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Return to the 2006-07 Top 144 Preview

September 22nd, 2006

By Joel Welser

Broadcast Basketball


Houston Cougars


Overall Rank: #49

Conference Rank: #2 C-USA


2005-06: 21-10, 9-5, 4th

2005-06 postseason: NIT


The recovery time of Lanny Smith will go a long way to deciding the success of the 2006-2007 season for Houston.  Smith underwent successful surgery to repair a displaced fracture in his left big toe and could return as early as December.  If that date lingers into January or February, the Cougars will lose their experienced point guard and be in big trouble.


Who’s Out: There are important losses all over the floor at Houston.  Brian Latham started 19 games as a senior and averaged 7.2 points and 4.1 assists on the year.  Fellow guard Chris Lawson provided a few quality minutes off the bench.  The forward spot took the biggest hit in the off-season.  Ramon Dyer averaged 12.1 points and a team high 6.1 boards.  Lamar Roberson left the program after earning six starts as a freshman and could have played a bigger role for UH this season.  Little used forward Darrius Brannon has also run out eligibility.  Center Sergio de Randamie never put up huge numbers during his time under Coach Tom Penders, but started 13 games last year and was a solid, experienced big man. 


Who’s In: What do you when you lose so much talent and experience?  Well, Coach Penders brings in a whole bunch of junior college transfers.  Charlie Jones III might see a few minutes at the point guard spot while Smith is sidelined.  Jones III is a pure point guard who can utilize his speed without committing too many turnovers.  Apparently depth at the two guard was a concern, but it isn’t anymore.  Rob McKiver, Marcus Malone and Robert Lee are all transfers who will see some time on the wings.  McKiver spent a season at Providence before transferring to San Jacinto College in Texas and should excel in Houston’s style of play.  Malone has some Division I experience as well, spending his freshman campaign at DePaul before heading to the juco level and ending up at Houston.  At 6-5, Malone has the versatility to play anywhere on the perimeter and could see some minutes at the point.  Lee is a great scorer and will attack the basket effectively.  The NJCAA Second-Team All-American averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.7 steals last year at Seminole State College in Oklahoma.   Dion Dowell, a transfer from Texas, will be eligible mid-season.  The 6-6 wing saw limited action for the Longhorns, but his athleticism will make a big impact for the Cougars as soon as he is eligible.  Anthony Jones, a teammate of Lee at Seminole last year, will add some more depth at the small forward spot.  Power forward Tafari Toney will provide a much needed post presence on both sides of the floor and will compete for a starting gig right away.  Center Nick Mosley, the lone freshman on the roster, knows how to score and is a great athlete.


Who to Watch: Yes, there are some returning players on this team.  The most notable is last year’s leading scorer, Oliver Lafayette, who averaged 15.7 points per game as a junior.  The 6-2 guard is a clutch shooter and will take all the big shots for the Cougars.  Lafayette tends to take a few too many three balls and would be more effective if he mixed it up a little more.  The 6-2, Baton Rogue, Louisiana native is the most likely candidate to move over and run the point while Smith is sidelined.  Forward Sam Anderson doesn’t have much experience after averaging 13.3 minutes in 20 games last year, but at least he has some experience playing at UH. 


Final Projection: Jahmar Thorpe started 25 games last year, averaging 9.2 points and 4.7 rebounds.  At 6-6 and 225 pounds, Thorpe is a little undersized to play the four, but the Cougars will need his rebounding prowess in the paint.  The frontcourt is a concern and will remain so all season long.  However, the backcourt is talented enough to lead Houston to the NCAAs.  The newcomers will need to get it together early, especially while Smith is sidelined, because there won’t be any time for Coach Penders to mess around if he wants to boost the RPI in November and December and have a shot at an at-large bid.


Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT


Projected Starting Five:

Oliver Lafayette, Senior, Guard, 15.7 points per game

Robert McKiver, Junior, Guard, DNP last season

Robert Lee, Junior, Guard, DNP last season

Jahmar Thorpe, Senior, Forward, 9.2 points per game

Tafari Toney, Junior, Forward, DNP last season

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