Men's Basketball

Bright future for Sampson and the Cougars


Coming in as a first-year coach could prove a daunting task for most, but Kelvin Sampson believes that the foundation has been built for the future of the Cougars. | File Photo/The Cougar

Although finishing with a 13-19 record, the 2014-2015 season should be considered a success for the Cougars.

With the hiring of former Houston Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson, Cougar fans anticipated a turnaround season for the basketball team, or at the least, a winning record.

Although the latter was not accomplished, the program did experience a turnaround and progress was made.

The team started off hot, winning six of the first seven games and most began to believe that Sampson may have truly been a fairy godfather of some sort.

The feeling didn’t last very long.

Sampson continued to express that although the team came away with win after win, the amount games played wasn’t enough and the team still needed to play more.

After having stretches of only one game a week, the team schedule heightened with games twice a week. The team even played back-to-back games like Sampson wanted.

The more games played, however, the more losses the Cougars logged.

After going 6-1, the Cougars went on to play 21 games. Of those, they only won four.

The run landed the Cougars at the very bottom of the American Athletic Conference. Reality began to force reflection by Sampson as to whether the season was a success. Sampson kept the mentality that it was not about wins and losses for him, but more about establishing a culture to build from, which the team didn’t have before.

With a diminishing roster after the loss of players to injury and players leaving the program due to lack of playing time, the team only had seven players available toward the end of the season. The Cougars began to suffer from mismatched lineups with the undersized Danrad Knowles playing center and shooting guard Jherrod Stiggers closing out the season at point guard following a season-ending foot injury to LJ Rose.

Although their adversity led to the team’s fewest wins since the 2010-2011 season, the end of the year hinted that the Houston men’s basketball program may be headed in the right direction.

The Cougars went on a 3-0 run in their last games of the season, all three being against conference rivals.

They went on to log their fourth consecutive win, topping the rival Tulane Green Wave in round one of the American Athletic Conference Championships, before falling to the Tulsa Hurricanes, a team with a 22-9 record, in the quarterfinal round the following day.

Despite how things look on paper, the last two weeks of the season could possibly be a preview of what’s to come for the future of the basketball program. Sampson has accomplished his main goal of establishing a culture and anticipates giving fans a reason to fill the seats of their home Hofheinz Pavilion.

The future of the Cougars is seemingly bright. There is nowhere else to go but forward.

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