Cougars take court for first practice of season

By Tyler Tyre, Times Sports Editor
Posted 10/1/21

“I still think the new guys still are (adjusting),” Sampson said. It’s a process for all the new guys, it takes some longer than others, but they all have a good attitude and are working hard. We’ve been doing things to get ready for the start of practice but things will get accelerated starting today.”

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Cougars take court for first practice of season

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There’s big expectations in Houston this year.

After taking the University of Houston to the final four last season, people expect another strong season from Kelvin Sampson and the Cougars this year, touting the returning players and incoming recruits.

But Sampson said it was much too early to think about those types of things on Friday before the team’s first official practice, saying the team needs time to come together before the pressure is heaped on them.

“I still think the new guys still are (adjusting),” Sampson said. It’s a process for all the new guys, it takes some longer than others, but they all have a good attitude and are working hard. We’ve been doing things to get ready for the start of practice but things will get accelerated starting today.”

The Cougars come off a season in which they went 23-8 and 13-5 in American Athletic Conference play, winning the AAC and making it all the way to the final four, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic the adversity the team faced helped them grow and Sampson is eager to see how the team develops this year and how they will overcome the challenges they face.

“This time last year it seemed like everything was in a holding pattern,” Sampson said. “We just weren’t quite sure with everything that was going on. We wanted to be as diligent as possible, but the thing I realized is that it brought our guys closer together. Anytime you deal with adversity as a group it affects you, going through everything together really helped that team, but this team is different. No two teams are alike, and this team will have to find its voice and identity. We’re focused on getting to these first few practices and seeing how everyone mixes and blends with each other.”

Two key returners for the team are Fabian White Jr. and Marcus Sasser, while transfer Kyler Edwards will also play a big part in developing the culture as was part of a Texas Tech team that made it to the national championship game in 2019.

“One of my main focuses this summer was getting in better shape and getting stronger and then also becoming a leader,” Sasser said. “I just want to go out there and try to set an example and being a point guard and leader in practice and both on and off the court. I want to be able to push the team when we get down and be the coaches voice on the court.”

Sasser hopes that the experience of getting to the final four can help the team and he hopes that he and the other returners can show the incoming players what they will have to do to be successful and help the team make another run in the NCAAA basketball tournament.

“It’s always in the back of our heads,” Sasser said. “We know what it took last year to get as far as we got, and it’s not easy. It’s the job of the guys who made it last year to pick our teammates up and show them what it takes to get there when we go through adversity or things are hard. Having that in the back of our head and knowing what it took to get there I think will definitely help.”

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