjoy that part and also the competition, getting your team ready to go out and play against another team.”
With a new coaching staff and nine new players, this is a different team than last year’s 17-16 squad. Losing forward TaShawn Thomas (Oklahoma) and guard Danuel House (Texas A&M) will be hard to replace, but Sampson has seen success and knows what it takes to get there.
“One of the things that I enjoy about this go-around at UH is our athleticism,” Sampson said. “We don’t have a lot of size or depth up front, but we’re very athletic and we can run and we’re going to take advantage of that.
“Being able to play with great pace and great spacing and shoot 3’s is something we’ll be good at. On nights our three ball is falling, we’re gonna be tough to beat. On nights it’s not falling, we’re gonna have to rely on our rebounding and defense.”
The Cougars will kick off the season with one exhibition contest against North Alabama Nov. 8 at Hofheinz Pavilion. Houston will be ready, but Sampson has a message for the student the body.
“Home court advantage doesn’t start with an alumni base, but with a student base,” Sampson said. “We’ve got about 9,000 seats here and basketball games are free, some schools out there charge for the games, but you get to come to games for free.”
Sampson is looking for the students to start taking ownership of their basketball program at UH and begin to habitually support the athletes while becoming a part of their success.
“I want our students to create a habit of coming out to our home basketball games,” Sampson said. “Our students have to take some ownership in this basketball team. We want to share our success with the student body.”
The men’s team is also holding a campus resident-exclusive preseason pep-rally in conjunction with the women’s basketball team tonight from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Hofheinz Pavilion. Students will not only be able to compete in skill games with and against the players, but be welcomed by the school’s new coaches, something very important to Sampson.
Sampson not only wants to impact his players, but also build relationships with his supporters. Sampson encourages the students to become a part of his program, not necessarily by means of playing the game.
“My office is always open, and anytime a student come in and find out how they can help the basketball team, I’m always there,” Sampson said. “I look forward to meeting as many students as we can, and getting them excited about Cougar basketball.”