The prereq to UH Basketball 102 is reading Basketball 101. Come on, Super Fan! You gotta put in your research. You met the coaches and most of the starting guards in part one. Most people see UH as a guard-oriented team, Supes, but you’re smarter than that. Sure, the guards are essential, but it is the 4 and 5 spots that make Houston fiery.
While Jamal Shead is the pulsing heart of this Cougar team, the identity guy is J’Wan Roberts. He’s from the U.S. Virgin Islands via Killeen, Texas, and learned his filthy left-handed move after breaking his right arm as a kid. Ridiculously called “island tough” and “island fierce” by style section writers, Wan does have a certain pluck. That’s borne partly out of playing out of position (“I’m a 4, not a 5,” he insists) and partly by beating up on centers that have 3-4-5 inches of height on him and sometimes as much as 60 or 70 pounds. J’Wan is dead-pan funny and the only player I’ve seen who always walks around after practice dapping with all his teammates, the student managers, assistant coaches, the media, and anyone else in the gym. Pay attention to this one.
The uber-literate super-fan that just learned about Houston during the Selection Show should definitely know about Reggie Chaney. The fun-loving but Tulsa-tough transfer can ramp up his game, turning into a street fighter. “I love Reggie Chaney,” Kelvin Sampson has repeatedly said, a compliment reserved just for the culture warriors that define his program. Chaney is the old man in the group, the grizzled veteran that started on a Final Four team but has since sacrificed minutes for the good of the team. When UH needs a jolt or a big is in foul trouble, Reggie is there with the thunderbolt.
Jarace Walker, Inc. has had a career path mapped out for years. He was at IMG Academy before moving to Houston for a one-year crash course in Kelvin Ball before pushing ahead into the NBA. A ridiculously talented athlete and physical freak, he’s starting to lean into playing the four. He doesn’t have the banger mentality but has all the tools. If Houston is to go far, Jarace will have to win them a game or two.
Tramon Mark is the little-noticed threat in the starting lineup. It seems he does not do anything significant, and then you look up, and he’s at 10 and 5. However, Mark had five or more rebounds in 14 conference games this year, and the soft-spoken Dickinson Gator was a national top-100 recruit. Mark was injured last year, just before Marcus Sasser went down, and his presence in the lineup this year has made the defense even more lethal.
Ja’Vier (Jay-Vee-Air, unless you’re the head coach, then it’s Jay-Vee-Āyy) Francis is another Louisiana product, following Sampson-era greats like LeRon Barnes, Corey Davis, and DeJon Jarreau. With a 7’5″ wingspan, Francis can do things that mortals cannot, but with that comes some moves, less frequent these days, that are all elbows and knees and remind you of a baby moose. But the Baby Moose is comin.
Emanuel Sharp was born with the perfect last name for a sharp-shooting three-point specialist. Sharp has the prettiest shot release and directs the Brass with a certain flair.
Terrance Arceneaux is a tall, skinny freshman with a spot start in the AAC title game due to Sasser’s injury. Arceneaux is learning to be more confident and assertive and has spent the week learning to be less hesitant with the ball in his hands. Arceneaux will play a role in critical moments, especially if Sasser misses a game.
Altogether, this is the #1 seed in the Midwest, Super Fan, but they have a tough road ahead of them.
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