TULSA, Okla. — They’ll face each other Sunday night, but Saturday afternoon Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann and Houston coach Kelvin Sampson were on the same team.
While at the BOK Center for the first two rounds of the Midwest Regional in the NCAA Tournament, Sampson implored the NCAA to do more to assist the families of players to attend their games in person. At times, Sampson said, he’s had parents ask him if they could sleep on their son’s floor to help offset costs.
“When you look around at how big this industry has become, why can't we figure that out?” Sampson said Thursday before the Cougars blew past Georgia State on Friday. “I'm not saying give them this or that. I'm saying when young men get to the NCAA Tournament, let's find a way to get their parents and their brothers and sisters a plane ticket and a hotel room. I don't think that's asking too much.”
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In his opening statement Saturday, Holtmann brought up Sampson’s comments unprompted and expressed his support.
“I couldn’t agree with him more,” Holtmann said. “You’d love as a coach for parents and immediate family members to be provided some way to travel, have their expenses paid for, their accommodations paid for. I just think it would be a really good thing for the NCAA, as we move forward, just to consider. Because you feel sometimes for families who, you know, are traveling and spending a lot of money to come and support their kids.
“I just commend him for that thought. I thought it was a great thought.”
Just a kid from Akron
The Cougars have an Ohioan on their roster in senior Breaon Brady, a forward from Akron Ellet who made his way to Texas via the junior college route. Before joining the Cougars, Brady suited up for Saddleback Junior College in Mission Viejo, California, for two seasons.
He chose Houston after recruiting interest from West Virginia, Arizona State and Washington State. It was a bit of a different situation than Brady encountered upon his high school graduation.
“I knew I wouldn’t end up at Ohio State,” he said from the Houston locker room. “I didn’t really have any offers besides Akron and Kent State, hometown schools. I was never on the radar in that sense. I had to go to junior college and build my brand up and build myself up and get better in that sense. It paid off for me, though. I’m here now, and I’m on one of the biggest stages in college basketball.”
Growing up, Brady said he saw plenty of Ohio State football and basketball on television but was actually a North Carolina fan because that was his dad’s favorite team. He still ended up at a school with red and gray colors, saying he likes Houston’s red and silver better than Ohio State’s scarlet and gray.
He’s never met Ohio State sophomore center Kaleb Wesson, but the two figure to battle throughout Sunday night’s game.
“To play against them, it’s definitely going to be a little emotional early but it’s just another game at the end of the day, another opponent we’ve got to get past to get to where we want to be,” Brady said.
Michigan’s student managers have garnered some national publicity for the intricate tape jobs they put down to simulate an actual court during walk-through sessions. Come tournament time, many of those sessions take place inside a conference room or ballroom of a hotel, and Michigan’s managers have taped down everything from the dimensions of the court to the Big Ten logo on the floor.
John McCausland, a senior manager for the Buckeyes, said they do something similar but don’t take it to quite the same extreme. Prior to Friday’s win against Iowa State, the managers taped up a “court” in a parking lot at the hotel, using a parking space as the lane.
“Coach Holt just wanted to get outside, get guys some fresh air and walk around on a beautiful day,” McCausland said. “We don’t waste our time messing around with too much tape on the court. It doesn’t mean a whole lot, but it’s definitely fun. It’s fun to see the players’ reactions when they walk in, but other than that it’s not something that – I don’t want to say waste our time, beca8use that makes it sound bad, what they do, but we just kind of keep it simple and don’t waste too much tape.”
The Buckeyes haven’t faced the Cougars since a 78-61 win at the Guardians Classic Championship Rounds in Kansas City, Missouri, on Nov. 23, 2004. One Ohio State player has seen Houston more recently, though.
Graduate transfer Keyshawn Woods, who spent the last two seasons with Wake Forest, scored 15 points off the bench in a 78-73 loss to the Cougars last season. Brady, who had four points in 14 minutes, said he remembers playing against him.
“He’s a good player, man,” he said. “I’ve just got faith in my guards.”
Woods, meanwhile, has averaged 15.4 points in his last five games after averaging 6.8 through the first 29 games of the season for the Buckeyes.
Does he think Houston will look at their prior matchup as it prepares for Ohio State?
“They can try,” he said. “They’re probably going to use the scouting report from the last four games. As long as we execute, we’re going to be fine.”
As for what he knows about the Cougars, Woods said, “They play really, really fast. They get up and down. They’ve got shooters, and their big men are relentless when it comes to getting offensive rebounds and banging down low. They’ve got all you need to win games, and they’re really good on defense. When it comes to Houston, kudos to them, I know they’re the No. 1 (effective field goal defense) in the country. They’re really one of the top teams in the country. I know from playing them last year, it’s going to be a fight to the end.”