UH moves forward without
four suspended players
By Jake McKim
Daily Cougar Staff
The Cougars are now a living testament
to the old saying, "Life doesn't always go according to plan."
Before Saturday, the Cougars were rolling
along with a surprisingly strong 15-11 overall record and were well on
the way to restoring the UH men's
basketball program to respectability and
Kevin Harwerth/The Daily
Junior guard Marcus Oliver
will be suspended for tonight's game, along with teammates Dominic Smith
and Louis Truscott. Sophomore guard Kevin Gaines is suspended for the remainder
of the season.
On Saturday, it all came crashing down.
On Monday, sophomore starting point guard
Kevin Gaines was arraigned in a Greenville, N.C., courthouse for allegedly
choking, pushing and throwing a
punch at a woman outside a nightclubearly
Saturday morning after the UH-East Carolina game. A trial date was set
for March 13.
Gaines was suspended for the remainder
of the season. Star senior guard Dominic Smith, dominant junior forward
Louis Truscott and valuable backup
junior guard Marcus Oliver were suspended
indefinitely for violating the team's 2 a.m. curfew but could return as
early as Saturday's home game against
Alabama-Birmingham. Their connection to
the incident involving Gaines is not clear.
It didn't help that the Cougars were manhandled
by ECU 63-46, turning in one of their worst performances in what has been
a magical season. In that
contest, Smith led the team in scoring
with 14 points and junior forward George Williams added 11, but that was
about it for the Cougars.
But the badly undermanned Cougars don't
have time to sulk about their losses. Head coach Ray McCallum's team will
face South Florida tonight in Tampa
with eight players in uniform, three of
whom are walk-ons with little to no experience.
"Our job is to find a way," McCallum said.
"We're going to have to make some minor
changes in terms of personnel, but for the most part we're going to go
out and play Houston basketball the way we
have all season long," he said.
Despite their off-court problems, the Cougars
will need to refocus to have any chance of beating a decent South Florida
team that is 17-10 overall and 7-7 in
Conference USA. The Cougars are currently
one game ahead of the Bulls for second place in C-USA's National Division
and could clinch that spot with a
"We just have to stay focused on the task
at hand, which is South Florida," Williams said. "We are ready to go to
war with the guys we have."
If the Cougars are to pull off the improbable
victory over the Bulls, it will be with the 6-8 Williams, who typically
plays power forward, at the point position. That
will be a difficult task for Williams,
but one he seems ready to take on.
"I'm ready for the challenge," Williams
said. "I'm willing to do whatever it takes to put us in a position to win."
Freshman Bryan Shelton, senior walk-on
Terry Price and junior Jeremee McGuire will likely join Williams in the
starting lineup. Senior center Patrick Okafor
will maintain his usual starting position
in the post.
The Cougars defeated the Bulls 91-75 at
Hofheinz Pavilion on Feb. 12 and didn't allow star senior forward Altron
Jackson to take over the game, holding him
to a quiet 19 points.
But to repeat the feat, it will take a
Herculean effort from the players who are making the trip to Florida.
"The challenge is going on the road, taking
care of the basketball and staying aggressive," McCallum said. "We have
to send an aggressive message to
South Florida the way we did in our place."
South Florida has one of the top front
courts in the conference with senior forwards Jackson, B.B. Waldon and
junior center Will McDonald. Jackson is
C-USA's all-time leading scorer and always
poses a threat to dominate a game.
USF is coming off an 83-78 double overtime
defeat to Alabama-Birmingham. In that game, Waldon scored 16 points and
grabbed nine rebounds to lead the
As for Gaines, UH athletics director Dave
Maggard said the burden is on the young player to get his life together
but that the University will do what it can to
"Kevin has to get his life together, that's
his responsibility," Maggard said. "At the same time, we're going to support
him. Kevin has some things he needs to
do to get his life in order, things that
don't really have anything to do with basketball."
Maggard talked proudly of the way his men's
head basketball coach has handled the situation and said he feels confident
the team will be able to handle this
latest bit of adversity.
"Ray has done the right thing here," Maggard
said. "I fully support him and we're going to go on from here and do things
the right way."
The first game for the Cougars in the post-Gaines
era tips off at 6:30 p.m. and can be heard on KBME-AM 790.