Mandatory Credit: Photo by Eric Christian Smith/AP/Shutterstock (13764114f) Houston guard Jamal Shead during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Tulsa, in Houston Tulsa Basketball, Houston, United States – 08 Feb 2023
Houston Cougars basketball head coach Kelvin Sampson gives his players a lot of freedom on the court.
The key for them is not to abuse it. Their job is to make the correct decision.
“We give our kids freedom to make plays,” Sampson said. “The caveat is, make the right play. It doesn’t mean you have to shoot it.”
Sometimes the right play is to drive, sometimes, it is to shoot, and sometimes it is to pass. What Sampson won’t tolerate is a selfish decision.
When a player catches the ball, there are three decisions he should make right away — pass it, shoot it, or dribble it, Sampson said. He should never hold onto it.
For most of the season, UH has done a good job at doing just that.
The Houston Cougars are averaging 14.92 assists per game through 25 contests. It is fourth in the American Athletic Conference. UH also has the fourth-scoring offense in the league, averaging 75.60 points per outing. Houston is top two in offensive efficiency in the entire country.
There is slippage every now and then, as is the case with every team around the nation, but Sampson makes sure to hold his players accountable. One example was in Houston’s game on Wednesday against Tulsa.
Redshirt sophomore guard Tramon Mark took a bad jumper early in the game, and the head coach pulled him out shortly after, Sampson said. It helps send a message to the players of what Sampson wants and expects from them on the court.
Over the course of the season, Houston has had the luxury of being led by great playmakers in its two veteran guards — senior Marcus Sasser and junior Jamal Shead. Both guards are top five in the AAC when it comes to having the best assist-to-turnover ratio.
For Shead, his ability to create for others has become more defined over the year. As a younger player, he would sometimes try to make a home run play right away instead of taking the simple one.
“One of the things Jamal had to get better at is hit singles,” Sampson said. “Be Tom Brady, not Patrick Mahomes. Patrick Mahomes can throw 45-yard post routes on a dime, whereas Tom Brady he just throws a 2-yard hook or a screen pass and the guy runs 45.”
For Sampson, it is not about scoring, it is not about making flashy passes, and it is not about having the tightest handles; it is about making the correct decisions.
“As long as they make the right play, they are playing Cougar basketball,” Sampson said.