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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Men's Basketball

How the UH coaches helped the games of Quentin Grimes, DeJon Jarreau


Quentin Grimes (24) of the Houston Cougars reacts during the first round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament against Cleveland State Vikings held at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on March 19, 2021 in Bloomington, Indiana. Quentin Grimes led the team in scoring. | Photo by Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Quentin Grimes (24) of the Houston Cougars reacts during the first round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament against Cleveland State Vikings held at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on March 19 in Bloomington, Indiana. Quentin Grimes led the team in scoring. | Photo by Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

During the final minutes in last Sunday’s second-round matchup against Rutgers, Houston guard Quentin Grimes was at the free-throw line to shoot two crucial shots.

The junior for the Cougars had just hurt his elbow on the previous play going up for a rebound, which led to the foul call that put him on the line. Grimes calmly stepped to the line and clanked the first shot. UH still trailed by five.

He took the second one, and it missed again. Gutwrenching, two points that could have come back to haunt the team. But UH did not grovel, instead, it did what it does best: crashed the boards. 

Off the second miss, the ball went straight to Grimes, who quickly passed it out. The ball swung around for a bit until it found the hands of Grimes again. This time, The Woodlands native was well behind the 3-point line, but that didn’t matter. He calmly released the long-range shot and hit it. The Cougars were down only two.

“I knew I had to shake it off. You can’t dwell on it,” Grimes said on Thursday in a Zoom call with reporters as he reflected on that possession.

For the 6-foot-5-inch guard, taking that shot was almost second-nature. Regardless of whether it had missed or not, Grimes was confident that it was the right one to take.

Coming out of high school and in his first collegiate season at Kansas, Grimes always had the confidence in himself to take big shots, but having the support and trust in his decision-making was a different story.

Once he arrived at UH, however, that began to change. While Grimes had his ups and downs during his sophomore year with the Cougars, he showed steady progress in both skills on the court and the game’s mental aspect.

Throughout his junior year, there was a night-and-day difference in Grimes’ game, and the numbers proved it too. He led the Cougars in scoring throughout the season and ultimately was named the co-American Athletic Conference Player of the Year.

Last Sunday when he took the 3-pointer, Grimes was confident in himself to take the shot because he knew his team had the trust in him to take it.

“The emphasis that Coach Sampson tells his guards every day, not just me, is to just be aggressive,” Grimes said. “Be in attack mode every time you’re out there on the court. This year he just kind of emphasized it even more.

“I feel like this year, having that voice in the back of your head telling you to keep going, keep shooting just elevates your confidence, even more, to take those shots in those big moments.”

Grimes isn’t the only one that saw his play improve this season.

Senior guard DeJon Jarreau fell in that category with Grimes a bit as well. The 6-foot-5-inch New Orleans native struggled his junior season with the Cougars, UH head coach Kelvin Sampson said at times throughout 2020-21.

Jarreau suffered a hand injury just a month prior to the start of last season and posted career lows across the board when it came to shooting percentages.

Yet, he decided to enter his name in the 2020 NBA Draft before withdrawing it during the summer. After receiving feedback from a few teams, Jarreau had an idea of what he needed to improve in his game.

Since the beginning of the 2020-21 season, Jarreau’s mindset was on a different level. Grimes told reporters on Thursday that Jarreau had embraced the leadership role since day one.

Being the team’s identity comes with various responsibilities and challenges, but for Jarreau, he took it head-on.

“I can’t be one of those guys that come in with mood swings and things like that because the team will kind of feed off that, which has helped me grow very much,” Jarreau said.

Jarreau displayed that leadership to a national audience against Rutgers. Despite being in visible pain throughout the contest, he battled through and played well. In the second half, he was in the middle of the Cougars’ 14-2 run to end the game.

For Jarreau, all that credit goes to the UH coaching staff.

“I feel like they did a great job helping me develop those areas in my game and I am very grateful for that,” he said. “(The coaches) are very big on trying to develop weaknesses (in a player’s game).”

For more on The Cougar’s coverage of UH’s run in the NCAA Tournament, click here.

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