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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Men's Basketball

Marcus Sasser reflects on time at UH

Marcus Sasser finished his career at UH as the school’s all-time three-point shooter, and looks to bring that prowess to the NBA. | Sean Thomas/The Cougar

Coming from a family full of basketball talent, Marcus Sasser believes his incredible shooting ability is simply in his DNA.

“I feel like I was born with shooting,” Sasser said. “because my whole family can shoot.”

Shooting was something that always came easy to the six-foot-two-inch guard. After all, it was one of the first things he learned as a kid.

“First was dribbling, second was shooting,” Sasser said. “You can’t ever shoot too much.” 

The former UH Cougar was picked 25th overall in the 2023 NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies and then traded to the Detroit Pistons. Sasser became the 14th NBA first-round pick for Houston. Alongside former teammate and eighth-overall pick Jarace Walker, the two became the first UH duo to be selected in the same draft since 1987. 

In his senior year in 2022-23, Sasser led the team in the nation this past season right from the front with elite scoring and dynamic ability on both ends of the floor, averaging 17points on 43% shooting with 38% from 3, including 22 points in the team’s second-round win over Auburn in the NCAA Tournament. Sasser ended up being the first Cougar ever to receive the Jerry West Award, which goes to the best shooting guard in the country.

The Pistons’ newest guard said the drive to compete has always been in his genes and that many some of his childhood experiences made him the man that he is today.

“All my family (were) competitors,” Sasser said. “Just always wanting to win really, all these family events, we hated to lose, so I feel like that just gave me the competitive edge.”

The AAC Player of the Year has two brothers, Marquis and James. As the middle child, Sasser’s big brother regularly used to push him around, building up some resilience and toughness he would be known for at UH.  

“I feel like he did a good job of toughening me up,” Sasser said.

Sasser was a District 14-5A MVP and was a member of the All-District First Team at Red Oak. Sasser was courted by SMU, UTEP and Colorado State, but ultimately chose to move down south to Houston for the next step of his basketball career.

Associate head coach Quannas White said Sasser’s family caught the attention of UH early on.

“Coach Sampson went to watch him over summers and loved his toughness,” White said. “He came into us really skilled and being able to shoot the ball.”

His father, Marcus Sasser Sr., also played collegiate basketball at Frank Phillips College and Mountain View College. Sasser’s uncle Jeryl Sasser played college hoops in Texas at SMU and then was in the NBA for two years, drafted with the 22nd overall pick by the Orlando Magic in 2001.

“Knowing he came from a great basketball family, we thought he would fit in well,” White said.

Another uncle, Jason Sasser, played for the Spurs, Mavericks and Grizzlies in the NBA from 1996-1999 as a small forward. Jason was also the 1996 Southwest Conference Player of the Year and a 2017 inductee into the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame. He has been one of the biggest influences on Sasser’s life as he was his high school coach. 

“I was with him every day in high school in my junior and senior years,” Sasser said. “He knew what it took (to make it to the NBA), so he really pushed me to where I needed to be.”

Early on at UH, Sasser struggled with the speed of the game and had trouble getting shots off.

“Because of his work ethic and him being a high-character kid, it was a quick adjustment,” White said. “I didn’t think he was ready for the conditioning … The next year he made a commitment to get in the best shape possible and he’s done that every year since.”

Sasser is someone who is naturally quiet, but his senior year was when he truly grew as a leader. 

“This year, he’s been the most vocal he’s ever been in years past,” White said during the season. “Where he’s made the most growth would be his leadership from a vocal standpoint.” 

Looking back, the former Cougar guard is happy with his decision to play for head coach Kelvin Sampson. He said the Cougars’ head coach, while he may not always be polite, always took time to ensure his players fully understood the lessons he was teaching. 

“Even today as a senior, I look back at my freshman year and I’m like, dang, I’m really glad he did that,'” Sasser said. “Because if I didn’t go through that, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today.”

Now, having finally made it to the league, White believes the Pistons are getting a gem. 

“Marcus is a great teammate, really skilled offensively, I see him fitting in perfectly,” White said. “Just like Quentin Grimes … Marcus is more than ready.”

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