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Wednesday, November 10, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 57

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Excitement of basketball season just around the corner

By Rohith Nandagiri
Sports Opinion

I can feel it in the air. It is turning cooler outside, and some of the leaves are changing color -- almost.

It is fall, which means football in the park for some. For me, though, it is college basketball time. More importantly, it is Cougar basketball time.


Kenny Younger (50) and the Houston Cougars will tip off the 1999-2000 men's basketball season on Friday with an exhibition against the Houston Flight.

Pin Lim/The Daily Cougar

Today was the first official signing day, meaning a new crop of talent will invade the campus next year. At press time, a few stars had already committed to UH.

Alton Ford, the star at local Milby High School, has said for months that he wants to come to UH. Two junior college studs will be joining him.

Patrick Okafor, a 6'8" forward from Baytown Lee Junior College, will sign with UH head basketball coach Clyde Drexler today.

Cedric Taylor, who has seemingly traveled all over the world, will again sign with the Cougars.

You may recall he signed with the Cougars in 1998, but had eligibility problems. He went from Houston to Garden City, Kan., to San Jacinto, where he is playing this year.

Taylor is also 6'8" and looks to fill in nicely at the small forward position.

If the team gets those three players, it will solidify the big positions for a few seasons.

Of the three, though, Ford is the key. He is ranked as one of the top 15 players in the nation, and is possibly the best center prospect available. It will be the best big man prospect the Cougars have had since ... well ... Greg "Cadillac" Anderson.

But for now, the Cougars will have to go to battle with their current squad.

This year's group will be very competitive this season because of its strong guard play. It might have the best guard tandem in Conference USA with the duo of Bernard Smith and Gee Gervin.

The Cougars might also have the conference newcomer of the year in freshman forward George Williams. However, he will be up against stiff competition from Cincinnati's DerMarr Johnson.

George Williams

But from top to bottom, the Cougars do not have the depth at the post positions that they would like.

Senior Kenny Younger and Williams will be getting most of the playing time until sophomore Jake Ballis comes back from an injury. Senior Early Smith will see playing time if he can come back from his injury.

Despite the lack of depth in the frontcourt, the small positions are stacked with players.

Chad Hendrick will be asked to play more minutes. He needs to rebound from a subpar 1998-1999 season. Derrick Fernandez is a strong slasher and leaper. He also had his title of best dunk artist handed over to the two freshmen during this year's Midnight Madness.

One of the freshmen, Marcus Oliver, was a great find. He is a superb athlete who has played big time high school basketball in North Carolina. In fact, his high school team won the state title this past spring. He and Williams will combine for a great duo for the next few seasons.

Drexler and his staff are definitely building a good program around outstanding talent. They have gotten three of the last four Houston area Players of the Year, and are looking to get another one today.

The season gets off the ground at 7:35 p.m. Friday in an exhibition game against the Houston Flight in Hofheinz Pavilion.

Small Request ...

Just as every writer is doing at this time of the year, I am going to compile a list of the 30 greatest Cougar athletes of all time. I would like to hear the thoughts of Cougar fans, so please feel free to e-mail your responses.
 

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dcsports@mail.uh.edu.
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