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Kelvin Sampson: "I think our program is in a good place that we can absorb some unanticipated hits."

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POSTED: July 24, 2020 -- 2:57 p.m. CT

When the American Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Tournament was canceled in mid March, the Houston Cougars men's basketball team was on a bus heading to Dickies Arena in Fort Worth (the site of the AAC Tournament). Houston Cougars Head Coach Kelvin Sampson said when he got the call and was told the Tournament was canceled, his thoughts shifted to next year's roster.

This week, Coach Sampson, staff, and players had their first week of summer practice. Coach Sampson spoke with the media via a Zoom call and provided a summary of the 2020-'21 roster.

"I knew we were going to lose Chris (Chris Harris to graduation); and, I knew that there was probably at least three guys that were going to put their names in the Draft: DeJon (DeJon Jarreau), Quentin (Quentin Grimes), and Nate (Nate Hinton). We knew that. But, you don't know how many are coming back.

"Obviously, Fabian (Fabian White Jr - out for the year with torn ACL) is something you don't count on; but, that's just part of the game.

"But, I think our program is in a good place that we can absorb some unanticipated hits.

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"In the backcourt, we have Marcus Sasser is a sophomore; Caleb Mills is a sophomore; Quentin Grimes is a junior; Tramon Mark is a freshman; Jamal Shead is a freshman; DeJon Jarreau is our only senior; Cam Tyson is a sophomore. We're really, really young in the backcourt; but, we're also experienced which is, after a while, what you want to be. Make sure you have enough experience to get you through."

Next, Coach Sampson discussed Houston's frontcourt players.

"Then, in the frontcourt, that's probably our most inexperienced place; but, we also have some veterans there. Justin Gorham -- I was watching our game against Washington the other night. We don't win the Washington game without Justin Gorham that's for sure. I think when he plays a bigger role - the opportunity to play a bigger role - I think you'll see Justin step up to the plate and answer the bell.

"Brison Gresham (6'8, 230) has been a starter. He's probably started more games here than Chris has. So, you say, 'You lost Chris Harris a starter; but, you can say we bring Brison Gresham back as a starter, too."

"Then, after that, it's intriguing. (True freshman) Kiyron Powell (6'10, 205) - watching him bounce around like a little baby giraffe. He's going to be a good player - probably not going to be in the next five months - but, he's going to be a good player down the road."

"J'Wan Roberts (redshirt freshman) is another kid that we're excited about. We knew kids are going to gain weight; but, what we don't anticipate is them getting taller. The two guys on our team that have gotten taller is Fabian: Fabian is now a true 6'8"; but, J'Wan Roberts with his shoes off is almost 6'7". Whereas when he got here, he was a little bit over 6'5". With his shoes on, he's probably a little bit over 6'8". He's gotten taller; and, he also, I think, has a 7'2" wingspan. He's our best third and fourth jumper. A lot of guys are good first jumpers; but, to be a great offensive rebounder, it's not your first jump. It's not your second jump. It's your third jump and your fourth jump."

"When (Strength and Performance Coach) Alan Bishop and I meet, we're always talking about how we can be action-specific. Offensive rebounding is a big, big part of our culture here; of our identity. So, in the weight room, I really want him to focus on getting our guys resilient to third and fourth jumps. But, probably the best third and fourth jumper we have on our team is J'Wan Roberts. He came in here (UH) at 196. I think he's up to 217, 218 now. He's gained almost 20 pounds; but, he's also gotten bigger; stronger; more explosive; faster; more athletic which is what you want your kids to do and that's how you develop them and get better. He's a much, much better player today than when he got here. So, with Kiyron Powell and J'Wan Roberts - those two freshmen - they're going to play a lot of minutes this year."

Coach Sampson discussed the strengths of transfer Reggie Chaney (6'8, 225):

"Reggie Chaney is another kid that we're excited about. He really fits us. I was watching him yesterday in some drills that Kellen had him going through with our managers banging him with pads and him trying to finish through contact. He can really rebound the ball. Tough kid."

"So, with Reggie, Justin, J'Wan, Brison, Kiyron, those five guys will play the bulk of the minutes for us up front. You'd love to have Fabian in there; but, I told Fabian he's already our top recruit for next year. We got a great start on our recruiting class for next year with Fabian."

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