At the midway point of Big 12 play, Houston is tied atop the standings. Instead of discussing who has played best in the Big 12, our CATS contributors discuss who is the most interesting UH player so far.
the daily #185 | 2/5/2024 | Archives
Starns Leland (GoCoogs contributor and sports editor at The Cougar): This is probably a boring answer, but UH’s two lanky young big men, Ja’Vier Francis and JoJo Tugler, are the two most interesting players to me. Francis has emerged as an incredible defender the Cougars could have desperately used against Kansas before he took that fall and hurt his hip. On top of that, his confidence offensively is slowly but surely increasing.
JoJo Tugler is getting the hang of things with each passing game. The game is slowing down for him. He makes two or more jaw-dropping plays a game with his astonishing length and athleticism and is learning not to foul quite as much. In turn, he is starting to get more minutes.
Both players’ continued improvement could go a long way in helping take at least some of the load off of a banged-up J’Wan Roberts and can raise this team’s ceiling come March.
Brad Towns (GoCoogs editor and former UH athlete): Jamal Shead. It feels weird to type that, given how great it has been to see Ja’Vier Francis’ improvement and Jojo Tugler’s growth. We all knew Shead was a great pure point guard He has been a great defensive player who could distribute and facilitate.
Houston needed more from him this season, and he has stepped up and become a legitimate scoring threat. When you think his game couldn’t improve, he showcases a rarely-seen ability to score in bunches. Shead has single-handedly taken over a few games to lead UH to a win.
It isn’t out of selfishness or desire to showcase his talent for NBA scouts. He has stepped up because this team desperately needs him, and his production will be key down the stretch in the hunt for a Big 12 title.
Ryan Monceaux (GoCoogs.com publisher): The most interesting player for me has been Emanuel Sharp. Kelvin said Damian Dunn and Sharp were interchangeable parts early in the year. But you haven’t heard him say that lately. The minutes prove that – Sharp averaged 24.5 minutes in non-conference games, while Dunn got about 20 minutes per game. In Big 12 play, Sharp has played 28.5 minutes, while Dunn is down to 17.5.
Emanuel is an excellent catch-and-shoot guy but has greatly improved his rebounding but needs to be more consistent. Sharp had four boards total in the three-game stretch of TCU, Tech, and UCF. In the next three games, at BYU, Kansas State, and at Texas, he had 23. Like every other guard, he was nonexistent on the glass vs. Kansas.
And he’s struggled shooting the ball since Iowa State. In those seven games, he’s 16/65 (24.6%) games. That’s definitely a slump, but Emanuel says it’s mostly mental. Emanuel’s strength shooting this year has been in the offense’s rhythm, between 10-20 seconds on the shot clock. Sharp is 22/44 from three in that period, 20 of those makes coming off an assist. He’s had very few of those chances in the last seven games, but he’s made the most of them (7/11 63.6%). That means his shooting percentage outside of threes between 10-20 seconds has been atrocious (9/54 – 16.7%) in these seven games.
What’s keeping him on the floor is his defense. He’s noticeably better in on-ball defense and in the top-10 in the Big 12 in steals. The staff has stressed that he needs to focus on other aspects when the ball isn’t going in, and he’s responded.