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Kelvin Sampson: "We have good players; and, I think, eventually, we're going to be a good team."

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October 3, 2018

Tuesday morning, before the first official practice of the 2018-'19 season tipped off in the afternoon, Kelvin Sampson, Houston Cougars men's basketball head coach, provided a look at this year's team.

Last season, the Coogs posted a 27-8 overall record and finished second in the American Athletic Conference.

The Cougars earned the program's first at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament since 1990 and claimed the school's first NCAA Tournament victory since 1984 after a 67-65 win over San Diego State in the First Round. Houston's season ended in the next round on a three-point buzzer-beating basket in a 64-63 loss to the Michigan Wolverines.

Coach Sampson looks ahead to this season -- including the development of his players during the summer months.

"Well, it's all speculation," Sampson said. "We'll see. Our guys are hard workers. Just watching what I've seen, I think you can tell that (junior guard) Armoni Brooks has taken a huge jump. He, visually, looks better. He's a better player.

"I think (senior guard) Galen Robinson has taken a big step," Sampson continued. (Senior post) "Breaon Brady. But, I can't look at one guy and say he hasn't improved.

"Our kids are hard workers. Our coaches here are hard workers. The NCAA rule that allows us to go from two hours a week to four hours a week we took full advantage of that. The 10 weeks of summer school. And, then once school started back at the end of August.

"There's no reason not to become a better player in the offseason. Basketball teams are made from October to March. But, basketball players are made from March to October; and, I think our kids did a good job of that."

This year's team will work to replace Rob Gray - last year's scoring leader. Gray scored a team-high 19.3 points per game and had a team-leading 148 assists last season. Gray scored a game-high 39 points in the Coogs' Tournament win over San Diego State and a game-high 23 points in the loss to Michigan.

The Coogs could be able to replace Gray with a committee approach. However, Coach Sampson said there's no replacing Rob Gray.

"No. No. There's no committee that's going to replace what he does at end of games," Sampson commented. "There's not a committee that does that. You can close games with a committee in baseball when you got three guys that all pitch an inning. We don't have anybody that can do what Rob did. Now, that doesn't mean somebody can't develop into that.

Sampson is not saying this year's team doesn't have the talent. Sampson is saying the talent on this year's team is unproven and unknown.

"I've never seen (redshirt sophomore guard) DeJon Jarreau play a game before," Sampson replied. "But, watching him out here, he's pretty good. I've never seen (freshman guard) Nate Hinton play a college game. He's a high school player.

"Corey (Davis Jr.) and Armoni (Brooks) will be better players; but, you know, Rob helped them a lot, too. Rob was not only our leading score; but, he was our best passer. He was great in like little things like taking the ball out of bounds on baseline o.b.s. (out of bounds). We scored a lot on baseline out of bounds plays. That's because Rob Gray takes it in bounds.

"If you don't' have somebody that can make that pass, those plays don't matter. This a personnel-based game. You've got to have good players that can do the things that need to be done in order to be successful.

The 2018-2019 Coogs have question marks; but, since the season just began, the questions are not unusual.

"So, we've got a lot of questions," Sampson acknowledged. "I've got a lot of question marks in my mind about our team; but, I don't know if I have any more question marks than I did this time last year.

"You know I didn't find about Corey Davis. Look what he did. Look at the jump up Armoni made. Armoni went from getting slapped everyday upside the head by Damyean (Dotson - 2 season ago in Armoni's freshman season) to being the Sixth Man of the Year (last season - his sophomore season). Who knew?

To summarize this year's squad, Sampson said, "We have good players; and, I think, eventually, we're going to be a good team."

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