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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.

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Kelvin Sampson: "We've got a lot of question marks with our team. But, the exciting thing is answering them."

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'Question marks are not fatalistic. We gotta find out.'

October 26, 2018 -- 9:20 a.m. CDT

The Houston Cougars will begin the 2018-'19 season with an exhibition game Thursday, November 1, versus Dallas Baptist. Tip is set for 7 p.m. Since construction of the Fertitta Center is not quite completed, the game will take place inside Texas Southern University's H&PE Arena.

However, prior to the exhibition game, the Coogs will participate in a scrimmage this Saturday. The Coogs' opponent in the scrimmage is, per Jeff Goodman of Stadium, is Texas Tech. The scrimmage will take place in Fort Worth. (Here's a list of the men's college basketball scrimmages Goodman has been notified.)

Kelvin Sampson, Houston Cougars Men's Basketball Head Coach, spoke with the media Thursday morning about Thursday's exhibition game. However, Coach Sampson also mentioned the scrimmage (not the opponent) and which Coogs will not participate in the scrimmage.

A video of the interview is here:

Here's a transcript of the interview:

Coach Sampson: "I just think we're a long way away. You don't realize, sometimes, the importance of veterans until they're gone; and, then, replace them with guys that are just taking baby steps.

"We have Fabian (sophomore forward Fabian White, Jr..) out with an injury. He hasn't really practiced this preseason much.

"DeJon Jarreau, who was raised by his grandmother, lost her, unfortunately, last week. So, he's missed a ton of practice time. He will not play in our scrimmage. Fabian will not play in our scrimmage. DeJon will not play in the scrimmage; so, we're kind of going over there with kind of a piecemeal -- two guys we thought would or we hope will play key roles for us this year -- are not going to play in the scrimmage. But, that's okay. It's a scrimmage. I couldn't care less about the final score or any of that. People put too much stock into that stuff this early in the year.

"I want to see Ced (redshirt freshman Cedrick Alley, Jr.). See the progression that he's made. He hasn't played in a game since March of 2017. DeJon hasn't played in a game since March of 2017. Same with Brison (redshirt sophomore forward Brison Gresham). Nate (freshman Nate Hinton) has never played in a college game.

"We have so many unknowns. Just so many uncertainties of our team. I think this is going to take our team a while to find its footing. Establish and identity. Figure out how we want to play. How you fit in. How you can feel comfortable playing your role.

"Practice is practice is practice; but, competition, when you're playing against somebody else, that's when you start connecting the dots. That's why the scrimmage is going to be good. The exhibition game will be good.

"But, we need to start getting our main guys in practice; and, until we do that, it will be hard to see where the progression this team can make. We got good pieces. We just don't have them all there right now."

The HRR: Is Fabian practicing?

Coach Sampson: "No. Fabian has not practiced, yet."

The HRR: In terms of, I've asked the players this, have you noticed a buzz around campus for the coming season?

Coach Sampson: "No. I don't go around campus. I think there's a buzz. I've heard some positive things. We're coming off 27 wins (last season). Getting the first at-large bid since 1990. We have a very good basketball program. Preseason top 3 in the league. You would hope there would be some buzz.

"But, our job is to keep getting better. Make sure our kids understand where we headed; how we're going to get there. Details and preparation are always big keys for us.

"With Galen (senior guard Galen Robinson, Jr.); Corey (senior guard Corey Davis, Jr.); Armoni (junior guard Armoni Brooks); Breaon (senior post Breaon Brady), those are four guys that played a ton of minutes last year. But, losing Rob (Rob Gray). The more we practice the more I realize Rob was such a security blanket. Baseline out-of-bounds plays. We score a lot on baseline out-of-bounds plays. Well, Rob was always the trigger man. He got a lot of his assists off that. Late-game situations, where teams pressured us who's going to take the ball inbounds, well, a lot of times, that was Rob bringing the ball in bounds to Galen.

"So, we've got a lot of question marks with our team. But, the exciting thing is answering them. Question marks are not fatalistic. We gotta find out. I don't know who's going to do this or who's going to do that or how this guys is going to play. I've never seen them play.

"Think about it: we have three guys in our rotation that's going to play major minutes that have not have played a game since March of 2017: DeJon, Ced, and Brison. Then, we have a high school kid who has never played a college game. So, in our top 8 or 9 players, we have 4 completely unknowns; and, I'm excited to see how that all plays out."

The HRR: We've got about 5 weeks until the first game in the Fertitta Center. What are thoughts on the Fertitta Center?

Coach Sampson: "Looking forward to getting there. I talked to our Facilities Administrators this week. We're thinking we have a chance to get in there between November 7th and November 12th to practice. That's important. If we don't get in there and get some shooting times with those rims, we might as well play at a neutral court.

"I'm excited about it. I really am. Again, I take every opportunity I can to thank Chairman Fertitta (UH Board of Regents Chair Tilman J. Fertitta) for his commitment and a lot of other people that made this dream come true. Our kids are excited. I think there's as much buzz about moving into the Fertitta Center as there is playing the season itself.

"So, we've got a lot of things to be excited about. A lot of things to look forward to."

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