Mandatory Credit: Photo by Kevin M Cox/AP/Shutterstock (13665292w) Houston guard Terrance Arceneaux (23) battles for a loose ball with North Carolina A&T guard Tyrese Elliott (5) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, in Houston NC A T Basketball, Houston, United States – 13 Dec 2022
Houston Cougars basketball head coach Kelvin Sampson sat at an interview table following his team’s win against North Carolina A&T this past Tuesday.
Sampson was asked a question about the improvement on defense he has seen from forward Ja’Vier Francis throughout his two seasons with Houston. The head coach answered the inquiry, and then he kept going, and going, and going about how highly-touted freshmen are set up for failure because of high expectations put forth by outside rankings.
“Everybody is trying to push these [freshmen], and I’m not just talking Jarace [Walker] and Terrance [Arceneaux], I’m talking about all the schools,” Sampson said. “Everybody sets these kids up for failure. Fans set them up for failure because they get disappointed because they’re not better. They are what they are.”
When Sampson looks across the nation at the various freshmen, he wishes he could consult with their families to leave them alone and allow their kids to battle through challenges on their own.
“Let them fail,” Sampson said. “Let them get through their adversity. Don’t try to save them or help them. Let them have it. It is good for them. It is so good for them, but there are so many parachutes out there. Sometimes you don’t need the parachute because they’re going to fail at some point. I think the earlier, the better.”
Francis, who had just put together a career performance against the Aggies with a 17-point, 15-rebound double-double, sat on the bench most of his freshman season, the head coach pointed out.
Starting junior guard Jamal Shead sat on the bench as a freshman, Sampson added. Marcus Sasser as a freshman, was a good player but not anything special, Sampson stated.
This year’s iteration of the Houston Cougars has featured three freshmen — Arceneaux, Walker, and guard Emanuel Sharp — whom UH has looked to integrate into the rotation at various points throughout the young season.
Sampson said that Arceneaux is getting to play way more than Shead did as a freshman. Walker has started every game for Houston this season, and Sharp has also been inserted in multiple games for the Cougars as well.
The biggest problem with today’s freshmen is what other people say about them, Sampson said. Everybody says they’re projected to be a future professional based on five-star rankings and mock drafts. Then they ask what is wrong with the freshman when they struggle in a contest.
“It comes down to theory versus reality,” Sampson said. “In theory, this guy is better because he is rated higher. Well, who rated him? Who said so? But you read it, and now you are repeating what somebody said.”
The biggest lesson that Arceneaux has taken away during his short time with the Cougars is that it is OK for him to fail, he told Gallery Sports following the team’s practice on Monday night.
He said it was a lesson he didn’t really get before joining the Houston Cougars basketball program because he did not have many bad games in high school at Beaumont United.
“You are going to fail,” Arceneaux said. “Don’t be too hard on yourself. You are going to learn from it. Just keep your confidence. It is OK to fail.
“A lot of players failed. Even Quentin Grimes, different players, Nate Hinton, everybody goes through it. A period where they failed, but they just continued to grow from it. That is what makes great players. That is what coach Sampson tells me all the time.”
The more mistakes a young player makes, the better it is for him, Sampson said.
“Go ahead and get them out, man,” Sampson stated. “You’re going to be good. Terrance is going to be so good. Emanuel is going to be so good. Just like I kept saying last year, [Francis] is going to be so good.”
A season ago, a freshman, Francis was behind fellow big man Josh Carlton in the rotation. While Francis was not in the spotlight during the team’s games, he was putting in work behind closed doors, the head coach said.
“He was hooping in practice last year, but he was playing behind Josh Carlton. What do you want me to do? Take Josh out and put Ja’Vier in? He’s not ready, but he is going to be ready,” Sampson said as he pointed his finger in the air.
Francis, Arceneaux, Walker, and Sharp are all young players that do not have much college playing time under their belts. The more they get, the better they will become.
Arceneaux and Sharp, think about 30 games from now, how better will they be, Sampson remarked on Tuesday. Currently, they come off the bench, a role they never went through in high school. It is an adjustment.
“I feel bad for a lot of these kids at some of these schools that people think they should be one-and-done,” Sampson said. “If Jarace Walker was to stay here three years, and he came out [as a junior], he would be a monster. A monster. Cause he’d be two years older than he is now.
“He’d have 30-something games this year. 30-something games next year and then he’s looking at his third year. Do you know how good he would be?”
Sampson, as the head coach, said he has to tell his players the truth. It is not always what they want to hear, but it is extremely important that they hear it, he added.
“Sometimes I am brutally honest, and a lot of the times, the first time they have heard the truth is when they got here because I don’t tell them how great they are,” Sampson said. “I tell them how hard they got to work to be great. You’re not great, son.”
One of Sampson’s sayings and beliefs is that the first step on the ladder of success is always failure. It is something everyone will have to go through before they learn and succeed.
“Immature people don’t deal well with failure, and immature people don’t understand that there is going to be failure,” Sampson said earlier this season. “I tell them to prepare for failure. We all fail. Figure it out. No one is feeling sorry for you.”
For Arceneaux, it is a lesson he has memorized in his head, but he is still working on living it. During the team’s game against Alabama, he experienced failure firsthand, he said.
Arceneaux said he went into the game thinking he had to be perfect.
“I was like, ‘OK, you can’t fail. You got to go into this game being perfect,’” Arceneaux said. “And I think I was just too hard on myself.”
He experienced failure, but he is learning and growing from it, the Beaumont native said. Arceneaux watched film with assistant coach Kellen Sampson after the outing against the Crimson Tide. Coach Kell, as the players call Kellen to distinguish him from his father, helped reiterate the message to Arceneaux after the game, the guard said.
“I can’t go every day thinking that I’m not going to fail at something,” Arceneaux said. “If you fail, that means you’re getting better at it. That means you went through the worst part already. The best is to come.”