Houston men’s basketball assistant coach Kellen Sampson sat for an interview to discuss NIL in general and how it affects the basketball program and players. This is part one of a two-part interview.
It has been edited for length and clarity.
GoCoogs: Why is NIL so important to UH Basketball and the University?
Kellen Sampson: I think the bare bones, it’s the law of the land right now. If you have aspirations to be a program similar to what our punching class is, NIL is part of the equation.
On a bigger scale and a bigger level, this is part of the college basketball experience now. As programs across the country are finding ways to weaponize NIL, programs that do not are going to be left in the dust.
It’s no different than having to have the requisite facilities. In today’s day and age, you still need awesome facilities but if you want to compete at the highest levels, you have to have a NIL program that also is in line with your expectations of winning.
GC: What do fans not understand about NIL?
KS: Yeah, I think the biggest misperception is that it’s illegal. Or there’s something unethical or there’s something immoral about NIL. There is not. I think that this is an awesome opportunity, above anything else, is to prepare our young people for the real world, for real adulthood.
They’re learning how to say no because they can’t fit it in time management-wise. These are tremendous life skills for anybody and it’s all legal. There’s nothing unethical about a popular player benefitting from their standing as a popular player.
As NIL becomes more and more accepted, we’re getting down the line, there won’t be this negative taboo.
GC: So how does NIL overall impact your ability to win games?
KS: Your best opportunity to win and chase championships is player retention. You have to get the evaluation right on the front end, that’s a big part of it. And you’ve got to recruit them and get the evaluation right on the front end, but you’ve got to get those players to where they mature and they grow and they develop within your program year after year after year.
Where NIL helps, more in any other way, it helps retention. If a player feels as if they’re in a good place mentally, physically, they feel like they’re loved, they feel like they’re taken care of, they feel like they’re growing and evolving as a person, player, and student, they’re much more likely to stick. They’re much more likely to have a positive outlook on the way things are moving forward.
The greatest improvement a basketball player makes is from his freshman year to his sophomore year. Where NIL helps is guys feel like they’re in a good place, they don’t need to see opportunities elsewhere, and they can get back to being the best student they can be. And the best basketball player.
GC: How is it influencing recruiting and what are kids telling you?
KS: For the most part, if (NIL) is the basis for their decision, they’re probably not the right fit for us anyway. Is it a box we have to check and do we have to show recruits the ways we are helping with their branding, show them ways we are helping with their opportunities to advance their lives, of course. And we should!
For eons and eons in, the biggest part of recruitment has always been development. The best thing I can tell a mother and a father in the recruiting process is that we’re going to help turn your boy into a man. NIL, in a lot of ways, helps prepare kids for adulthood.
I can’t expect somebody to grow as a player if they’ve never stepped in between the lines. And you can’t expect somebody to truly grow and mature into the person they’re going to be until they face some real-life situations.