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The word adversity means difficulties and or misfortune. Something that University of Houston men’s basketball coach Kelvin Sampson is no stranger to.
Sampson has seen it all in his 26-year head coaching career in the college ranks, taking programs from the basement to annual tournament appearances. He even put a few players in the NBA. With all that success, there was a time where Sampson may not have had a chance of coaching in the college ranks again.
With success there comes questions. The recruitment of Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon to the University of Indiana along with a host of other incidents left a bitter taste in a few NCAA administrators mouths. This forced the NCAA to hand Sampson a five-year show cause policy.
During that time, Sampson found work in the NBA. Sampson was regarded as one of the best assistants during his time with the Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets.
While rebuilding his reputation and honing his craft in the NBA, it was getting closer for college teams to possibly hire Sampson as a head coach. Sure, a “Power 5” conference would be ideal but the American Athletic Conference was a great way to get his feet wet.
Since Sampson took over the Cougars, the program has done nothing but improve. Now with a top 10 ranking and possibly a top 3 seed in this upcoming March Madness, Sampson deserves some love for what he’s done with this program.
Houston hasn’t been a serious threat to win since Phi Slama Jama. The current Cougars may not have Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler but this roster features a unique blend of young players and upperclassmen. Led by a three-headed monster of Corey Davis, Armani Brooks, and Galen Robinson Jr, these Cougars have embraced Sampson rugged style of play.
One of the better defensive and rebounding teams in the country, Houston has the ability to play and beat anybody in the country in a one-game elimination format. Currently, Houston ranks number one in opponent field goal percentage with .362, fifth in scoring defense at 60.3 points per game and is the ninth best rebounding team in the nation at 37.5 per game.
Offensively this team knows their identity. They do a great job of creating second-chance opportunities and getting to the line. Corey Davis and Armani Brooks are a solid scoring duo, capable of taking and making big shots.
With this unique blend of upper and underclassmen talent, the Cougars will be a problem nationally for a while. Coach Sampson does a great job of taking players and getting the best out of them. He is truly one of the better player development coaches the games ever seen.
During his time in the NBA Sampson was credited for helping develop a few players during his tenure with the Bucks and Rockets. You can see it with this roster. Prime examples are Dejon Jarreau and Nate Hinton. Both players will make their presence felt come March and help keep the momentum of the program going next year as they step up in their respective roles.
Right now Houston is a lock to make the tournament. While it may be all good in H-Town, things weren’t always great for this program. Before Sampson arrived on campus the last time this program got invited to the dance was 2010.
Sampson has done a remarkable job of getting the Houston program back to respectability. Houston has a storied history with NBA Hall Of Famers Elvin Hayes, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Clyde Drexler. All three made their mark on the program, accomplishing many feats but one.
Win a national championship. Sounds easy right? It’s not. This is Houston’s best chance to win it all. Sampson has the personnel to pull it off.
Winning the University of Houston its first Men’s Basketball title after coming to the brink multiple times would cement Sampson’s legacy as one of the best college coaches ever. It would also give the Houston the feeling of finally being able to call themselves Champion of the college basketball world after chasing that elusive title for so many years.