Kelvin Sampson: UH ‘at the mercy’ of test results as team navigates outbreak
For the first time in 15 days, the longest in-season layoff since 1962, No. 6 Houston returned to the court of the Fertitta Center and hosted Alcorn State on Sunday afternoon.
While the game itself was not the cleanest one for the Cougars, it came following days of in-dorm room lockdowns for the players due to COVID-19 issues within the program.
In the week leading up to UH’s 88-55 win against Alcorn State, the Cougars practiced with only six players for most of the days.
“We are going through something we’ve never gone through before,” UH head coach Kelvin Sampson told reporters postgame via Zoom. “This is December. I’ve seen thirty-something Decembers. I’ve never seen this kind of December. … We’re just going to have to navigate this terrain the best we can.”
Those six student-athletes were DeJon Jarreau, Quentin Grimes, Jamal Shead, Justin Gorham Kiyron Powell and Reggie Chaney.
While the other nine players on the roster were away from the facility, the six UH players cleared to practice could only focus on the basics and study their game plan without executing it on the floor.
“It was different,” Grimes said. “Something you can never really plan for … I feel like we did a great job today. Coach did a good job preparing us.”
The six Cougars went over different principles, went over the defense and got a lot of shots up, Gorham said. Because of the low number of players, everyone got to have their own basket and worked with position coaches leading up to Sunday.
Towards the end of the week, UH got three other players cleared to practice, Sampson said, which were freshmen Tramon Mark and J’Wan Roberts and senior forward Brison Gresham.
While the three players joined the team before Sunday, the head coach said their roles were limited, especially for Mark, who had suffered from a stomach illness that had limited what he could do.
“We had to bring the energy,” Gorham said. “Not just let coach Sampson bring it, but we had to bring it, me and the five others.”
As the Cougars turn the page to their American Athletic Conference opener against Temple on Tuesday, plenty of questions remain within the program.
“You’re at the mercy of the results of the test (results),” Sampson said. “We don’t know whether we’re going to have some of our guys, most of them, or just a few of them.”
UH already moved what was supposed to be its first conference opener against UCF, and at this point in the year, they feel like nothing that happens to them can catch them off guard.
“I mean it is 2020,” Gorham said. “2020 is weird. … Coach told us it was going to be different, but we’re built for it because face adversity every day. (Preparing for Alcorn State shorthanded) was nothing we couldn’t do. We just had to face adversity and overcome it.”
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