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Monday, September 25, 2023

Men's Basketball

Transfers provide depth, skill necessary in Sampson’s system

IMG_0280 Bryce Dodds Web

Head coach Kelvin Sampson finally has the depth he craves and the players to fill out his system, so he’ll be looking for increased performance on the court. | Bryce Dodds/The Cougar

After last year’s 13-19 season, head men’s basketball coach Kelvin Sampson is determined to see major improvements in the Cougars’ play on the court  and in the team’s win-loss record.

He plans to use the experience that last year’s players gained and utilize UH’s newest transfer players.

Sampson recruited players who would improve his fast-paced offense and also have good playing experience.

“We’re going to play as fast as we can,” Sampson said. “Knowing how you’re going to play, you have to go recruit players that fit your system. You don’t just arbitrarily grab somebody and say ‘Hey, we want to play fast, so you come play for us’.”

These specifications led to Houston gaining junior guard Ronnie Johnson, junior center Kyle Meyer and sophomore guard Rob Gray Jr., among others.

Each player will fit into the team system in their own way, but they are prepared to adjust to different roles.

With 10.8 points per game, Johnson was the second leading scorer at Purdue University during the 2013-2014 season.

Sampson plans to develop Johnson into more of an assisting point guard than a scorer.

“I don’t think that (Johnson) will be our second leading scorer,” Sampson said. “That’s not what I got him for. I want him to push up the court. I want him to facilitate and initiate the offense more. We’re trying to teach Ronnie how to be a better point guard.”

Johnson said he enjoys the changes that Sampson is placing on him.

“I like (the system) a lot,” Johnson said. “It’s different from Purdue. It’s a good setup for any guard and really anybody.”

Experience is something Sampson wants his players to thrive on, and Johnson wants to prove that he can provide just that.

“I’m really competitive and experienced,” Johnson said. “I’ve played against a lot of great guards like Trey Burke and a lot that are in the NBA now, like Marquis Teague and Gary Harris.”

On the other hand, Gray said that his role with the team will amplify his strengths.

“I feel like coach Sampson tries to utilize everyone’s strengths and one of my better strengths is scoring,” Gray said. “I feel like he’s going to use me a lot to score the ball…as well as makes plays for other people.”

Gray’s thinking falls in line with Sampson’s plan to have Johnson to embrace his new role as a facilitator.

If Gray can be a consistent scorer, it would aid Johnson’s assisting role and spread the floor to open shots for other players as well.

Meyer said that his specialty fits in well with the team and can help them succeed.

“I think I spread the floor really well,” Meyer said. “Danrad ‘Chicken’ Knowles and I are the only ones as big as we are and can rebound the way we do and step out to the perimeter. We both can be that type of player to spread out the floor.”

Sampson considers Meyer one of the better players on the team and plans to utilize his strengths.

“The thing I like about (Meyer) is that he does not have a lot of great strengths,” Sampson said. “He’s very athletic and also a great rebounder, but there’s not one thing in the game of basketball that he’s not pretty good at… but what he’s really good at — he’s a great team player. He understands how to make this team better, and he understands how to fit into it.”

The biggest thing Sampson is excited about is the depth on the roster.

With the amount of work his players received last season, combined with the experience he received from his transfers, Sampson said Houston’s depth is going to be an advantage that other teams do not have.

“There’s a difference between depth and depth,” Sampson said. “You may have 15 players on your team, but only six can play well. We’ve got good depth. We’ve got 13 guys on the team, and I feel comfortable with them.”

Sampson has full confidence in his team and expects it to be a better team than last year. He also anticipates these improvements to be more than a one year deal.

“I think all three are going to be good players for us,” Sampson said. “The good thing about those three guys is that they will all be back next year.”

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