UH Basketball’s competitiveness and catching up with Kellen Sampson

It’s game day for the #6 Houston Cougars in Charleston. UH will face the Towson Tigers at TD Arena at 5:30 in the 15th playing of the Charleston Classic. It’s an intimate arena with fans right on top of the court.

TD Arena // Courtesy of College of Charleston Athletics

the daily #108 | 11/16/2023 | Archives

Some Stetson Stuff. Nine UH players spent 13 minutes or more on the floor against Stetson. A 10th, J’Wan Roberts, would have, but he tweaked his knee. Kelvin Sampson told him to sit this one out after the minor injury.

This wasn’t like a week ago when UH went full-bore for 40 minutes on the defensive end. We wondered about that in our story before Saturday’s game, but it actually happened on Monday. UH destroyed Stetson in the first half, limiting the Hatters to just 12 shots and forcing 17 turnovers. UH’s 17-0 run early in the half was so dominant that they allowed only one Stetson shot attempt.

The UH defense forced 14 turnovers in the first 14 minutes (they ended with 23 – so just nine over the final 26 minutes). The Cougars let up a bit, whether by design or necessity – giving Jamal Shead a breather and then J’Wan Roberts going out with the knee.

Stetson was athletic and could hoop. Their head coach, Donnie Jones, was at Marshall and UCF for a decade, then went to Wichita as an assistant. He was in a league with UH for 12 years in Conference USA and the AAC.

Depth Matters. By early March last season, Tramon Mark, Marcus Sasser, and Jamal Shead were either hurt or worn out. They’d just played too many minutes – 30, 30, and 33, respectively, carrying the team.

Cryer and Shead played 28+ minutes vs. Stetson, but no one else was over 22. A year ago, Mark, Sasser, and Shead each played 28+ minutes in the third game, but with the quality depth on this team, Kelvin Sampson knows he has more options. This season, the staff can run more lineup combinations out there that they feel comfortable with. Jamal Shead, LJ Cryer, and Mylik Wilson are all capable of running the offense, and each brings a different look to the defense.

Catching Up With Kellen. Along with Starns Leland, who wrote an in-depth profile on Terrance Arceneaux this week for The Cougar, I had a couple opportunities in the last couple weeks to get Kellen Sampson talking. Get any Sampson talking and you’ll learn a lot. Here are a few thoughts from Kellen and then a lot more as a bonus for GoCoogs.com subscribers below:

Kellen says this team is feisty and very competitive, and they remind him of the 2021-22 team early on. Think of the “white team” (second string) before and early in that season: Jamal Shead, J’Wan Roberts, Josh Carlton, Ramon Walker, and Tramon Mark. That’s some serious talent and a bunch of competitive guys.

The bench erupts // // Photo © 2023 by Anh Le

This year, it’s Damian Dunn, Terrance Arceneaux, JoJo Tugler, Ramon Walker, and Mylik Wilson. The white team led the red team 19-3 in the first few minutes in a recent scrimmage.

That competitive spirit has rejuvenated Kelvin in a lot of ways. The challenge of the Big 12 has lit a fire, too.

JoJo Tugler “throws tobasco in everything,” Kellen says. The randomness of his movements on defense and in rebounding are hard to account for. Everyone I’ve talked to in the program – from Kelvin Sampson to staff to players – are thrilled with his development.

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