Mar 15, 2023; Birmingham, AL, USA; Houston Cougars guard Marcus Sasser (0) grins as he warms up during practice at Legacy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports
Marcus Sasser, Jamal Shead say they will both play against Auburn in second round of NCAA Tournament
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Houston Cougars basketball team’s starting backcourt of Marcus Sasser and Jamal Shead said on Friday they will be 100% ready to go for UH’s second-round NCAA Tournament game against Auburn.
Both suffered injuries during No. 1-seed Houston’s first-round game against No. 16-seed Northern Kentucky. Sasser felt discomfort in his groin again after straining a muscle in the area against the Cincinnati Bearcats last Saturday in the American Athletic Conference semifinals. Shead said he hyperextended his right knee against the Norse.
“I’m playing tomorrow, 100%,” Sasser told reporters on Friday. “I’ve been doing a lot of rehab treatment since I got back to the hotel yesterday, and, you know, it’s going good.”
“Yeah, I’m good. 100% going tomorrow,” Shead said.
The past week has been jam-packed for Houston’s associate athletic director for sports medicine, John Houston. He has been working with Sasser since last Saturday when he initially suffered the injury against Cincinnati.
“Marcus and I have had many of those conversations even since he went down,” Houston said. “I thought it was his knee to be quite honest cause he hit the floor pretty hard. He hit the splits, hit the floor, I thought he hurt his knee. We’ve been in constant communication since then.”
Sasser has explained to Houston what he has felt and what he has heard from his body on a day-by-day basis, Houston told Gallery Sports. When Sasser came out of the game against Northern Kentucky, Houston could tell the Dallas native was hobbling up-and-down the court.
Immediately, Sasser began speaking with Houston again.
“Did you feel a pop, a snap, did you feel anything different?” Houston asked. “His comment was, ‘I just landed different.’ All of a sudden it felt like it was sore again … He didn’t feel like it was necessarily a re-injury, he just said, ‘it felt funny. Like he had a tingle there.’ He just shut it down at that moment.”
Houston’s comments sound like Sasser’s decision to not play in the second half was precautionary. Houston Cougars head coach Kelvin Sampson told reporters on Friday that Sasser did not re-injure himself against Northern Kentucky.
Sasser said he will be ready to play against Auburn, and Sampson said he trusts his players’ input when it comes to injuries.
The decision to play comes down to the trainer and the player, Sampson said.
“If the trainer thinks he can go and the kid thinks he can go, I trust Marcus, like I trust Jamal,” Sampson stated. “I trust them all. If Marcus is hurt, he will say, coach, I can’t go. Then I won’t play him. If he is out there and can play, that means he can play.
“So he will play as many minutes as he can tomorrow night. I don’t know how many minutes that will be, but that will be up to Marcus.”
For Sasser, his mentality going into the game will be to try and put the thought of the injury out of his mind.
“Really not trying to think about it,” Sasser said. “That’s really all I know how to do is go out there and play 100%. Just really got to try to go out there and not think about it because I feel like [if] you favor it, [if] I think about it, you just won’t be yourself. I just really want to go out there and be myself 100%.”