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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Men's Basketball

Sampson positive heading into second year at helm


Kelvin Sampson

Kelvin Sampson has experience with difficult situations, as two of his pervious schools won 13 or fewer games in his first season. Both of those programs would go on to register 20+ win seasons in his time at the university, which bodes well for his time at Houston. | Justin Tijerina/ The Cougar

Kelvin Sampson’s first year as head coach of the men’s basketball team was a tall order.

He inherited a program that had only five players on scholarship, two of the team’s best players’ gone as transfers, the loss of starting point guard L.J. Rose to an injury and a team who he’d never actually seen play.

Seems like a heavy job for a head coach who’s looked to bring immediate success to a program, but for Sampson, last year wasn’t about wins and losses — it was about signing guys simply to put a team together, about building a culture.

The goal has shifted; the Cougars have created some momentum and excitement and look to move forward.

“Our goal is to get more bodies in those seats,” Sampson said. “My goal at Houston is two-fold. I want to fill Hofheinz and I want to get to the NCAA Tournament and advance.”

Even with a different roster, the team is in the same position as last year – trying to find an identity, but a completely new look is exactly what Sampson wants.

“We lost 19 games; I don’t want the same lineup back,” Sampson said.

Although the team is experiencing a roster turnover, Sampson feels as though he is no longer at a disadvantage because there’s a familiarity with the players.

“I recruited these kids,” Sampson said. “I recruited Ronnie Johnson and Damyean Dotson, Galen (Robinson, Jr.) and Rob Gray…I coached (them) a year, so there is much more of a comfort level with me.”

Not only is Sampson coaching players with whom he is familiar, he now has something that was lacking last year: competition and depth.

“We didn’t have any competition last year for starting spots nor depth,” Sampson said. “Those two things in a way tell you how excited we are about this year.”

Even with returning four of five starters, don’t expect anyone locked at their position anymore.

“I can’t look at one guy and say for sure this guy is definitely going to start,” Sampson said. “All those guys are good enough to start. That’s the great thing we have going into this year. We have competition. Last year, we did not.”

In addition to in improved level of talent, Sampson said he finally has the speed he craves in a roster.

“This year, our depth is going to allow us to play faster and longer and that is something I’m excited about,” Sampson said. “We recruited with that in mind.”

With the addition of speed guards in Robinson and Johnson, athleticism in Dotson, and perimeter shooting from transfer center Kyle Meyer, Sampson sees a bright future.

“We have a lot of new players, but we’re a lot more talented than we were last year,” Sampson said.

Sampson said fans are going to want to get excited, and get excited early. He’s working to put a product on the court that they will be proud of.

“I want the students to really embrace this basketball team, because it’s their team,” Sampson said. “The name on the front of our jerseys says Houston. This is their school and I want this to be their team.”

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