Men's Basketball Sports

Mylik Wilson bound to be a difference-maker for Cougars

Redshirt senior guard Mylik Wilson has built an important role for himself with the high-flying Houston Cougars. | Anh Le/The Cougar

As the rest of the Houston Cougars men’s basketball team leaves the court after practice, redshirt senior guard Mylik Wilson stays behind alone on the court practicing his free throws.

Last season, the Cougars struggled with injuries and lackluster depth amidst their late-season push and March Madness run. As Houston got worn out down the stretch, Wilson was forced to sit idly courtside as a redshirt.

Now, Wilson has the chance to be the missing piece Houston needed last Spring.

“When we got to March last year, our kids were dragging,” Sampson said. “It was not just the injuries, it was the toll.”

In 2022 Wilson transferred to UH after just a single season at Texas Tech. Despite being one of his team’s most prolific scorers in his first two years at Louisiana, Wilson found offensive touches much harder to come by with the Red Raiders. Still, it was the defense that separated Wilson from the rest at Tech, an intensity that has defined some of the Kelvin Sampson era’s best UH teams.

However, when Wilson arrived in Houston, he was redshirted, forcing the guard to be a practice piece for the Cougars in what was meant to be his senior year.

As the Cougars got worn out down the end-of-season stretch and tournament last Spring, Wilson had to watch from courtside knowing he could not lend a helping hand on the court.

“I wasn’t frustrated with it, I was just learning at the same time,” Wilson said.

“Coming over from Texas Tech they had a different system,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t really used to how they played… now this is my chance to show what I can do.”

Wilson took the redshirt year to develop his game and learn the ins and outs of the team. He worked on his mid-range game while taking cues from star guard Jamal Shead on how to run the UH offense.

Despite the benefits Wilson found from redshirting last season, it was not enough to hold him back from exploring his options over the summer. When the season ended, the guard had entered the transfer portal.

“I wanted to play,” Wilson said. “I didn’t know at the time. My confidence wasn’t there when I first got here.”

Wilson had conversations with coaches in the program, particularly UH assistant coach Quannas White who had originally brought Wilson to Houston.

“He always believed in me from the start,” Wilson said.

The guard also had conversations with Sampson, pitching himself and his abilities to the coach. In particular, Wilson’s confidence in his defensive abilities defined his conversations with Sampson.

By mid-July, Wilson had withdrawn his name from the portal, committing his redshirt senior year to Houston. Only weeks later the guard traveled with the team for its pre-season tour of Australia. In the first game of the tour, Wilson scored 12 points while shooting a perfect 6 for 6 from the field against the East All-Stars. He also registered two steals and two blocks.

“Coach told me to just play basketball,” Wilson said. “Don’t overthink. Just let the game come.”

Wilson’s effort in the off-season did not go unnoticed by UH coaches and players alike.

“Over the course of the whole summer, he was kicking everyone’s butts,” Shead said. “He’s earned the right to play.”

“The biggest difference with this year’s team is probably Mylik,” Sampson said.

Early in the new season, Wilson’s on-court presence has given guards such as Shead, senior LJ Cryer and senior Damian Dunn the ability to lower their minutes with another reliable guard to keep pace.

“I’m not scared to ask to come out because I trust Mylik,” Shead said.

As Wilson continues to grow more comfortable offensively, his defensive talent has never been in doubt.

“I try to be a defensive guy,” Wilson said. “I get mad when someone scores on me… when I come off the bench I try to get stops and guard the best player.”

Wilson’s intensity on defense has impressed across the program, though he feels he still has a lot more to give on both sides of the ball. His teammates speak highly of his potential and insist he will be a major piece of a UH team with sky-high aspirations. Shead insists Wilson’s ascent is an inevitability.

“What he’s capable of, you guys have no idea yet,” Shead said.

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