Just before PSJ came along Cougar basketball had already started a downhill fall. We had some really good teams in the '70s but then Texas and the Aggies along with Baylor and Arkansas and others started competing for the local talent market.
Our early '70s teams were loaded with talent…Dwight Jones, Dwight Davis, Lou Dunbar, Maurice Presley, but under performed when it came to playoff time.
From the mid '70s the talent began to cave in, except for Otis Birdsong, who we got out of Winterhaven, Florida.
He was truly a great player, but frankly we had little to go with him and our claim to fame was making it to the NIT finals one year.
IMO coach Lewis saved his job and the program by bringing in a guy named Rob Williams, probably the best pure point guard to ever come out of Houston. Recruiting Rob was a dirty deal, but pales in comparison to what kids ask for today.
With Williams intact, we signed a prep all star in Michael Young, who brought with him a friend named Clyde Drexler, a little recruited forward from Houston Sterling who turned out to be a future Hall of Famer. Drexler had a standing offer from Sam Houston State and later got one from Texas Tech when the Raiders heard we were recruiting him.
Lewis also brought in his bruiser in the middle in Larry Micheaux and things really fell into place when a little known guy from Nigeria fell into our laps…Olajuwon was a raw talent when he got here, but picked up the game pretty quickly.
Back in those days Duke, Carolina, UCLA, the perennial powers, continued to bring in the stud classes, the blue chippers. Guy V. who had a great eye for talent, brought in special talent to Houston and was able to mix them all together and have a great team for four years. Ironically, the team that upset us in '83, North Carolina State, had more recruited blue chippers than Houston did.
That said, after that everyone in the world started to notice Houston city talent, including the Kentucky’s, UCLA’s, Dukes, etc. and after losing a couple of elite recruits like Tito Horford and the Williams kid to LSU, things began to fall apart and coach Lewis was basically forced to retire.
UH, under Sampson, can be a major force in hoops if A) we recruit top players, B) Sampson stays with us a few more years…B) we get an all needed boost from our weak fan base, both on and off the court…