Talent, coaching makes up for Brooks’ departure
The off-season has not been kind to Houston.
Guards Corey Davis Jr. and Galen Robinson have graduated, taking with them a third of the Cougars’ offense. Junior guard Armoni Brooks, with his sights set on the pros, is foregoing his senior year and leaving his name in June’s NBA draft.
While Davis and Robinson’s departures were expected, Brooks’ was not. UH, however, is not out for the count, despite the unexpected gap left on the team.
For one, the Cougars still have Kelvin Sampson as their head coach. The reigning American Athletic Conference Coach of the Year is a large part of Houston’s recent resurgence into relevancy. Since taking over in 2014, Sampson has led the team to four straight seasons with over 20 wins, a conference championship and its deepest run in the NCAA Tournament since the ‘80s.
Luckily for Sampson, key talent is returning to the Cougars. Sophomore guard Nate Hinton and junior guard DeJon Jarreau, both big forces coming off the bench, will continue contributing.
As a four-star recruit coming out high school, Hinton immediately played a prominent role on the team. The native of North Carolina averaged 7.2 points on offense while tallying more than 120 rebounds on defense.
Jarreau, Hinton’s running mate and last season’s AAC Sixth Man of the Year, is also primed to make up for Brooks’ leave.
In his first season with the Cougars, Jarreau became one of the team’s primary ball handlers and main offensive weapons off the bench. One of the sophomore’s biggest strengths is his ability to get to the basket, averaging almost nine points in 18 minutes per game. The New Orleans-native will likely become one of the team’s top guards in place of Brooks, who averaged 13.4 points in his final collegiate season.
Houston will also benefit from the return of several other players that played prominent roles on 2018-2019’s team.
Junior forwards Fabian White Jr. and Brison Gresham, senior center Chris Harris Jr. and sophomore forward Cedrick Alley Jr. are all players that played meaningful minutes throughout the season and UH’s most recent March Madness run.
These returning players, who now have extensive AAC and NCAA tournament experience, are also going to benefit new players that will join the Cougars come 2019-2020.
Incoming freshman guard Caleb Mills is expected to make an immediate impact on the team. Sampson has already called him the best offensive recruit he has had since he signed on as head coach of Houston.
Junior forward Justin Gorham and freshman Neil VanBeck will also be joining the team after being redshirted last season. The duo practiced with the team daily throughout the season with the hope that they will be up to speed by the time they see in-game action in the fall.
Despite the losses that they suffered, the Cougars still have the arsenal to follow up last season’s performance with another successful year. With its talent, an elite coach and a focus on winning, Houston has the perfect recipe to do so.