HOUSTON – The University of Houston Men’s Basketball program officially tipped off the 2015-16 season Sunday afternoon with the start of team workouts inside Hofheinz Pavilion.
The Cougars, who return six lettermen and four starters from the 2014-15 squad, practiced for more than two hours Sunday. After pushing his squad through drills and team situations, Head Coach Kelvin Sampson, who will be starting his second season at Houston, said he was pleased with the team’s performance on the first day.
“It was a typical first practice, but it was night and day from last year,” Sampson said. “These guys are much further along. Certain guys really stood out today and had good practices. I love the enthusiasm and the effort, and I loved our leadership. We are going to be a good team.”
One advantage that the Cougars enjoy this season over many NCAA Division I teams was a 10-day trip to China in mid-August. Under NCAA rules, teams are allowed to compete on international trips once every four years.
The Cougars competed in 10 team practices inside Hofheinz Pavilion before leaving for China and enjoyed a 3-1 record in games against the Chinese Junior National Team and the Xingdao Doublestars of the Chinese Basketball Association.
“Early practices are where the China trip really helps,” Sampson said. “Those practices and games gave us a standard of expectations.
As he looked over his team, Sampson said the Cougars’ versatility will be a strength in 2015-16.
“We have good depth at the guard position. We will be able to play guys in the right position. With a year of recruiting, we were able to get a team that looks like a basketball team,” Sampson said. “We can play big or we can be a small team. Over the course of the year, there will be situations that need both.”
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.