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Thursday, June 8, 2023

Men's Basketball

Sampson scores big with standout transfer


Davis (left) is already one of the strongest players on the team, but his coach believes he still has room for additional growth. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

When Kelvin Sampson took the head coaching position at the University of Houston in 2014, the program was in shambles. Taking the reins of a team that has been buried in mediocrity for over 30 years, the seasoned coach knew he had his work cut out for him.

Now in his third season at the helm, the team is being overtaken by Sampson-recruited players.

Also building through transfers, one player will be looking for his second chance when the Cougars tip off Nov. 5 in Hofheinz Pavillion.

Junior transfer forward Devin Davis played his freshman year at perennial basketball powerhouse Indiana University before redshirting his next season due to injuries he sustained in a car accident.

The road to UH

Opting to transfer to Odessa Junior College upon his recovery, Davis used his time in the JUCO ranks to springboard himself back to a Division One program.

Both Davis and Sampson are excited about the possibilities that could come from their collaboration. Davis is hungry to show what he could have been at Indiana.

“It feels good to go through the accident, then go to a lower level junior college, and now back to a division one (university),” Davis said. “How I feel is that I’m not done yet.”

Many factors helped Davis choose UH, but he felt that under Sampson’s leadership was where he was meant to be.

Davis said that upon his visit to the UH campus, it was the coaching staff’s welcoming attitude that helped him feel at home in Houston.

Sampson views Davis as a great addition to a young team with unlimited potential.

Due to his skill set, size and athleticism, Davis brings an element to the Cougars that Sampson believes will be a dominant factor this season.

“We’re going to be depending on him a lot,” Sampson said. “Devin has got to get stronger mentally. He’s got to get more street fighter in him. I love his skill level. I love his body, I mean he weighs 230 pounds.”

The third-year coach pointed out that Devonta Pollard was arguably the most dominant player for the Cougars last season, but Davis’ size far outweighs Pollard’s 195-pound frame.

He expects Davis to bring a different aspect to the Cougars that will create new adjustments on the court compared to last year’s lineups.

“I think Devin is going to be able to bang inside a little more,” Sampson said. “Devin has to help us. We recruited him for a reason. He would be a good player in any conference, but he has to buy in to what we’re doing.”

Sampson is excited to have Davis and the other newly-acquired players on his team, but he is still thinking realistically.

The next step

Even though the Cougars have improved quickly over the past two seasons, they are still putting the pieces in place to create a basketball powerhouse.

Compared to some of the other teams in the American Athletic Conference, UH is new to the rebuilding procedure, which started with the hiring of Sampson two years ago.

“As coaches we understand the process,” Sampson said. “You don’t fix all the problems in one recruiting class. We still aren’t finished building this.”

With the addition of Davis and the rest of last year’s recruiting class, coupled with the experience of the returning players, Sampson is doing just as he said: adding the pieces the Cougars need.

If he can continue to add the necessary parts, Houston doesn’t look as if they will slow down any time soon.

Sampson has made it known that an important part of finding good ball players is not just locating talent, but also scouting players that fit well into your system.

Athletes that fit well in his system depends not only on on-court physical actions, but also mental fortitude.

Davis will bring both to the Cougar lineup.

“It’s easy to find talent, it’s easy to find character guys. It’s hard to find both,” Sampson said. “I think that’s what Devin is. He’s a character guy and he’s talented.”

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