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Sunday, January 29, 2023

Men's Basketball

Knowles to prove constant to Cougars’ success

The criticism came before Danrad “Chicken” Knowles joined the team — that’s not a debate.

Knowles, one of the few constants from a change-filled offseason, knows the team needs to improve its defense and rebounding and said that it serves as motivation as the Cougars begin preparing for the upcoming season.

The team had its first practice together on Monday.

“Defense, rebounding — I’ve heard it all and I’ve only been here one year,” Knowles said.

The Cougars were in the bottom third of every major defensive and rebounding statistic in the American Athletic Conference last season. After big changes this offseason, offense could become a concern, too.

The Cougars have nine new players after the high-profile transfer of their two leading scorers Danuel House and TaShawn Thomas, a new coaching staff and arguably more intrigue.

Knowles, a versatile forward, averaged seven points and four rebounds per game last season but could play a bigger role for the Cougars next season. With Thomas off to Oklahoma, Knowles is one of the players pegged with replacing his 15 points and eight rebounds.

This offseason, Knowles has been attempting to add weight to his thin frame, working on his shooting range and passing to fit into coach Kelvin Sampson’s offense.

“(Sampson’s) going to help us get to the next level, even though a lot of people think we’re rebuilding right now,” Knowles said. “They’ve got us finishing ninth or 10th in conference right now, which is disappointing.”

Avid Rockets fans will have déjà vu watching the Cougars’ come down the court this season. Knowles said Sampson, a former Rockets assistant, will run a motion-based offense that prioritizes quick decisions.

He said the team will shoot more 3-pointers and close shots around the basket while de-emphasizing the mid-range game.

Knowles is listed at 6-foot-10, but don’t expect him to spend a lot of time in the painted area. Though he only made 10 shots from behind the arc on 26 attempts last season, Knowles expects to surpass those numbers early in the season. Knowles said he will spend a lot of his time on the perimeter.

Junior guard L.J. Rose, who knew Knowles before he starred at Homeschool Christian Youth Association, said the redshirt sophomore’s versatility and intelligence will allow him to adapt to Sampson’s new offense.

“He’s put on weight and gotten bigger, but he’s still Chicken,” said junior L.J. Rose alluding to Knowles’ nickname. “He’s been aggressive; his mindset has changed from last year to this year. I expect him to keep on getting better.”

The Cougars need to continue to improve after struggling with consistency, defense and rebounding during former coach James Dickey’s four-year tenure. UH (17-16, 8-10) didn’t threaten to make an NCAA tournament despite having a talented squad, which led to Dickey’s resignation.

Off the court, Knowles fits in well with UH’s diverse atmosphere. A native of Nassau, Bahamas, he came to Houston as a child.

Like many UH students, he loves video games, including the newly released Destiny. Unlike real life, though, Knowles doesn’t like virtual sports games after a teammate scored 50 points with Shane Battier.

When he’s not playing video games, you can catch Knowles watching Power Rangers — Tommy, the green ranger is his favorite — or Dragon Ball Z.

“Our people talk with more accent, but we do the same things. It’s no different,” Knowles said.

The good news for the Cougars is that he stands out from most UH students on the basketball court.

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