#126 Houston Men's Basketball Preview

Houston Cougars

Overall Rank: #126
Conference Rank: #7 Conference USA

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2010-11: 12-18, 4-12
2010-11 postseason: none
Coach: James Dickey (12-18 at Houston, 176-141 overall)

It was no surprise that Houston struggled during Coach James Dickey’s first year at the helm. This was a team that needed to be rebuilt and Coach Dickey has rebuilt. This season should be a stepping stone to bigger things, but do not be surprised if some pretty good things happen this year. This is an extremely inexperienced group, but if they can come together, the Cougars will be a dangerous team in March.

Who’s Out:
The Cougars had three players who averaged double digit scoring last season and all three are gone. Maurice McNeil, Adam Brown and Zamal Nixon would certainly help this team, but they are replaceable. It will be less experienced players replacing them, as is always the case, but the new players are almost all Coach Dickey recruits and the system is ready to change to the new coaching staff’s liking already and that is a good thing. Kendrick Washington and Nick Haywood are the other departures who were part of the regular rotation during the 2010-2011 campaign.

Who’s In:
This is where Houston starts to get interesting. Their best incoming freshman may be TaShawn Thomas, but the big man is very raw and may need some time, meaning years, before he becomes a consistent force in the paint. In the meantime, the Cougars will look to some more experienced players to fill in the gaps. Junior college transfer Jonathon Simmons is a superb all-around player who is a perfect fit at the small forward position. He can shoot, handle the ball and has plenty of size to help out on the glass. Redshirt freshman Joseph Young is a great scorer. However, he can also handle the ball and could be running the point from day one. Either way, Young should be starting and will be a major contributor. Leon Gibson will provide the Cougars with some much needed size and experience in the paint. The 6-8 transfer from Navarro junior college is not much of a scorer, but he will hit the glass hard. The rest are talented freshmen who could work their way into the regular rotation.  J.J. Thompson is the point guard of the future and possibly the present, Jherrod Stiggers can provide an offensive spark off the bench right away and LeRon Barnes is another big wing who can score and rebound.

Who to Watch:
The frontcourt does have some other options besides the newcomers, although size could be an issue with this group. Kirk Van Slyke is 6-9, but he spends a lot of time out on the perimeter. His ability to shoot the long ball is nice, but the Cougars need more bodies banging in the paint. Alandise Harris is a solid rebounder, but at 6-6 he is an undersized power forward. However, that is where he will have to spend most of his time. After averaging 9.4 points and 5.4 rebounds a year ago, Harris should be in for a big year. Mikhail McLean got his feet wet as a freshman, but will have to be more productive if he wants to hold off the newcomers for minutes off of the bench.

Final Projection:
Houston does not return too many players, but having Darian Thibodeaux around will make life easier for everybody else. The 6-3 senior knocked down 44.0 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc last season and his consistent outside shooting will open up space for everybody else. He is even a decent ball handler and could run the show if needed, but he is much better off at the off-guard spot where he can catch and shoot. That leaves Joseph Young and J.J. Thompson as the primary ball handlers. Young was a big time recruit coming out of high school last year and is ready to make a huge impact. He may be better off as a shooting guard instead of a point guard, and he will spend some time there, but he may be forced to run the point. With his talent, he can still score in bunches and run the offense.

Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
Joseph Young, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Darian Thibodeaux, Senior, Guard, 8.3 points per game
Jonathon Simmons, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Alandise Harris, Sophomore, Forward, 9.4 points per game
Leon Gibson, Junior, Forward, DNP last season

Madness 2011 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings
#110 TaShawn Thomas

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