Overall Rank: #100
Conference Rank: #4 Conference USA
2008-09: 21-12, 10-6
2008-09 postseason: CBI
Coach: Tom Penders (102-61 at Houston, 629-421 overall)
Houston has gotten used to replacing important players and still having successful seasons. It seems to happen nearly every year. The Cougars won 21 games last season and made it to the postseason despite having to replace a handful of so-called irreplaceable players. The prospects this year are a little slim as well thanks to a couple key frontcourt departures, but this is a team that will be carried back to the postseason on the shoulders of a great backcourt.
Key Losses: F Qa’rraan Calhoun, C Marcus Cousin, G DaShaun Williams
Coach Tom Penders needed to address the frontcourt with this class anyway, but the unexpected departure of starter Qa’rrann Calhoun, who left to play ball in Europe, makes the newcomers very important. Most notable are junior college transfers Maurice McNeil and Kahmell Broughton. Bryce Clark, Kirk Van Slyke and Kendrick Washington will be given the opportunity to play some minutes, but the junior college transfers really need to show their experience and be ready to contribute right away. Shooting guard Adam Brown, yet another juco player, will battle for minutes off the bench.
Yet, it will not be easy to get minutes on the wing with Aubrey Coleman and Kelvin Lewis returning. Coleman had a superb season during his first year with the Cougars. The 6-4 senior tallied 19.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.3 steals per game. He will use his size and strength to get to the basket and he is obviously very successful once he gets there. Most of the time the best way to defend him is to foul, but he is a pretty good free-throw shooter so that plan usually backfires. Lewis is the long range shooter on the team and ranked right behind Coleman with 18.0 points per game. Lewis usually gets headlines for his shooting, but he is also a superb defender.
Marcus Cousin and Calhoun both averaged over ten points per game and Cousin was the team’s best rebounder and shot blocker. The newcomers will have to help replace those two, but there are a couple returning options as well. Nick Mosley is an experienced senior who averaged just over ten minutes per game last year. He is not going to dominate as much as Cousin did, but he can hit the glass and block a few shots. Like the other Coleman, Sean Coleman entered from the junior college ranks last year, but this Coleman was not as successful. He did earn a couple starts, but he averaged less than six minutes per contest. At the least, he is a senior and has been in the system for a year, which is more than can be said for the newcomers.
Who to Watch:
The guys on the wings will do most of the scoring, but their success last year had a lot to do with Desmond Wade and Zamal Nixon getting them the ball in good scoring positions. Both are back again this year and will be the main distributors and backups for Coleman and Lewis on the wings when necessary. Wade played more last year and ended the season with a team high 3.4 assists per game. He also only turned the ball over an average of 1.2 times and is an underappreciated defender.
As long as the newcomers in the frontcourt, or the inexperienced returning players, can fill the void left behind by Calhoun and Cousin, Houston will go back to the postseason. It is quite helpful that the Cougars have a guard like Coleman who can dominate the glass. The frontcourt does not have to score much or even be that great on the glass, but they do have to clog the lane on the defensive end. If they do, Houston could have a surprisingly successful campaign thanks to their great group on the perimeter.
Projected Post-season Tournament: CBI/CIT
Projected Starting Five:
Desmond Wade, Sophomore, Guard, 4.8 points per game
Kelvin Lewis, Senior, Guard, 18.0 points per game
Aubrey Coleman, Senior, Guard, 19.4 points per game
Maurice McNeil, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Nick Mosley, Senior, Center, 2.6 points per game