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Kelvin Sampson: "A lot of credit, first of all, goes to Fabian."

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POSTED: February 18, 2021 -- 11:49 p.m. CT

Despite a 68-63 road loss to Wichita State Thursday night, the Houston Cougars men's basketball team received some good news and a jolt of energy: Fabian White Jr played in his first basketball game since a 64-57 win over Memphis on March 8, 2020.

White had surgery on May 27, 2020, to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). White, an All-American Athletic Conference player in the 2019-20 season, was projected to miss the entire 2020-21 season; however, White's rehabilitation went well which allowed him to practice with the team the last few weeks.

During his post game media session, Houston Men's Basketball Head Coach, Kelvin Sampson, answered a few questions about Fabian's return to game action for the first time in 11 months.

"This (versus Wichita State)was a hard game for him to have to come in," Sampson acknowledged.

"We were supposed to play Memphis last Sunday; then, we were supposed to play ECU (East Carolina) on Wednesday. The ECU game we were planning on that being his first game back if he practiced well.

"But, the stakes were so high and that team (Wichita State Shockers) is scrappy and athletic. That team gives you a good example of why how tall you are means nothing. Very rarely are we the tallest team; but, there's a reason why we've been the number one rebounding team is because how hard we scrap."

Recovery from ACL surgery takes from 9 to 12 months. Fabian White Jr's recovery is about 9 months.

"A lot of credit, first of all, goes to Fabian," Coach Sampson remarked. "He's been very disciplined and attentive and dedicated with John Houston our trainer and Alan Bishop our Sports Performance Coach. Those guys have done a great job; and, Fabian is always been early and stayed late.

"And, when he's able to get on the court, (Assistant Coach) Kellen (Sampson) has done a tremendous job of getting him back with confidence.

"He made a couple of nice plays. He'll get better as he goes. But, I hated to put him in this situation. I saw some good things. I was encouraged by what I saw with Fabian tonight."

"Fabian had, I think, 18 points and 14 rebounds last March against Memphis. He was just slow (Thursday against Wichita State). His trigger was slow getting off the ground tonight. I saw a lot of rebounds that he normally gets that he just couldn't get there fast enough tonight; so, it's going to take him awhile to get back to being the Fabian of old."

Kelvin Sampson mentioned plans have not been established, yet, to determine how many minutes Fabian will play from game to game. He played 9 minutes against Wichita State (3 points on 1 for 3 field goal shooting; 1 rebound and 1 assist).

"No plans for how many minutes," Coach Sampson said. "Just see how he responds tomorrow. Right now, we're going to play Cincinnati Sunday afternoon. But, we'll see how he responds tomorrow when we practice; and, then, see how he responds Saturday. If he can go, then, we'll try to get him back out there. But, I saw some good things from Fabian tonight. It's good to see him back. I'm proud of the work he's done to get back to this point."

"It's been a tough year for everybody. For all of us. But, he's certainly been a shining light with the example he's set everyday with his work ethic and being dedicated with John and Kellen and Alan. So, good for him that he's been able to come back.

"Normally, a lot of kids - even if they can come back - they won't for whatever reason. But, Fabian has been tugging at my coattail for the last two weeks. I knew that he was getting close. I think it was last week. We said, "Let's see if he can go in the East Carolina game."

"But, with all these cancellations and postponements, it's just been kind of tough."

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