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Monday, November 28, 2022

Men's Basketball

‘Big ol’ pot of gumbo’: Another season, another iconic Kelvin Sampson quip


With a victory over Northern Colorado on Nov. 7, UH men's basketball head coach Kelvin Sampson would reach 700 career collegiate wins and 200 with the Cougars. | Sean Thomas/The Cougar

With a victory over Northern Colorado on Nov. 7, UH men’s basketball head coach Kelvin Sampson would reach 700 career collegiate wins and 200 with the Cougars. | Sean Thomas/The Cougar

Every chef’s gumbo recipe is a little bit different.

Some prefer a dark roux while others would much rather have a lighter one. Some like a nice seafood gumbo while others lean towards chicken and sausage. 

As it turns out, the oft-comedic chef Kelvin Sampson likes the nationally ranked men’s basketball team he coaches just how he likes his gumbo — with a little bit of everything.

“I want you to think of a basketball team like a big ol’ pot of gumbo,” Sampson said “Somebody’s got to be the okra. Somebody’s got to be the tomatoes. Somebody’s got to be that crab leg, that piece of sausage, that shrimp, that chicken. You can’t have a pot full of just chicken.”

While the ingredients of gumbo are random by themselves, they all blend together in just the right way to create something special. 

During his time as the head coach of the UH men’s basketball team, Sampson has never built a roster full of the most talented high school players, at least by the way they are ranked on paper. But few programs have experienced more success than the Cougars have since 2017.

Three American Athletic Conference regular-season titles, two conference tournament championships and appearances in the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight and Final Four over the past three NCAA Tournaments highlight the Cougars’ success under Sampson.

By not focusing on bringing in high schoolers that have the most stars next to their names and rather recruiting guys that fit the program and its needs, Sampson has turned UH into a well-rounded machine.

Ramon Walker is the perfect example of this philosophy. While Walker isn’t an elite shooter, Sampson said the sophomore guard would be his first pick in a draft of players that impact winning.

While being the first on the floor to gather a loose ball or taking a charge won’t appear on the box score, Walker was a key factor in UH’s success a season ago because of these hustle plays.

Scoring, an area Walker lacked as a freshman, was picked up by others like Kyler Edwards, Fabian White Jr., Josh Carlton, Taze Moore and Jamal Shead.

While Carlton, Edwards, Moore and White are gone, reloading has not been a problem for Sampson as he has lost multiple key starters each year at UH and the team has still not missed a beat the following season.

A healthy Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark, two proven scorers and big-time shot makers, along with a monster on the glass in J’Wan Roberts and some young firepower in Jarace Walker, Terrance Arceneaux and Emmanuel Sharp give the Cougars a variety of weapons and has them ranked No. 3 in the AP Poll entering the 2022-23 season.

“Our team has guys that are good at some things and not very good at others. That’s why we have a good ol’ pot of gumbo,” Sampson said. “We’re not a one-trick pony.”

Of course, in order to make a good gumbo the chef has to know how to properly mix all the ingredients to create as much flavor as possible.

Sampson, a self-proclaimed fan of the Cooking Channel who has previously used metaphors like vanilla ice cream and the extra fries a person often finds at the bottom of their McDonald’s bag to describe his team, has been the perfect chef for UH.

With an elite ability to mix and match players, Sampson, who sits just one victory shy of 700 career wins as a collegiate head coach, is a proven winner that gets the most out of each one of his players.

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