It was reported on Saturday that the Houston Cougar basketball program will be losing two players to transfer, in forwards Alandise Harris and Kirk Van Slyke.
Van Slyke was a junior during the 2011-12 season, Harris a sophomore.
Some defections were inevitable for the basketball team, which graduated only one player, but is expected to sign at least three newcomers for next year. So it stands to reason that Harris' and Van Slyke's decisions aren't coming as a surprise to head coach James Dickey and his staff.
Harris was second on the team in scoring (13.3 ppg), rebounding (6.4 rpg) and blocks (1.3 bpg), and he shot 53% from the floor while starting every game but one. The valid criticism of Harris was that his defensive intensity was inconsistent, and he never did pull down as many rebounds as his size dictated that he should have. Last year, Harris had as many games of just 2 rebounds (three) as he did games of 10 or more.
Van Slyke went from a rarely-used reserve as a freshman to a legitimate offensive threat off the bench as a sophomore. His junior season started auspiciously, as he reeled off three straight games of 18 points or more in the Coogs' first four contests. But Van Slyke's lack of a position on defensive made it difficult to keep him on the floor, and his minutes steadily declined. Van Slyke only cracked double-digits in scoring one more time.
Pittsburgh transfer J.J. Richardson, who sat out the 2011-12 season, has a similar big-bodied frame to Harris (Richardson is actually listed two inches taller and 15 pounds heavier than Harris) and will be called on to contribute immediately. Junior college transfer Leon Gibson improved as his junior season went on, and could see increased playing time, as well.
With Harris and Van Slyke leaving, the graduation of Darian Thibodeaux, and if the persistent rumors that Jonathon Simmons will leave the program to play professional basketball overseas come to fruition, the Cougars would return just two of their top six starters next year. The core of the team figures to be four underclassmen, in sophomores TaShawn Thomas and Joe Young, and highly-touted freshmen Danuel House and Chicken Knowles.
Young team or no, Dickey's squad will have very high expectations in the 2012-13 season, the program's final year in Conference USA. Dickey's first two years at UH's head coach have been nothing short of disastrous, and while his efforts in recruiting have been stellar, there will be a lot of pressure in the upcoming season for that recruiting to pay dividends on the basketball court.
Bottom line, Harris was a Dickey recruit. So his departure is not an excuse for the coaching staff to not produce results in the upcoming season. If the Cougars aren't competitive on the hardwood this year, athletics director Mack Rhoades will have to reevaluate Dickey's job status.