A mid-season reinvention and the new Cougar cheat code


A new year means a new look during the Kelvin Sampson era. Every team looks different, and the offense plays a slightly different style. Yet the culture remains unchanged: defense, rebounding, and a relentless will to win. But the ‘new’ team that debuted earlier this month is unlike any we have ever seen.

How do you replace Rob Gray and Devin Davis? Corey Davis, Galen Robinson, and Armoni Brooks? Quentin Grimes, DeJon Jarreau, and Justin Gorham? There seem to be unfillable holes every year, but each one gets filled by another guy. Every new team has its style, and they each succeed in different areas. Rob Gray was a force of nature and could put everyone in his backpack and carry them. Davis, Robinson, and Brooks were always ready for a long-distance assault from the 3 point line. And Grimes and Jarreau were going to beat you by spreading the ball around, slashing and then kicking it out.

Every team took one step closer to the ultimate goal, and, amazingly, the program never slowed down. This 2021-22 team was no different. UH had a lot of starters on a Final Four team to replace, but Kelvin smoothly inserted transfers like Josh Carlton, Kyler Edwards, and Taze Moore. In addition, Fabian White Jr. came back healthy while Marcus Sasser started to take over team leadership, Jamal Shead stepped into a prominent role, and Tramon Mark began to get healthy.

Then everything changed. 

Sasser got hurt while Mark’s injury took a turn for the worse. Chaney, Edwards, and Moore seemed to reaggravate nagging injuries every game. Suddenly, this team was without all the key contributors from the Final Four team. But the staff never panicked. Kelvin, Kellen, Quannas, and K.C. never got down, and they didn’t complain about the situation. Instead, they did what they have done every year: they reinvented themselves. But this time, they had to do it in a matter of days.

And that’s what makes UH basketball under Kelvin Sampson so damn fun. You can see that there is constant teaching, and obviously, constant learning. There is development. His teams are never concerned with what they can’t do, they simply take what they have and make the best out of it.

Overnight, this team went from a guard-oriented attack to playing inside-out. Now, the offense runs through the post and they haven’t missed a beat. That only happens with alignment throughout the program: Kelvin, his assistants, staff, and players. Everyone buys into the same plan and stays on the same page.

There will be bumps in the road ahead. It won’t be easy to run through the conference with things going as well as they have the last three games. But that’s ok. I love to watch how these guys game plan, adjust, and improve. I love watching this coaching staff continue to get the most out of every player.

Take Josh Carlton, for example. Carlton scored just 67 points in 19 games at UConn last season but he had 60 for UH…last week! Kellen Sampson unlocked a cheat code on Carlton and seamlessly integrated his talents into this inside-out attack.

Josh Carlton - last 4 games

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These coaches get the most out of everyone that comes through here. It isn’t easy for the players because getting past your self-limited ceiling is never easy but players will reach their max potential here if they allow it. Kelvin and Co. have proven it from the first recruiting class through today.

It doesn’t matter if you are a 2-star or a 5-star, you will be developed to play to your max level. And that will make the next two months a lot of fun.

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