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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Men's Basketball

From Kansas to Houston, Grimes finds his fit with Sampson


Sophomore guard Quentin Grimes leads Houston in points, averaging 14.8 per game through the first 14 games of the season. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Sophomore guard Quentin Grimes leads Houston in points, averaging 14.8 per game through the first 14 games of the season. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

 

After losing their top three scorers from the 2018-19 season, questions arose on how the Cougars were going to follow up their Sweet Sixteen run.

Last June, an answer was given when a 6-foot-5-inch sophomore from The Woodlands announced he was transferring to Houston from Kansas — Quentin Grimes.

Grimes has made a quick impact since joining the Cougars, leading the team in scoring through the non-conference portion of the regular season schedule and increasing his field-goal shooting percentage from a year ago despite averaging more minutes per game with Houston.

After his first season, the guard went through the pre-draft process where he was told he was projected to be a second-round pick, so he decided to pull his name out of the NBA draft pool and return to college, just not to the Jayhawks.

Grimes, a five-star recruit and the No. 8 overall player in ESPN’s Top 100 recruits in 2018, was not even recruited by Houston, but a year later the Cougars had a real shot at landing him.

When going through his pre-draft workouts, Grimes worked out with NBA superstar James Harden, who head coach Kelvin Sampson coached during his time as a Rockets assistant.

The former NBA MVP and seven-time All-Star played a role in convincing Grimes to choose Houston.

“Just knowing coach Sampson and all the great guards he’s coached, like James Harden and Eric Gordon, and just seeing how he lets his guards play with freedom really stood out to me,” Grimes said.

Grimes also loved the culture that Sampson has built, centered around playing hard and creating tight bonds between everyone in the program, and felt accepted from the moment he set foot on campus.

“Right when I started talking to coach Sampson I understood how hard you have to play for him,” he said. “He loves you to death like you’re one of his sons and I felt a family bond right when I stepped on campus.”

His prior relationships with many players already with the Cougars contributed to Grimes’ decision of coming to UH.

“I knew most of the guys already on the team and so it made it pretty easy to come here,” he said.

Once Grimes chose to transfer to Houston, another roadblock arose — obtaining an NCAA waiver to grant him immediate eligibility for the 2019-20 season.

Kansas head coach Bill Self supported Grimes’ request for immediate eligibility and made it clear that there was not a scholarship roster spot for Grimes in 2019-20.

Lauren Dubois, UH athletic’s chief compliance offer, also wrote letters to the NCAA to push for Grimes’ immediate eligibility. After a long and hard fight, it was granted for Grimes on Oct. 22.

Through the Cougars’ first 16 games of the season, Grimes is Houston’s leading scorer averaging 13.5 points per game, nearly doubling what he averaged at Kansas last season. He has also nearly doubled his rebound average from last season, averaging 4.1 rebounds per game.

Grimes attributes the jump in his game to the emphasis Sampson and his staff puts on playing hard no matter the circumstances.

“Playing extremely hard at all times during the game no matter if we’re up 20 or down 20,” Grimes said when asked what his biggest improvement this season. “Playing hard and learning from your mistakes is Cougar basketball.”

As for the Cougars, they are only three games into conference play, and Grimes hopes to lead the Cougars to their second-straight American Athletic Conference title but knows it will be a tough challenge because of the target the Cougars have on their back from a successful last season.

“Every team is coming to beat us for what happened last year and the overall culture and standard that was set by the team last year,” Grimes said. “We got to treat every game like it’s our last because no game is promised.”

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