Sports Women's Basketball

‘Playing next to sharks’: What motivates UH women’s basketball

The UH women's basketball team prepares for the 2021-22 season during a recent practice. | Courtesy of Jayda Hill

The UH women’s basketball team prepares for the 2021-22 season during a recent practice. | Courtesy of Jayda Hill

UH women’s basketball is coming off a 2020-21 season that served as a major step forward for the program.

Following two straight losing seasons, the Cougars finished with a 17-8 record last year and finished third in the American Athletic Conference women’s basketball standings.

With his team picked to finish third in the AAC coaches poll, Cougars head coach Ronald Hughey is looking forward to the upcoming season and feels this year’s team is primed for another big season.

“We’re just so excited about the opportunity to compete this year,” Hughey said. “The thing I love about our team is the competitive nature of what we have when you start talking about the players up and down our roster.”

A source for the teams’ competitiveness and motivation comes from right next door.

Hughey said UH men’s basketball head coach Kelvin Sampson and his team show their support for the women’s team day in and day out.

By showing up to practices or motivate during workouts, the UH men are always finding ways to push their female counterparts to elevate to the next level.

“They’re always around encouraging our young ladies, watching workouts and even coming in and watching them play pickup,” Hughey said.

It’s rare enough for a school to have two successful programs on both the men’s and women’s side of a sport, but it’s another for the two teams to share a strong relationship like the UH men’s and women’s basketball programs do.

Hughey is grateful for it, recognizing how important it is that they share this relationship with each other because it only makes the programs better.

“It’s a tremendous feeling when you can be next to such a great men’s program and have such a great relationship because at the end of the day everybody wins,” Hughey said.

Having a program right next door that has had continuous success and gone far in the NCAA Tournament, a tournament that Hughey’s team just missed out on last season, not only serves as motivation but Hughey also believes it rubs off on the team.

“The great thing about it is when you’re next to sharks it starts to rub off on you.” Hughey said “They elevate us because we get to see the work they put in every day. We get to see the culture they build and how they work and the things they do to be successful every day. We get to mimic some of those things.”

Hughey mentioned that if he ever needs advice or a question answered, Sampson never hesitates to provide help.

“When you have Coach Sampson next to you, you can have a coach’s clinic every day,” Hughey said. “Any question I have I can go over and ask him and he’ll give me ample time to be able to answer that and help us even more.”

The team knows the opportunity they have to do something special this season with the talent on the team and resources around them.

Hughey has emphasized not taking any of it for granted.

“We have an opportunity with a team that understands those opportunities, that you can’t let them slip by,” Hughey said. “If you want to make the tournament, you have to be able to show commitment, you have to be able to say that mano a mano we took care of business against whatever team was in front of us.”

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