I take it all back, we can win ... with Clyde

Erik Williams

I started this piece about two weeks ago when UH basketball, as a whole, was in a complete mess.

We all know the story about the men's team, the dismissal of Alvin Brooks and the possibility of the school's three top recruits jumping ship. That's old and tired news. But, the women's basketball situation was even more complicated.

With no warning whatsoever, Jessie Kenlaw resigned, wanting to "pursue new opportunities."

Pursue new opportunities?

That sounds like she was forced out. But in fact, after some research, I think she really did quit. As the search for a new coach continues, the effect of her resignation has been severe.

There were a lot of rumors going around, but one of them suggested that Sharonda Lasseter, who was the Conference USA Freshman of the Year this season, has hinted that she is considering transferring because Kenlaw resigned. There was even some speculation two weeks ago that Kenlaw was even attempting to recall her resignation due to Title IX infractions, but it was all dismissed as hearsay.

Before I go on, I have to pause to commend the women's team. After covering its games for the majority of the season, I just have to give them all the credit in the world for playing with so much heart and determination this year.

Why? Because they not only gave their best in every single game this year, but it must have been difficult to play in front of an average Hofheinz crowd of 250 people.

Still, it looked like with the men's program crumbling fast and with the women's team losing its coach, UH basketball in general may have danced an ugly swan song into a dark future. But all of that was before last week.

Last week, as you may or may not know, Clyde Drexler announced that he was becoming the next UH men's basketball coach after finishing up this season for the Rockets. When I saw the press conference on TV and the follow-up story on Sports Center, I knew this was best possible thing that could happen, not only to the men's team, but to all of UH basketball.

What UH gets in Drexler is one of the greatest guards to ever play in the NBA, a perennial All-Star and a world champion.

Just having Drexler as our coach should be enough to have fans running back to the games.

But, there still is the matter of the school's top recruits (Rashard Lewis, Moses Malone Jr., Donald Emanuel and Waltrip High School's Cedric Taylor). They wanted to come to UH to play for Alvin Brooks, but will they play for Clyde Drexler? Hopefully, Coach Clyde will be the thing that will net UH's top prospects.

While having Drexler as coach will be an obvious boon to the men's program, there could be a hidden lining for the women's team. Since they do have Lasseter (hopefully) for another three years and a youthful squad with some good recruits coming in, they may have some pull to get a big-name coach or a former player to resurrect the team.

This year's women's campaign was a vast improvement from last year's team when it went 5-24.

I don't think they'll be able to beat Tennessee, Old Dominion or Connecticut anytime soon, but they'll be conference contenders for sure in the next two years.

At the beginning of the month, I wrote a rather biting editorial saying that UH basketball was dead and gone. But now I have to take that back. With all that's been going on for the past two weeks, I think that the last three or four years may have just been a bad period. Most schools go through it, even the super-big schools like Duke, Kentucky and especially former laughingstock Arizona.

So, here is how I see things next year for both teams. Lewis, Malone, Emanuel and Taylor will sign or stay on and will be a big part of a squad that will have its first winning season in six years.

Meanwhile, for the women's team, Lasseter will hopefully stay on. If she does, she will make the all-conference's first team, leading the Lady Cougars their first postseason appearance since 1992.

So, that's it. I can't wait for UH basketball next year. It won't be just like the Phi Slama Jama days of the early '80s, but a part of it will be there.

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