Retire #1

Jamal Shead is the elite of the elite

Against Texas A&M, Jamal Shead was 0/5 on threes. He missed a critical free throw late in the game, barely hitting the front rim. He turned it over five times, and then he fouled out.

And, yet, his performance against Texas A&M in the round of 32 sealed the deal for me: retire his number. #1 will never be equaled.

the daily #236 | 3/27/2024 | Archives

On a night of era-defining madness, there was no question it was still his show. His instincts, toughness, and ability to knife through the defense and get the shot Houston needed. Jamal scored or assisted 17 of UH’s 34 made shots against the Aggies.

The who’s who of great players during the Kelvin Sampson era is stacked. Robinson, Grimes, Hinton, Barnes, McLean, Gray, Dotson, Brooks, Davis (pick one), Jarreau, White, Roberts, Sasser, Walker, Cryer, and more. None have done what Uno has done.

Jamal is the full-page color ad for Houston Cougar Basketball. Want to win? Show Jamal. Want to play multiple weekends in every NCAA Tournament? Show Jamal. Want conference titles? Jamal. Want to be the best defensive player? Jamal. Want to be a Consensus All-American? Want to lead men and do it in a top-5 program? There’s one front-page answer:


#1 © 2024 by Anh Le

Kellen Sampson told me the story of recruiting Jamal from the time he was 14, how he had to break him during his freshman year so that he would surrender. Jamal told GoCoogs, too. By the time that season was over, Kellen says Shead was playing like an All-American in the NCAA Tournament bubble in Indy, running the scout team that pushed UH to the Final Four. Since then, he’s been the undisputed leader. Marcus Sasser and Jarace Walker were NBA first-rounders, but they both knew who ran the show.

It’s been Jamal’s team for these past three years, through 97 wins, four conference titles, and three straight trips to (at least) the Sweet 16. He’s a unanimous First-Team All-American, the Big 12 Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and last year’s AAC Defensive Player of the Year. As the starting point guard, he’s gone 97-14 and 7-2 in the NCAA Tournament. If you include his freshman season, where he played about 10 minutes a game, he’s 125-18 and 11-3 in the Dance and has five conference titles and a Final Four.

As of this Friday, Jamal will have started for three Sweet 16 teams, joining Michael Young (number retired) as the only two to have done that in UH history (MY started for three Final Four teams). He’s Conference Player of the Year in a major conference (like Otis Birdsong, Michael Young, Clyde Drexler, and Akeem Olajuwon were – and they all had their numbers retired). Duke will be his 15th NCAA Tournament game, and an Elite Eight appearance will tie Michael Young’s school record for Tournament games.

But more than individual accolades, and there are many, he’s the guy who took Houston into the vaunted Big 12 and won the league by two games. He was the league’s best player, by some margin, and will be forever remembered as the guy who hit game-winner after game-winner.

Jamal and Mylik embrace // © 2024 by Anh Le

Galen Robinson and I have debated Jamal’s entry into the retired number club at UH. Galen has been convinced for a while, and I agree that Jamal is the best pure point guard UH has ever had. But I’ve always liked that a retired number in this program is an exclusive club reserved for the elite of the elite, as Galen might say. Jamal has now moved comfortably into that orbit after a Big 12 title, Big 12 Player of the Year, and consensus First-Team All-America. He’s one of those guys now.

I’m confident he’ll be in the College Basketball Hall of Fame in a decade. If he can lead these Coogs to four more wins, he’ll be remembered as the greatest Cougar ever. But regardless of that, he’s definitely done enough to be elevated to Houston’s top tier.

Hayes. Birdsong. Young. Olajuwon. Drexler. Shead.


Ryan Monceaux
Ryan Monceaux
Ryan is the guy from GoCoogs. He is also a real estate agent and entrepreneur.

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