An early look at Houston’s new faces for 2020-21
The 2019-20 season for the Cougars had plenty of growing pains, which showed through a few inconsistent performances and heartbreaking losses. But they also demonstrated flashes of dominance, displayed with the control of the glass and occasional display of suffocating defense.
The Cougars, however, have moved on from the shortened season and have begun looking at the upcoming campaign. While the futures of guards DeJon Jarreau and Nate Hinton are unknown, the program is thrilled with the players that are coming in next season.
“Really it’s five (new players that will be eligible to play) that we are really excited about (for the 2020-21 season),” said Kellen Sampson during the first Virtual Coaches Caravan last Wednesday.
When talking about the 2020-21 incoming class for Houston, the No. 1 person that is brought up is Dickinson High School star Tramon Mark.
“Mark is going to have a chance to be as good as any guard we’ve had,” Sampson said. “(He’s) a 6-6 do it all player.”
Coming off averaging 29.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game his senior year this past season, he enters the UH program with a lot of anticipation to see what he will do.
With a good amount of scouts and experts predicting him to develop into an NBA player, there will be extra eyes on him every time he steps foot on the court and performs.
Another incoming freshman is the 6-foot-1-inch guard from Manor High School, Jamal Shead.
“He had an awesome career at (Manor),” Sampson said. “He was one win away from getting his team back to the state tournament.”
Shead first led his then-underdog squad to the state tournament in the 2018-19 season, and that team success is something that has really stood out to the UH coaching staff, proving that he’s a winner.
“Bringing in a guy like Jamal Shead, you’re improving your team,” head coach Kelvin Sampson said about him last November after his commitment. “He’ll help this program win. He’s a winner.”
Kiyron Powell is the final of the true freshman players that will join Houston this upcoming season.
The lengthy center joins a veteran frontcourt that is filled with upperclassmen like Fabian White Jr., Brison Gresham and Justin Gorham.
“We were fortunate to beat out a lot of Big Ten schools for him,” Kellen Sampson said. “He’s a long, athletic, shot-blocking, rebounding son of a gun and we’re excited (to have him).”
Outside of his length, Powell is also comfortable shooting the jumper, and Houston is also excited to see what type of player he can become once he fills out his body.
“I think he’s a kid that will develop here,” the older Sampson said of Powell back in November. “As Kiyron gets bigger and stronger, he has wide shoulders, a great frame and he has a chance to be really good.”
As for the incoming redshirts, J’Wan Roberts and Cameron Tyson, the Cougars are looking forward to seeing their impact on the roster after sitting out a year, but still practicing and learning with the team.
The coaching staff expects Roberts to make plays for the frontcourt with his athleticism.
“(Roberts) is just kind of a Swiss Army Knife of swords in our frontcourt,” Kellen Sampson said.
Even though Roberts has yet to step foot on the court for Houston, he has already set some expectations from the coaching staff.
“I think J’Wan is one of those kids that will find a way to make me play him,” Kelvin Sampson told The Cougar in April. “And I like players like that because they usually have the right attitude and the right work ethic and that’s the way I would describe J’Wan.”
As for Tyson, he will also be eligible to play for the Cougars after having to sit out in 2019-20 because of NCAA transfer rules, but he will also have a chance to help the team from the get-go.
“One of the areas that I don’t think we did as well as we had in previous years was shooting the perimeter shot and that’s an immediate shot in the arm with Cam Tyson,” Kellen Sampson said.
With Idaho in 2018-19, he averaged 13.5 points per game on 42.9 percent shooting from the 3-point line.
All five of these players have been committed to Houston for a while, which, for Houston’s coaching staff, is a positive sign for how their game will progress for the Cougars.
“They’ve been locked in and invested in our program for a long time,” Kellen Sampson said. “I think that’ll help their transition and allow them to be really good Cougars when their moment comes.”