Cougars committed to ‘chasing greatness’
The honeymoon is over, and after a lackluster debut season that featured some impressive performances by now-seniors Jessieka Palmer, Marche’ Amerson, Tyler Gilbert and Alecia Smith, the momentum has shifted in year two for Hughey and the Cougars.
There were predictable growing pains following a strong start. The Cougars did great in the classroom, putting up a program record 2.9 GPA. On the other hand, the Cougars suffered a 6-24 record.
But despite the losses, there were plenty of signs Hughey could be moving in the right direction.
He was given the reigns of a program that was 6-25 the previous year, with expectations to turn it around — a heavy job for any head coach. But for Hughey, it started with getting his players to buy-in to his system and building a culture to be great, not only on the court, but in all aspects of life.
Hughey is a basketball coach, but there’s more to his program than just basketball, he wants his players to embrace the mentality of “chasing greatness.”
“Our team knows that chasing greatness extends to all aspects of life, not just the basketball court,” Hughey said. “I am pleased with the progress our kids showed in the classroom last season, and I look for even more improvement in that area in 2015-16.”
Houston has 10 returners, including all of their starting five, along with a few transfers and freshman coming in ready to make a difference. It seems that they are primed to make some improvement.
As for his mantra “chasing greatness,” Hughey seems confident in his team.
He spent last season teaching his system and philosophy, not knowing how it would convert to the talent on the court.
A year later, he knows what does work, what doesn’t work and what should work.
“The first season is always challenging for a new head coach, because you’re instilling a new mentality in your program while also becoming familiar with your new environment.” Hughey said. “I commend our student-athletes for buying in to our culture and making that transition as smooth as possible”
Hughey can only do so much though, it’s up to the players to execute, and he and his staff are constantly working to bring in the right players.
“We brought in a pair of NJCAA All-Americans, juniors Dionna Collins and Kierra Graves, who bring serious scoring ability to our backcourt.” Hughey said. “Another junior college transfer, junior Jacqueline Blake, averaged a double-double last season.”
Having two more scoring guards in the back court should help improve Houston’s’ 3pt percentage (.274%) and field goal percentage (.343%) from last season, while also freeing up the paint for the bigs to work down low, creating a more balanced offense.
However, in order to take the next step and solidify themselves as an American Athletic Conference contender, Hughey must also find out who his x-factor is going to be.
With the top three scorers — Palmer (9.6), Amerson (8.8) and Gilbert (7.8) — returning, it’s no doubt they’ll be the engine of the team.
“I know how hard our returning players have worked over the summer, and I trust that each of them will be a much-improved basketball player…” Hughey said. “Our seniors are committed to winning and excited to leave a positive mark on the Houston Women’s Basketball…With the work they have put in during the offseason, I expect our team will have a great season.”
Searching for that x-factor will be the final step for Hughey to get the most out the Cougars.
We won’t know who it will be until they step on the court, but the Cougars could poised for a better season and one small step closer to the ultimate goal of chasing greatness.