UH basketball prospects Lewis, Taylor still undecided

James Beltran

Sports Editor

After the University of Houston sent shockwaves across the nation by hiring Clyde Drexler as its head basketball coach, questions have risen about how he may fare in his new line of work.

With no coaching experience on any level, Drexler will undoubtedly have his critics. Even the most harsh pessimists, however, must concede that Drexler's ability to recruit can translate into at least a slight turnaround for the struggling UH program.

If the Cougar players' excitement after last Wednesday's news conference is any indication of what athletes think about playing for "The Glide," Drexler should have no problem taking his selective pick from the talent pool that will line up outside his office after the Rockets' season concludes.

"He's going to have to make some adjustments from playing to coaching," said UH sophomore guard Willie Moore. "I'm really excited about playing for him. I think he'll be a good coach."

But bitterness continues to dwell in the hearts of at least two of Houston's top high school prospects as a result of former coach Alvin Brooks' firing on March 1.

Rashard Lewis' opposition to the decision is well documented. He claims UH is scratched off his list of possible schools because of the firing. The Elsik Rams' 6-10 star is considered one of the top prospects in the nation.

Lewis said Drexler joining the Cougar program has not changed his decision for now. He will talk with his parents and is expected to make his decision in early April.

If he passes on the NBA draft, Lewis' top two college choices are Florida State and Kansas.

Another elite talent the Cougars may have let slip from their paws is Waltrip's Cedric Taylor. Also disgruntled by Brooks' departure, Taylor said he is not sure what college he will commit to.

Since Drexler's hire, UH has not been ruled out from his list of possibilities.

"This move might change my mind," said Taylor, who is considered the No. 2 prospect in Texas behind Lewis. "(Drexler) knows the game and what it takes to win," he added.

Waltrip coach Fred Smith said other Conference USA schools are trying to recruit Taylor. UNC Charlotte, Southern Mississippi and Louisville have all shown interest, with Louisville leading the pack.

"I won't say definitely he's not coming (to UH)," Smith said. "Houston told us Brooks was going to stay another year. That didn't happen. I would hope he would stay local so we could see him play, but I just want what's best for him. He's like a son to me."

Smith added that Drexler's presence may draw in recruits but that his commitment to finish the last 43 hours of his degree could keep him away from his coaching responsibilities.

"Trying to finish his degree, how much is Drexler going to be around to coach?" Smith questioned. "It's more like it's going to be (assistant coach) Reid Gettys' team."

Sports director at KCOH Ralph Cooper has seen Taylor play on a regular basis and said the Waltrip star is on the same level with Lewis.

"After watching Cedric, I think he has played against better competition," Cooper said. "Nothing against Rashard Lewis, but I would take Cedric over him. He has a more all-around game."

What Drexler can do about recruiting these specific talents is anyone's guess. Although both initially expressed interest in UH, don't be surprised to see these two Texas boys fly the coop for seemingly greener pastures.

But the nation's top programs will find it impossible to keep the door completely shut on Drexler. His name is too big and the his appeal much too irresistible to keep Houston from rising back to the top.

Phi Slama Jama II is not in the making, but a better recruiting trend for the Cougars is.

This story originally appeared in Houston News Today.


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