This Sunday will be memorable not only for the seniors graduating from the University of Houston but for the history of the entire program: Hofheinz Pavilion is set to be renovated and renamed following the conclusion of the regular season.
With a $20 million gift — the largest individual donation to UH Athletics — Tilman Fertitta has earned the naming rights for the new basketball arena, which will be called the Fertitta Center. While Judge Roy Hofheinz’s name will no longer be attached to the basketball arena, there will be a statue of him and a plaza named in his honor.
Hofheinz Pavilion saw countless names and legends pass through its doors, including head coach Guy Lewis and members of Phi Slama Jama, Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon and Clyde “The Glide” Drexler. During the 1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons, Hofheinz was home to the No. 1 ranked college basketball team in the nation.
27 NBA players have played for the Houston Cougars at Hofheinz Pavilion. Three were named to the Hall of Fame, and Drexler was even a part of the famed “Dream Team” that won gold for Team USA in the Olympics in 1992.
Hofheinz Pavilion has stood for 48 of the University’s 90-year existence, and the last basketball game to ever be played on that court will be on Sunday at 3 p.m.
Along with the closing of Hofheinz, Houston fans will also be saying goodbye to the senior class. A total of five seniors will be leaving, with only eight players returning next year.
While Dotson may not have been with the Cougars for his first two years (he played for Oregon), he has made his presence known for the two seasons he played in the red and white. In the 2015 season, he was the only Cougar to start in every game. He was also one of only three players to rank in the American Athletic Conference’s top-11 leaders in both scoring and rebounding.
This current season, he has made a more noticeable impact. With two games left to play, he’s put up 504 total points, 59 more than his previous season high of 445 last year. He’s also averaging 18 points per game, whereas last year he was averaging only 13.9.
In the latter part of this season, he has enjoyed multiple 30-point-plus games. Along with redshirt junior Rob Gray, he has proven to be the offensive machine driving the Cougars’ score up.
Without him next year, somebody new will have to step up and help relieve some of the pressure off Gray.
Danrad “Chicken” Knowles
It’s a big jump from the Bahamas to Houston, but Knowles has definitely made a splash. Standing at 6’10”, he and redshirt senior Kyle Meyer are the tallest players on the squad. His 7’1” wingspan has made him a menace in the paint.
His sophomore season was his most dominant by far. He led the Cougars in blocked shots with 42 and pulled down 180 rebounds. He did this all while putting up 316 points as a bonus.
This season, he’s put up 220 points, 27 blocks and 106 rebounds. He’s leading the Cougars in offensive rebounds with 53.
The Cougars will be looking much shorter next year with Knowles graduating.
The other big man on the team is graduating as well. Meyer has only been with the Cougars for two seasons, but he’s been a major key for the Cougars defensively.
His junior year, Meyer was one of only five Cougars to compete in all 32 games. He also tied for second in blocking on the team with 20 blocks.
With 11 blocks in his senior year, he may not have as many blocks as the season before, but he’s pulled down 10 more rebounds. With two games remaining, he’s already surpassed his playing time from last year as well.
Nkali may not have been a star player for the Cougars, but he has added some much-needed depth to the frontcourt. If Knowles or Meyer had a bad game, Nkali would step in to relieve them.
Without Nkali, the frontcourt’s depth will suffer.
What was said for Nkali can also be said for Dupree. The two of them gave the frontcourt the support it needed if the two starters struggled.