With 15 games down, Houston Cougars basketball is ‘heading in the right direction’ but still growing

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Michael Wyke/AP/Shutterstock (13613264r) Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson, right, talks with forward Jarace Walker (25) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Northern Colorado, in Houston N Colorado Basketball, Houston, United States – 07 Nov 2022

With 15 games down, Houston Cougars basketball is ‘heading in the right direction’ but still growing

The Houston Cougars basketball team has entered the new year, and with the holiday season behind it, UH has also passed through one of the checkpoints that head coach Kelvin Sampson uses to see where his team is at every season.

Sampson likes to utilize holidays as markers, he has said in the past. In October, the team is learning a lot without having played any games. In November, come Thanksgiving, the team has had about three weeks of experience under its belt, and come Christmas, that résumé has grown to two months worth of games.

For the 2022-23 Cougars, ranked second in both national polls, Sampson said his team is on the right track so far, but it still has a lot of space to grow heading into the heart of conference play, which continues Thursday against SMU.

“We are 14-1,” Sampson told reporters on Tuesday morning in a Zoom call. “We’ve had two big road wins. The team’s progressing. We are moving in the right direction. Teaching a team how to win is not easy. It’s hard to win a game. I never take any of them for granted.”

Many people from the outside, fans in particular, will look at the upcoming schedule for Houston and pencil in wins. This game is a lock, that game is a lock, but for Sampson, it is the opposite, he said.

Sampson looks at the team’s schedule and says they can lose this game; they can lose that game if they do not play the right way. The key to being able to find success, the head coach said, is in having an identity and playing up to it.

“For us, we have to know how we want to play,” Sampson stated. “Roles have to be defined. Roles have to be accepted, and then, over the course of the season, improvements have to be made.”

Houston has players right now that are not playing as well as they can or as well as they’d like to, but they are coming and getting better, Sampson said.

In the future, when they have a good game, the Cougars won’t be surprised because they will have seen it in practice, he added. Everything for Houston starts in practice, Sampson’s said in the past. It is a non-negotiable for him.

Another key for Houston’s younger players is being patient.

“When you are on a good team, when you are on a ranked team, any ranked team, it’s harder to get on that floor of that team than a team that is 1-14 or 5-9 that is going nowhere,” Sampson said. “You can get a lot of playing time on certain teams.”

“Sometimes you have to keep working and control your attitude and control your effort.”

Houston will have its fair share of losses just like everyone else will, Sampson said. it’s a long season with a lot of unpredictability, especially on the road, among the team of 18-to-22-year-olds, but when UH loses, it learns, just like when it wins, the team learns.

With 15 games crossed off the 2022-23 season, Houston feels like it still has a lot of potential left it can reach.

“We still have plenty of room to get better on both ends of the floor,” Houston Cougars guard Tramon Mark said Monday on Kelvin Sampson’s weekly radio show. “I think it will all work out toward the end of the season.”

The Houston Cougars basketball team has roughly two and a half months of the season left, and if everything goes really well, three full months left. In the meantime, until UH reaches its final game of the year, whenever that may be, Sampson is going to take pleasure in being able to coach this batch of players.

“I have great kids. I love this team,” Sampson said. “I feel blessed and lucky to be able to coach these kids. I don’t know what the journey is going to hold, but we are going to enjoy it.”

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