Houston Cougars big man Ja’Vier Francis continuing to come along following his first collegiate start

Mandatory Credit: Photo by David J Phillip/AP/Shutterstock (13690106c) Houston’s Ja’Vier Francis yells after making a basket against Central Florida during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, in Houston UCF Basketball, Houston, United States – 31 Dec 2022

Houston Cougars big man Ja’Vier Francis continuing to come along following his first collegiate start

Houston Cougars men’s basketball sophomore big man Ja’Vier Francis got his first collegiate career start on Wednesday against South Florida.

The New Orleans native got the nod in place of freshman forward Jarace Walker, who missed the game because of an illness. Francis put together a solid performance, doing a little bit of everything against the Bulls.

He scored six points, tracked down six rebounds, got three steals, and erased multiple shots with three blocks, including one with emphatic force to start the second half.

“He’s getting there,” said Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson after the game. “I [felt] comfortable starting him tonight.”

Francis has been on a learning curve this season for the Cougars. In his second year with the Houston program, Francis has seen himself get into a consistent rotational spot that has allowed him to grow.

Last season, Francis sat behind a plethora of talented big men, including starters Josh Carlton and Fabian White Jr., as well as Reggie Chaney and J’Wan Roberts.

Being around all those guys helped Francis a lot in practice because they were physical with him, he said, following a win against North Carolina A&T in December. Francis had to get up to their standard and learn how to be just as physical to go against them.

While Francis was not getting consistent minutes his freshman year, he was getting invaluable experience that he has been able to carry over into this season.

“This kid is going to be good,” Sampson said of Francis in December. “He just keeps getting better. His confidence is growing.”

The head coach has said throughout many points this season that Francis, in many ways, is still a freshman. As such, he’s had stellar, high moments, but he has also had some lulls and lows too, as he learns with experience.

Francis showed a little bit of the highs and lows against USF.

“You could tell he was rushing some things around the basket,” Sampson said. “Ja’Vier’s actually got good touch. Tonight, he had a lot of balls dancing around the rim that didn’t fall in, but they could have easily gone in.”

Regardless of how Francis does one night, his teammates have played a crucial role in keeping him on course.

Following Houston’s win last Sunday against Cincinnati, Francis spoke to Gallery Sports in a postgame interview.

As the big man answered a question about his teammate, Walker, a group of players, led by junior guard Jamal Shead, were exiting the locker room on their way out of Fifth Third Arena.

“Ja’Vier is great,” they exclaimed as they walked by.

Francis stopped for a second and smiled.

It was just one example of how his teammates have supported their young big man as he continues to improve.

“They help me a lot,” Francis said. “Like tonight [against Cincinnati], I know I didn’t have a good game at all, but they always talk to me. They be like you’re going to be straight. You’re going to be straight, just next one, go on to the next. That’s what helps me stay focused.”

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