2008-09 Houston Basketball Preview: #137

    
July 7th, 2008

Houston Cougars

Overall Rank: #137

Conference Rank: #8 C-USA

 

2007-08: 24-10, 11-5, 3rd

2007-08 postseason: CBI

 

Houston should take a step back this year after tallying 24 wins during the 2007-2008 campaign, including a couple postseason wins in the inaugural CBI tournament. However, with four junior college transfers heading into the program, Coach Tom Penders is looking to immediately keep that success going.

 

Who’s Out:

Six players started 11 or more games last season and five of them are gone. Sharpshooting Rob McKiver led the way with 23.6 points per game. Dion Dowell was no slouch from beyond the arc either and he led the team with 6.8 rebounds per contest. Tafari Toney was the defensive presence under the basket, Marcus Malone provided a spark off the bench and point guard Lanny Smith made everything tick. That is a lot of talent and experience to replace.

 

Who’s In:

But the Cougars have five guys ready to step in and replace the departing five. They might lack in experience and chemistry for the time being, but the talent level takes a surprisingly small drop. The lone incoming freshman is Desmond Wade. The point guard is extremely quick and plays a smart game. He will keep the turnovers down and create plenty of turnovers on the other side of the court. His offense will be limited for a while, but the 5-8 Linden, New Jersey product can hit floaters over taller defenders in the lane. Aubrey Coleman will add a scoring threat to the backcourt. The 6-3 combo guard is not the best shooter around, but he will score in bunches by getting to the basket. The other three junior college transfers are all big men. Qa’rraan Calhoun is the best of the bunch. Calhoun, who played at Saint John’s as a freshman, is an extremely versatile big man. At 6-8 and 215 pounds, his ability to shoot from outside can really stretch out the opposing defense. But he does need to use his size more and spend less time hanging around the perimeter. Sean Coleman and Horace Dixon, both 6-8 power forwards, will add some much needed depth to the frontcourt.

 

Who to Watch:

The big question is whether or not the returning perimeter players are ready to become team leaders. Zamal Nixon had a decent freshman campaign and will battle with Wade for the starting point guard spot. Brockeith Pane could be a dynamic scorer if his outside shot develops a little more consistency and DaShaun Williams is a solid rebounder for a 6-2 guard. However, it is Kelvin Lewis who averaged 10.2 points per game last season and could be the team’s leading scorer this time around. Lewis, who played at Auburn as a freshman, takes a few too many shots from long range, but he can score in other ways. At 6-4, he needs to start using his size not just to grab rebounds, but to get to the basket. If that happens, Lewis will be difficult to stop.

 

Final Projection:

There are a lot of questions, but there is a lot of talent too. Marcus Cousin only averaged 13.8 minutes per game last year, but now he will likely be the starting center. There are a lot of players like Cousin who will go from roleplayers to starters this year. If the transition is successful, the Cougars can win 20 games and think about a better post season tournament than the CBI. If not, even another trip to the CBI will be tough to attain.

 

Projected Post-season Tournament: none

 

Projected Starting Five:

Desmond Wade, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season

Kelvin Lewis, Junior, Guard, 10.2 points per game

Aubrey Coleman, Junior, Guard, DNP last season

Qa’rraan Calhoun, Junior, Forward, DNP last season

Marcus Cousin, Senior, Center, 4.4 points per game