Mandatory Credit: Photo by Kevin M Cox/AP/Shutterstock (13665292q) Houston forward Ja’Vier Francis (5) grabs an offensive rebound under North Carolina A&T forward Webster Filmore (25) and guard Love Bettis (2) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, in Houston NC A T Basketball, Houston, United States – 13 Dec 2022
For Houston Cougars big Ja’Vier Francis, outing against North Carolina A&T is just one piece in his continuing development
The Houston Cougars men’s basketball team, ranked fifth in The Associated Press Poll and fourth in the USA Today Coaches Poll, got a big outing from their big man Ja’Vier Francis in Tuesday night’s win against North Carolina A&T.
After the end of the game, head coach Kelvin Sampson sat at the news conference table with guard Marcus Sasser to his right and Francis to his left. After speaking for a few minutes, mainly about his big man, Sampson glanced at the stat sheet of Houston’s 74-46 victory over the Aggies.
Sampson’s eyes went directly to the rebounding category, and his gaze locked into the offensive rebounding numbers. It read seven offensive rebounds.
‘Hmm, I didn’t realize you had seven offensive rebounds,” Sampson told Francis among the pool of reporters. “Huh, you’re looking for playing time or something?”
Sampson’s comment sent chuckles across the media room, but the head coach’s comment was far from being made in jest. The seven offensive rebounds, along with eight more defensive rebounds for a total of 15 boards, told the story of the dominant night the 6-foot-8-inch big man had for the Cougars (10-1).
The strong performance earned Francis the award of signing the team’s bubble, a plastic cap that is put on the top of the rim during the Houston Cougars’ practices when the team focuses on rebounding.
It makes it so that no shot can go through the hoop, and it is one of the key drills the Cougars run not only to focus on rebounding but toughness as well. Once the bubble goes up, anything goes; the only rule is to come away with the basketball.
Throughout the course of the season, Houston’s players get the opportunity to sign the bubble by achieving specific feats that revolve around rebounding. At the end of the year, the player that has signed the bubble the most times gets to keep it, Sampson has said in the past.
Tuesday’s performance by Francis earned him the right to sign the bubble for the third-or-fourth time this season, the big man said.
“Not bad Wilt Chamberlain,” Sampson said.
Francis finished Tuesday’s outing with 17 points to go along with his 15 rebounds. Both were new career highs for the sophomore. He also tallied his second collegiate career double-double.
“This kid is going to be good,” Sampson said of Francis. “He just keeps getting better. His confidence is growing. You can see his inexperience in certain things … He’s on a team with kids that believe in him. He’s got great teammates. He is a great teammate.”
Francis is a high-character kid, an important requirement for Sampson’s players. He works his tail off and comes from an unbelievable family, the head coach stated. He is a yes sir, no sir kid that the more you get on him, the more he will take it and keep going, Sampson added.
His motor is way better now than when he first got to Houston. He always played hard, but he didn’t know how to compete, Sampson stated.
For senior guard Marcus Sasser, Francis’ stellar performance against the Aggies was a welcomed sight. Francis dominates the boards in practice, Sasser said.
A game like Tuesday against North Carolina A&T is huge to continue building his confidence, so when Houston gets to the big games later in the season, he will have the same confidence to produce in those outings, Sasser added.
“It was real good seeing [the younger players, including Francis], all the hard work they’ve been putting in and everything they do in practice, pay off against another team,” Sasser said.
Francis was Houston’s first sub off the bench against North Carolina A&T. He came in with 16:08 left in the first half, and went on to hurt the Aggies on the glass and with impressive slam dunks in 28 minutes of action.
Being the first person off the bench showed a lot to Francis.
“It tells me a lot,” Francis said. “I know [Sampson] has confidence in me, and he wants to see me grow; that’s why he leaves me out there. I know my job out there is to get rebounds and defend pick and rolls. Every time I go on the floor, my main goal is just to rebound and to stop the ball.”