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Friday, August 12, 2022

Men's Basketball

Commentary: Three cheers for the senior class, its mark on UH


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While this senior class won’t be remembered for NCAA tournament appearances or championships, its impact on the program is more profound than that. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

While the history of the men’s basketball program runs deep, recent years have seen the program mired in mediocrity, as has been well-documented.

But the senior class that will be honored at senior night on Wednesday may be one of the most important classes to be honored in a long time.

That isn’t to say that the classes who have come and gone before haven’t been important, but this group of players should be recognized for sticking around during the hard times to help bring the program back from the brink of disaster.

Two seasons ago, then-head coach James Dickey was fired after a 17-16 season with the Cougars, and Kelvin Sampson was brought in to lead the rebuilding effort.

That effort was hampered by a few notable transfers from the program and a number of graduations, leaving Sampson with an empty cupboard in his first season.

While he scrambled to fill the roster enough to be able to compete, seniors L.J. Rose and LeRon Barnes decided to stay at UH and aid the Cougars in their rebuilding process.

Sampson also added a number of recruits to fill out his roster, including seniors Eric Weary, Jr. and Devonta Pollard.

Pollard, a highly ranked recruiting player coming out of high school, left the University of Alabama after legal trouble involving his mother. At UH, Pollard found a second chance and a place where he could thrive, quickly becoming one of the teams leaders in points, rebounds and minutes over the past two seasons.

Weary, while not as highly recruited as Pollard was, came to Houston and has contributed good minutes off the bench for UH. He often gives the team a boost of energy it needs in his minutes on the floor, always finding a way to be around the ball.

Barnes, while not the highest scoring member of the team or the flashiest player, continued to be a consistent player for UH during his entire career and proved to be an iron-man, rarely missing games with injury and providing consistent effort game in and game out.

Rose, though suffering through his fair share of injuries during his career with UH, had been a guide for the team, especially to the younger guards this season, despite his inability to be on the court with them.

Though he redshirted this season to maintain one more year of eligibility, Rose has been a strong presence that helped the team in many intangible ways after transferring in from Baylor University.

While this senior class won’t be remembered for a Cinderella run into the NCAA Tournament or having highly-ranked draft prospects, it formed part of a strong core in the first two years of the Sampson Era.

After a 13-19 season in the first year under Sampson, Houston has notched a 21-8 record overall this season and a 10-6 mark in the American Athletic Conference with wins over the likes of Southern Methodist University, conference-leading Temple University and a road win over the University of Connecticut.

With 21 wins this season, the most since the 2008-09 season, it has shown that Sampson has this team on the right track, due in large part to the senior class.

There might not be any new banners in the rafter because of it and its numbers likely won’t be retired inside of Hofheinz, but the contribution they’ve made to this program is invaluable in so many ways, and for that, the players will be remembered as the seniors who set the initial foundation for the new men’s basketball program.

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