HOUSTON HEAD COACH Kelvin Sampson
“We wore them down. We’ve said all along that the strength of our team is going to be our depth, and you understand why watching our team tonight. We don’t have one guy we just depend on. The way this team is built, we can play different combinations. We can be big. We can be small. We can be fast.
But how much we improve between now and Saturday, and then from Saturday to next Saturday, these early games are all about getting these new guys’ feet wet. That was the first official game that seven players played tonight. It’s good to see them get out there and do some good things. We made enough mistakes to make tomorrow’s practice important, but we did enough good things that we can feel good about it.”
On adjusting to the new rules this year
“Don’t foul. We have to adjust to these new rules. A lot of those fouls last year weren’t fouls. You saw a lot of those touch fouls. When the other team is shooting in the bonus at the nine minute mark all of a sudden it’s going to be a slow game. That’s not the referee’s fault. They’re just enforcing the rule that they were given.
They said we wanted to see more offensive freedom, so they’re going to call everything tighter. One of the things that gave Prairie View a lot of points tonight was we gave them 19 points at the free throw line. A lot those were mindless fouls: fouls that were inconsequential. Go set a screen, our guards jump up to dictate, boom foul. We have so many unnecessary fouls. It’s going to take a lot of teams early in the year to adjust to that, not just us.
I’ve been watching games. This team’s conference has had about three or four teams that have had big upsets. Alabama State won at Virginia Tech. Arkansas-Pine Bluff was ahead of Oklahoma State at halftime the other night. Same teams in this league that this team was picked ahead of have been beating teams. So it shows how well we played offensively tonight.”
On having a deep team
“One of the things we wanted to do coming out of halftime is extend our pressure. We had a lot of points off our press tonight. But we can press, because we have depth. I promised not to bring up last year’s team anymore, but last year we couldn’t press because we just didn’t have any depth. We had to play slow and get back and play very soft man, but now we can extend. Because of that we have to play smarter.
But we have some guys that probably, in practice, and in China our best offensive player has been Rob (Gray Jr). He fouled out tonight in 16 minutes. Our shot selection was good. Shooting percentage was high. We had 21 assists. We work very hard every day on free-throw shooting. Our guys shot the free-throws well. Actually our best free-throw shooter every day has been Ronnie (Johnson) and he’s the one that missed, so go figure that. But Bert made two, so we’re on the good end of that.”
On who will be in the starting lineup
“Depends on how they practice. Some days they might come out and think they’re better than they actually are, don’t want to practice hard, and let somebody else be in the lineup for them. That’s the luxury that I have. John Wooden had a great quote a long time ago: he said, “that bench is a great motivator,” and I’m not afraid to use it.”
On how the team will play this season.
“A lot of improvement. A guy that was really good tonight was Ronnie (Johnson). Ronnie was really good tonight. His decision-making was excellent. We scored a 100 points against a division-one team: that’s usually pretty good.
Friday night there was no rhyme or reason to anything I was doing. I started a team that I’ll never start again. I substituted five guys for five guys, which I’ll probably never do again ever. Friday was just an exhibition game, and I treated it that way.
Tonight was more like the way you’ll see us play. You saw our system tonight. We want to play fast. We want to score in transition. We want to get as much off our defense as we can. As we go along, it’s November 18, we’re going to be a lot better. We’re going to be a lot better December 18 than we are November 18. We’re going to be a lot better January 18 than we are December 18. It’s our first game. We have 30 more. We’ll get better as we go.”
On freshman point guard Galen Robinson
“Galen is coming from a high school system where he won three consecutive state championships and led them in every statistical category imaginable. He played every minute of every game, and he was MVP for three straight years. All of a sudden he’s coming here and playing behind a fourth-year junior who started 59 games in the big ten at Purdue, so he is having to adjust to a lot of things. He has been practicing well and did a lot of good things tonight. He’s a freshman, and they have a different mindset than a junior or senior. He will show a lot of improvement. I love that kid. He is a winner.”
On if he thought Galen Robinson was pressing
“At times you could probably make that argument. He made a couple bone-headed turnovers, but he is also playing with a group he’s never played with before. We usually don’t mix and match during practice as much as we will starting now. Galen is a big part of what we are building. When we go small for instance, you put your best ball handlers, passers and shooters in the games. We have three guards, and that’s a pretty good way to end the game.”
On what the season will look like
“Obviously our identity is what it is. As I said earlier, we have a lot of depth. We have two point guards, Rob (Gray Jr.) and (Damyean) Dotson. You have seen Wes VanBeck and what he is doing. The kid had 14 against East Carolina last year. He is a good player. You have Wes, Rob, and Galen all coming off the bench with Xavier (Dupree). You saw what Xavier could do tonight. Chicken started every game last year and played about 30 minutes each game. He is our fifth post right now. We are a lot better basketball team now.”
On this year’s recruiting class
“I’ve built a lot of programs, but we have got to stack some recruiting classes. We have had one recruiting class, because you can’t count the first one. We signed two really good players this November. We are going to get a lot better next year too. When you build a program you have to stack really good recruiting classes behind each other. Dotson, Ronnie (Johnson), Rob (Gray Jr.), Kyle (Meyer), Galen (Robinson Jr.), Xavier (Dupree) they were all in the same recruiting class, and we knew how good that class was. You all just had to see it for yourself.
HOUSTON JUNIOR GUARD RONNIE, JOHNSON
On playing point guard
“I felt kind of comfortable. I was just taking what the defense gave me. I just tried to make the right choice whether that was taking the shot, or swinging it out to our shooters.”
On the team this year
“We have a lot more guards this year and a lot more people on the ball. We also have a lot more shooters. Like coach said we have a lot of depth, and everybody can backup one another.”
HOUSTON SENIOR FORWARD DEVONTA, POLLARD
On plans for the season
“It felt great to win, and this year I’m just trying to go out and play with a lot of emotions. I want to lose myself on one end like my coach has been preaching from day one. Everything else will just take care of itsself.”