September 12, 2011
When Houston hired 56-year-old former Texas Tech coach James Dickey to replace Tom Penders in spring 2010, perplexed fans who campaigned for a more well-known candidate like Billy Gillispie panned the hire.
Entering his second season at Houston, however, Dickey is beginning to persuade doubters that he's the right man for the job.
The Cougars aren't likely to crack the upper half of Conference USA this season, but Dickey took a huge step toward recapturing some of Houston's past glory when he landed a pair of top 50 recruits on Sunday night. Texas Pro AAU teammates small forward Danuel House and power forward Danrad "Chicken" Knowles announced they intend to remain close to home and help build the Cougars back into a national power.
"I think it's a huge impact as far letting the guys and people in the city of Houston know that Houston is home and it's a positive situation," Texas Pro coach Marland Lowe told Rivals.com. "Everybody talks about the days of Phi Slamma Jamma and everybody remembers those days. The only thing that has changed since then is the time, coverage and that for whatever reason some of the coaches that came in didn't want to focus on the local talent and went after junior college or out of state kids."
The commitments from House and Knowles provides validation for both Houston's choice of coaches and Dickey's recruiting strategy. Few thought Dickey would be able to compete for the city of Houston's top talent when he announced that was his top recruiting priority, but he has proven recruiting analysts wrong by securing commitments from players who were recruited by the likes of Arizona, Baylor and Kansas.
Although the 2010-11 season was difficult for Houston because of the transition from the run-and-gun offense of Penders to Dickey's disciplined defense-first style, the second-year coach will have the chance to lay a foundation this year.
Seven newcomers become eligible for the Cougars including highly touted guard Joseph Young, a parade all-American who originally signed with Providence and sat out all of last season after the Friars wouldn't release him from his letter of intent. Add House and Knowles to that group in 2012, and Houston might be ready to ascend the Conference USA standings in a hurry.