Basketball’s back: Get to know new, returning players
The Cougar basketball team has been gaining talent to attempt an NCAA Tournament appearance for the first time since 2010 after a first-round exit from the National Invitation Tournament last season.
Losing popular forward Danrad “Chicken” Knowles to graduation and shooting guard Damyean Dotson to the New York Knicks in a second-round draft left sizable holes in the roster. But there are quite a few returning players that will try to pick up where they left off last year.
Redshirt senior guard Rob Gray Jr. will try to lead the American Athletic Conference in scoring for the second year in a row. Gray averaged 20.1 points per game last season and scored a season-high 31 in two games last year. He also led the team in steals per game with 1.2.
His prolific season on both sides of the ball saw him named First Team All-American Athletic Conference.
Junior guard and defensive standout Galen Robinson has returned from a foot injury that prevented him from participating in offseason activities. Before the injury, Robinson was leading the Cougars in assists and became the 18th Cougar to have multiple seasons with 100+ assists.
A notable highlight from his 2016-17 season was a clutch block on the perimeter against Memphis that prevented a possible game-winning shot. He’ll be looking for more performances like that this year.
Senior guard Wes VanBeck will be providing elder leadership to the team as he enters his final season.
After three years on the team, he is primed for a prominent role. VanBeck played in all 32 games for the Cougars last season and averaged 22.1 minutes per game. His 48.4 shooting percentage from 3-point range last season was the highest average of his career.
VanBeck will be working on repeating that kind of shooting performance in the upcoming season, which should be special.
Redshirt senior forward Devin Davis will aim to avoid the injury problems he faced last year and bring his patented form of hustle and energy to the squad.
Davis made several diving plays for 50/50 balls and would sacrifice his body to help the team win. He was also the second-best rebounder on the team with 5.3 rebounds per game. Every team needs a do-it-all player, and Davis takes pride in accepting that role for the Cougars.
Along with the returning Cougars, several freshmen and transfers will aid the team and potentially push Houston into the postseason.
True freshman and four-star recruit Fabian White Jr. adds depth to a roster of capable men. Freshman Cedrick Alley Jr. adds crucial length to the wing positions. Houston has also made a huge push to recruit players from junior colleges.
Corey Davis of San Jacinto College, Gabe Grant of Three Rivers College and Breaon Brady from Saddleback College are veterans who should be able to make an impact early. With the addition of these players, there will also be some competition for minutes and starting roles with the team.
Corey Davis and Galen Robinson will be an interesting competition at point guard as they each contribute different skills. Regardless of who earns the minutes, the Cougars will be boasting one of their deepest rosters since they last joined March Madness in 2010.