Tuesday, February 26, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 101


 
 









 

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 prominence.


Kevin Harwerth/The Daily Cougar


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
win.

"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
Bulls.

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
help.

"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.
 
 
 
 
 

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