Mandatory Credit: Photo by Kevin M Cox/AP/Shutterstock (13660490bm) Houston guard Tramon Mark (12) drives between Alabama guard Mark Sears (1) and forward Brandon Miller (24) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, in Houston Alabama Basketball, Houston, United States – 10 Dec 2022
Houston Cougars basketball redshirt sophomore guard Tramon Mark has overcome extra adversity during his tenure with UH.
The Dickinson native had a freshman season in 2020-21 that had some eye-popping moments, including his half-court buzzer beater against Memphis and clutch, and-one tip-in against Rutgers in the NCAA Tournament, but in his true sophomore year, all that momentum came to a screeching halt when Mark had to take a long absence from basketball due to a tear of his labrum in his left shoulder.
“His game never progressed last year,” Houston Cougars head coach Kelvin Sampson told reporters during a Zoom call earlier this season. “Through no fault of anyone, it’s the way that happened because of his injury.”
Mark actually suffered the injury in February of his freshman season, the team’s associate athletic director for sports medicine, John Houston, told Gallery Sports in December.
After Houston’s Final Four run, Mark had a magnetic resonance image, or MRI, done on his left shoulder, his dominant one, and it revealed he had a posterior tear, Houston said.
Usually, players don’t have surgery on a posterior tear because the shoulder is stable, Houston said. It heals up over time along with calculated rehab, which is what the Cougars did with Mark, he added.
Mark was treated with platelet-rich plasma injections, a solution comprised of a person’s own blood and platelets that are used to accelerate the healing process in athletes, according to John Hopkins Medicine. The rehab for Mark went great over the summer before the 2021-22 year, Houston said.
Come August, however, Mark’s shoulder started bothering him again, Houston said. A couple of months later, Mark took a big shot during an October practice, which led to the Cougars running another MRI on Mark’s shoulder, Houston added.
It looked unchanged, Houston said, so the team continued rehabbing it. Around the same time, Mark met with Sampson one-on-one.
“I told him, ‘my shoulder is bothering me, that’s why I’m not really like in the groove as much as I am,’” said Mark on Monday evening during Kelvin Sampson’s weekly radio show. “Going into the season, I already wasn’t into [a] groove. I missed a couple of games into the season.”
Against Alabama, in early December 2021, Mark took another hit to his shoulder, and this time it was the final blow, Houston said.
“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Houston said.
Shortly after the Alabama game, Sampson called Mark in again. This time it was to let him know the team would not let him continue playing.
“Tramon, that’s it,” Sampson told Mark. “Let’s go ahead and shut this down and get surgery done as soon as possible.”
Mark got emotional, the head coach said.
“It was tough,” Mark said. “After that Alabama game, like coach said, I was in tears, I just wanted to play, but I knew it had to be done. As a competitor, player, you want to be out there on the floor, but I knew it had to be done.”
After the surgery and initial recovery, Mark had to go through rehab again. The guard said it was a slow process, but every day there was gradual progress, and he methodically started to have more movement, which motivated him, Mark added.
The goal for Mark was to be ready by June 1 ahead of the 2022-23 season, Houston said. Mark reached that goal, and he was able to finally put the shoulder troubles behind him. Entering the new basketball year, however, Mark had to catch up in some ways on the court.
“Tramon was so further behind than Jamal [Shead] and Marcus [Sasser],” Sampson said. “He was nowhere close to their level when the season started.”
This season has been a year of growth for Mark as an overall basketball player. When he came out of high school, he was a strong scorer, but he didn’t understand shot selection, Sampson said. A lot of the kids out of high school don’t.
“He [had] to get back up to speed and then the season started,” Sampson said. “He’s had some OK games. Then some other games where he just wasn’t making the right play. There is always one game that is going to be pivotal in your schedule in nonconference. Every year there is one game where you are going to get exposed to some things you need to be exposed on.”
For Houston, and Mark, that game was against Alabama.
“After the Alabama game, that was a great pivot for us,” Sampson said.
One of the emphases the Houston Cougars have had on offense since the battle with the Crimson Tide has been on ball movement and making the right plays.
For Mark, the emphasis has been on getting the ball to the rim, using his right hand more, and making the right plays, Sampson said. A goal that not only takes time but is happening simultaneously with 12 others on the roster focusing on their own goals too.
“It’s just like all these satellites orbiting in space,” Sampson said. “You’re trying to get them all to stop and get together, and it takes a long time to do that. You have to let them make mistakes. You have to let them have success. There’s no period at the end of what we are doing, but the commas are less frequent now, and I think the guy that has helped us with that is Tramon. He’s doing a better job of making the right play instead of just premeditating his plays.”
Now entering his fourth full semester of college basketball, excluding the seven games he played in the 2021-22 year, Mark is beginning to feel a comfort level on the court.
“I think the game is actually slowing down for me a little bit,” Mark said. “It’s just easier for me to make reads, deciding whether to shoot the ball, pass the ball; I think it is getting a lot easier for me. Going forward, I’m going to continue to work at it, but I think it’s been a lot easier for me.”