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Friday, April 23, 2021

Men's Basketball

‘I expect us to be really good’: Sampson expects another strong year despite Nate Hinton’s possible departure


Kelvin Sampson cutting down the nets on March 8 after Houston clinched a share of the AAC regular season championship. | Mikol Kindle Jr./The Cougar

Head coach Kelvin Sampson holds a big chunk of net after his Cougars earned a share of the 2020 AAC title. | Mikol Kindle Jr./The Cougar

The sudden end to the season has forced everyone to look ahead at the future as was the case for sophomore guard Nate Hinton, who declared for the 2020 NBA Draft on April 5, and the same is true for head coach Kelvin Sampson, who has high expectations for the upcoming season regardless of who’s on the roster.

“Every year I’ve coached here, I’ve lost good players,” Sampson said as he listed off multiple past athletes, which included Damyean Dotson, Rob Gray Jr. and Corey Davis Jr., among others. “If we lose some guys off this team, next year I expect us to be really good.

“Why? Because that’s just what we do.”

When it comes to Hinton specifically, Sampson made it clear he was not pushing him to make a decision in either way.

“When kids grow up and they want to be basketball players, none of them grow up wanting to play in college,” Sampson said. “They grow up wanting to play in the NBA. That’s where they all want to be.”

For the head coach, the responsibility of making that choice falls on the athlete.

“It’s not my place to tell you yay or nay,” he said. “I never encourage or discourage that, because I think that comes back on you in a negative way.

“My advice to (Hinton) was put your name in the draft if you think that you are ready to go.”

Even though Hinton has tossed his name into the NBA hat, however, it doesn’t necessarily mean his days in Houston are over.

As Sampson pointed out, there are only 30 first-round picks, which means there are only 30 guaranteed contracts and around 200 underclassmen are declaring across the nation.

When seniors and athletes from other countries are added in, one gets the sense of how difficult getting into the NBA truly is.

“Nate had a good year,” Sampson said. “And (he) wants to see exactly what they say about him to see if there’s anybody that likes him well enough and then he’ll go from there.”

The 6-foot-5 guard is still maintaining his college eligibility and will not hire an agent.

The Cougars have kept the standards high the past years, finishing each season with at least 20 wins since 2015-16, and the team doesn’t see that ending anytime soon.

“That’s the cycle of life in college basketball, players come and go,” Sampson said. “Every year, somebody is coming and going and in this culture that we have in college basketball now, every year you can lose anybody, but you better have a plan.”

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