HOUSTON – As the University of Houston Men’s Basketball program moves closer to the start of the 2015-16 season, Head Coach Kelvin Sampson and his team led Blackshear Elementary School students in a pep rally on Thursday morning to emphasize the importance of reading.
Joining other speakers at the start of the pep rally, Sampson – who begins his second year with the Cougars in 2015-16 – fired up the students on the importance of reading.
“Exercise is to the body as reading is to the mind,” Sampson told an energetic group of 3rd-graders.
From there, Sampson and junior forward Danrad Knowles and sophomore guards Wes VanBeck and Rob Gray, Jr., Houston cheerleaders and mascot Sasha visited a classroom, where Sampson read Jump! From the Life of Michael Jordan by Floyd Cooper to the students.
After Sampson’s book was finished, Houston Public Library Executive Director Dr. Rhea Lawson presented the students with their own library cards. Those cards will allow access to all Houston-area libraries and digital learning resources this academic year.
The rally started a bracket-themed reading challenge as part of the NCAA Team Works Read to the Final Four Literacy Program. The competition was created by the Houston Independent School District in partnership with the University of Houston, Houston NCAA Final Four Local Organizing Committee and the Houston Public Library. Houston will host the 2016 NCAA Final Four on April 2-4 at NRG Stadium.
Schools will advance in the literacy competition based on the amount of time their students spend reading. Only schools with the highest average number of reading minutes will move on in the competition.
The winning school will be announced in February and will receive a $5,000 cash prize, Final Four trophy, campus celebration and recognition at an official Final Four event.
Blackshear Elementary School was one of 68 campuses selected to participate in the challenge based on its high enrollment of at-risk students and its commitment to the district’s Literacy By 3 Initiative. Launched in the fall of 2014, Literacy By 3 aims to have every child reading on grade level by the end of the third grade.
SECURE SEASON TICKETS
Houston fans can connect with Fan Experience Headquarters by phone, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., at 713-462-6647 and can purchase tickets online 24/7 at UHCougars.com/tickets.
Reserved 1 season tickets are now available for $250 per seat for all 18 regular-season home games, while Reserved 2 season tickets can be purchased for $150 per seat, a cost of $8.33 per game.
As an added benefit, fans who purchase Reserved 1 Men’s Basketball season tickets will receive the same number of Houston Women’s Basketball season tickets FREE.
For the first time in 2015-16, fans also can purchase $99 Anytime season tickets. With Anytime season tickets, fans will receive one ticket for each of the 18 regular-season home games at a cost of only $5.50 per game.
From there, fans can use their Anytime tickets any way they like. They can use one ticket for each home game or take 17 friends to one home game or any combination in between. As always, current University of Houston students are admitted free with valid IDs to Houston Men’s Basketball games inside Hofheinz Pavilion. Fans can view a Hofheinz Pavilion map with season-ticket pricing by clicking here.
Fans should stay tuned to UHCougars.com and Houston Men’s Basketball social media sites for the latest information about ticket sales.
Thirteen of the Cougars’ opponents competed in the postseason at the end of the 2014-15 season. SMU, Cincinnati, LSU and Wyoming advanced to the NCAA Tournament, while Murray State, Rhode Island, North Carolina Central, Tulsa, UConn and Temple competed in the NIT.
ULM advanced to the College Basketball Invitational Finals before falling in three games with both Eastern Illinois and Grand Canyon playing in the College Basketball Invitational.
Eleven teams on the schedule won 20+ games in 2014-15 with Murray State’s 29 victories and 16 Ohio Valley Conference victories leading the way. The Cougars opened the Sampson Era a year ago with a 77-74 win on the road, giving the Racers one of only six losses during the season.
Defending American Athletic Conference champion SMU led the league rivals with 27 wins with Temple close behind with 26 victories. North Carolina Central also posted a perfect 16-0 record in Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference play on the way to 24 wins, while Wyoming posted a 25-10 mark. ULM (24), Cincinnati (23), Tulsa (23), Rhode Island (23), LSU (22) and UConn rounded out the 20-game winners on the Cougars’ schedule.
ABOUT THE COUGARS
The Cougars return six lettermen and four starters from last year’s team, which recorded 13 wins and knocked off defending national champion UConn inside Hofheinz Pavilion for the second consecutive year.
Battling injuries throughout the season, the Cougars enjoyed a late-season surge, winning four of their final five games, including the lone upset in the American Athletic Conference Championship First Round in Hartford, Conn.
Senior guard LeRon Barnes, the Cougars’ lone 3-year letterwinner, returns after ranking among The American’s top-10 leaders in both offensive and defensive rebounding, while senior forward Devonta Pollard enters the 2015-16 campaign as the Cougars’ top returning scorer with 11.4 points per game.
Junior forward Danrad Knowles ranked third on the team in both scoring and rebounding, and senior guard L.J Rose looks for his third 100+ assist season while wearing the Scarlet and White.
Houston also welcomes the return of junior guard Ronnie Johnson and junior forward Bertrand Nkali to competition. Both players practiced with the Cougars but sat out the 2014-15 season after Johnson transferred from Purdue and Nkali missed the year with an injury.
The Cougars will be boosted by the addition of five newcomers to the team, including freshman guard Galen Robinson (Westbury Christian/Houston); sophomore guard Rob Gray, Jr. (Howard JC/Forest City, N.C.); junior guard Damyean Dotson (Oregon/Houston); junior forward Xavier Dupree (Paris JC/Houston) and junior center Kyle Meyer (Eastern Florida State College/Atlanta).
Fans can receive the latest news and notes by following @UHCougarMBK on Twitter. Fans also can discuss the latest Houston Men's Basketball news and notes on the team's Facebook page by clicking LIKE at HoustonCougarMensHoops.