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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Commentary

Experienced forward group adds additional talent


Junior Danrad Knowles earned seven points and three rebounds in 33 minutes of play. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

Red-shirt junior Danrad Knowles will spend more time at his natural forward position this year, allowing the Cougars to utilize his athleticism and shooting abilities best. | File photo/The Cougar

The 2015-16 Houston men’s basketball team already has an advantage over last year’s team and a majority of the other programs in the country at this point of the year.

The team’s trip to China in August will give them a comfort level and familiarity with each other that they can build upon as the season progresses.

Head coach Kelvin Sampson and his staff have already seen the abilities of the new players mesh with their returners, and can form a foundation for the kind of identity they want this year’s team to embody.

While the Cougars return just two forwards who saw in-game action last season, those two ranked second and third in scoring last season for UH.

Senior Devonta Pollard (6’8”, 200 pounds): The leading scorer among returning players will play a pivotal role for Coach Sampson in his senior year.

Pollard will be a trustworthy scoring option down low and will help out with the “dirty work” inside as he did in the 2014 campaign, where he led the team in rebounds.

Pollard can also spend more time at his more natural power forward position, allowing him freedom of movement in the post and strong defense down low.

Danrad “Chicken” Knowles (6’10”, 190 pounds): One of only two players to start every game last year, Knowles was forced to play extended minutes at the center position because of injuries and lack of depth.

He will also slide back into his natural position at the forward slot this year and will be able to showcase more of skills.

Knowles has displayed shooting skill from both mid-range and beyond the three-point arc, giving Sampson the option to play a tall line-up, but retain shooting ability.

In addition to his offensive skill, Knowles led the team in blocked shots last year and his defensive prowess will again be heavily relied upon.

Bertrand Nkali (6’8”, 225): After transferring to Houston last year, Nkali showed enough promise to earn strong consideration for the starting center position, but injuries sidelined him for the entirety of last year.

Now fully healthy, Nkali will look to capitalize on the potential Sampson and the rest of the coaching staff saw in him.

Nklai will exert his physical presence on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, giving Sampson the strength he needs in the post.

Xavier Dupree (6’9’, 210): Another forward donning the Cougar uniform for the first time this year will be Dupree, a Paris Junior College transfer.

While at PJC, Dupree was an efficient scorer who filled the box score in several categories.

Dupree had eight double-digit scoring outings, with two 20-point efforts during the year.

An added bonus that will pay dividends on this roster is his knack for rebounding.

Dupree was second on the team with 5.8 rebounds-per-game in his final season at PJC.

You will most likely see some of these guys filling in for Sampson at the center position as well this year, allowing Sampson to utilize a quicker, more athletic lineup for the up-tempo offense he runs.

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