Houston Cougars: Talking ‘Bout Them Cougars


Now that football season is all about done in Cougarland, basketball season is in full swing. And as a student at the University of Houston, it has been downright sad at the basketball turnouts at Hofheinz Pavilion. (Or “The Hof”, as we nicknamed it.)

I know UH basketball has been dormant since Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, but still, I have been to a Texas A&M/UH game, and there were more Aggies than Cougars. AGGIES. (I would do an Aggie joke that one of my former professors would say, but I digress.) I have been to a TSU/UH game. That was fun… and unhealthy at the same time. TSU was louder than us and in force. (I stopped making fun of HBCUs when TSU beat Michigan State, plus my parents went there.)

However, this might be a new age for UH Basketball, a renaissance, if you will. Sure, UH did nothing basketball related for thirty years, but Phi Slamma Jamma will never be duplicated. There will never be another Drexler or Olajuwon. You just have to work with what you’ve got.

May 1, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) talks to Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson before action against the Oklahoma City Thunder in game five of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

When Coach Sampson came from the Rockets to the Cougars, they were finally moving in the right direction. Coach Sampson is a coach that loves to teach college basketball players defense, and after watching him this season, this is his niche. I knew this was big when Rockets players James Harden and Patrick Beverley showed up at his press conference. (Harden actually came down the stairs right next to me!)

Sampson was hired during March Madness last season, and looking at the team they had then, could have made it there soon, but two of their leading scorers, TaShawn Thomas, the team’s big man, went to Oklahoma, and Joe Young went to Aggie Land after the semester. So, rebuilding time. Again, you just have to work with what you’ve got.

Fast forward to this season, currently this team is sitting at 7-4 with its first conference game against Memphis on New Year’s Eve, who is also at 7-4. Memphis is a perennial great program in basketball, which tell me that the Coogs have their work cut out for them. 7-4 isn’t too bad, but the 4 losses are against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Boise State (in Vegas and in OT), South Carolina State, and Harvard (which against popular belief, isn’t just nerds). They could have won three of those. Plus, Pine Bluff is the worst team in the SWAC right now. So, yeah. They got growing to do. Now they have one more non-conference opponent to play and that’s Rice. We don’t like Rice. That simple.

As for the team, I keep watching the team and noticing the advertisements around campus to see who is the “go to” player on this team. Last year, it was TaShawn Thomas pictured. Whenever the Coogs were in a scoring drought, they fed him in the post, and he went to work. Though undersized, it worked. He either went to the free-throw line or ended the drought.

This year pictured is Jherrod Stiggers. He was on the team last year. He is primarily a scorer and a three-point sniper. (In fact, I have seen him shoot a shot right beside me on campus. The man’s shot is beautiful.) Stiggers reminds me so much of James Harden and a little bit of Trevor Ariza the way that he scores.

Dec 17, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Cougars guard Jherrod Stiggers (21) controls the ball during the first half against the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions at Hofheinz Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The team is long and as expected, the team plays defense. Also, the team shoots a lot of threes. In fact, I jokingly call the Cougars the “Third Ward Rockets.” The Cougars are among one of the nation’s leaders in threes made. Pretty much everybody shoots them, even their stretch-five, Danrad “Chicken” Knowles, from the Bahamas. He’s athletically gifted, but built like an anorexic Anthony Davis, but sometimes he has mood issues. I have seen that recently.

Their power forward is Devonta Pollard, who might get double-doubles by accident if he just gets the ball in the right spot. Their point guard is LJ Rose, a transfer from Baylor, who was also here last year. LJ might be a bonafide floor general and might teach a thing or two to the younger players, like Cavon Baker. Mikhail McLean is also a long bench player that is great at defense. LeRon Barnes is a good player off the bench that can shoot that outside three. Eric Weary is also a scoring threat as well. These may be a good foundation for Coach Sampson to begin.

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As for their end-of-year result, I am no expert on college basketball, but I watch the Cougars. If the Coogs finish 7-4 on the non-conference schedule with Rice to go, then with a VERY, VERY good American Athletic Conference coming their way like the defending champs, UConn, Memphis, SMU, and Cincinnati coming to The Hof, these men better straighten up, because if you want to have a chance to make the tournament, you have to beat these aforementioned teams and more.

But hey, it’s only year one. I’m looking way ahead. It’d be nice to have high blood pressure in March over the Coogs…but once we get Hofheinz redone, win, and get people going to games… WE’RE IN BUSINESS! But for now, Coach Sampson and the Cougars just have to work with what they’ve got for now. Keep calm and hustle hard, Cougars.

And if you don’t know… now you know.