Houston Cougars men’s basketball forward J’Wan Roberts during a game in the 2021-22 season. Roberts is entering his junior season for Houston in 2022-23. (Courtesy Sean Thomas)
The Houston Cougars men’s basketball team, led by head coach Kelvin Sampson, is getting closer to tipping off the 2022-23 season. In preparation for the opener, UH will be traveling to San Antonio to meet Chris Beard’s Texas Longhorns for a closed-door scrimmage this weekend.
The not-so-secret scrimmage, which was first reported by Watch Stadium, will be used by both programs as an opportunity to work against another high-caliber team in preparation for the new season. Houston is also scheduled to hold a scrimmage against Duke next weekend.
“This team needs to be exposed. The earlier, the better,” Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson said last Saturday following the team’s intrasquad red-white scrimmage.
The head coach said that Houston has not often scrimmaged during their first three weeks of practices. Sampson has always scrimmaged against other opponents in the past, including against Beard’s teams going back to his days at Texas Tech.
Normally Houston would do one scrimmage and an exhibition game, but UH does not have an exhibition game this year, Sampson said. The head coach added that he wishes his team could have five scrimmages before the season tipped off.
Going back to last Saturday, Houston had already gone through 13-to-14 practices, Sampson stated. Houston has focused on starting from the bottom and working its way up, particularly getting the new faces on the team caught up with the team’s expectations.
“The big thing for us is freshmen,” Sampson said. “We got freshmen that need to play this year, and we just got to wait on them to get what the other guys already have. If there is one guy in five that don’t get it, that means none of them do, so we just got to be patient with these guys.”
The scrimmages come on the heels of the release of the first Associated Press Poll, which had Houston ranked third in the country; Duke seventh; and Texas 12th.
While the poll has no bearing on how the teams will produce when the season rolls around, being able to schedule a scrimmage against those high-caliber teams is another testament to where Houston’s program stands, specifically Duke, one of the long-time blue blood programs in college basketball.
“I think it is a pretty good validation that a lot of people believe in our program,” said lead assistant coach Kellen Sampson on Monday about Houston’s high ranking.
Once the scrimmages are in the rearview mirror, Houston hopes it will help the team have a better grasp of where its strengths and weaknesses lie ahead of Nov. 7 when the season begins against Northern Colorado.
“It’s going to be a good test for us, you know, they are really good in what they do,” Houston guard Jamal Shead said about the upcoming scrimmages.