Teams ramp up for season play
UH men’s basketball head coach Tom Penders hopes he will make another trip to Memphis, Tenn. in March, when teams will fight for the C-USA crown in the conference championships.
Penders traveled to Memphis to kick off the season at C-USA Basketball Media Day on Thursday.
Despite losing last season’s leading scorer (Robert McKiver, 801 points) and Houston’s top two rebounders (Dion Dowell, 231 and Tafari Toney, 214), Penders was optimistic about the season. The Cougars were picked to finish seventh in the C-USA preseason poll, but Penders believes his team will be better than expected.
"It’s a fun year for me, because nobody is picking us," Penders said in an interview with CBS College Sports. "Our kids are reading the magazines (and) nobody is picking us (to win), so they’re ticked off. It’s good motivation."
Penders said this season’s team is faster than last year’s, which will give the Cougars more opportunities This combined with the college 3-point line moving from 19 feet 9 inches to 20 feet 9 inches from the goal means the Cougars won’t rely on the 3-point shot as much as they have in the past.
Junior guard Kelvin Lewis is the only returning player who averaged double figures in scoring last season (10.2 points per game), but the Cougars will look to freshman guard Desmond Wade and junior college transfer guard Aubrey Coleman to fill McKiver’s void.
"This is the most talented team that I’ve had," Penders said. "It’s just that we’re going to have a lot of new players."
Women welcome old and new leaders
Women’s basketball head coach Joe Curl will make his return to the sidelines this season after undergoing double bypass surgery on his heart, but he hasn’t lost his sense of humor.
"I got a pacemaker that will jump start your car," Curl said in an interview with CBS College Sports on Media Day.
On the court, the Cougars lost an excellent backcourt in Twiggy McIntyre and Tye Jackson and will suit up only one senior this year. However, they have much to look forward to in sophomores guard Jasmine Johnson, forward Courtney Taylor and center Cobilyn Hill.
Curl said that one of the Cougars’ biggest strengths will be their depth.
"I think we could play nine kids equal minutes across the board," he said.
Taylor and Hill earned C-USA All-Freshman team honors last season, but Curl believes Johnson is the player to watch.
"There’s no question we lost two talented guards, but I think Jasmine Johnson will fill that hole very soundly," Curl said.
Taylor said she is ready to step into her shoes as the team’s leader.
"I know what it takes, and I know what I need to do," Taylor told CBS College Sports.
The men’s team opens play against Georgia Southern at 3 p.m. on Nov. 10 in the first round of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in Durham, N.C. The women’s team will start its season with an exhibition game against the Houston Jaguars at 7 p.m. on Nov. 10 at Hofheinz Pavilion.