Big 12 Basketball

Houston Basketball’s Transfer Portal Top Takeaways

Mar 15, 2024; Kansas City, MO, USA; Houston Cougars guard LJ Cryer (4) controls the ball while defended by Texas Tech Red Raiders guard Chance McMillian (0) in the second half at T-Mobile Center. Mandatory Credit: Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Cougars entered the Big 12 last season with high expectations and, well, coach Kelvin Sampson and his team may have exceeded them.

The Cougars won 32 games and claimed the regular-season Big 12 title and the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Injuries left them shorthanded by March, and they were able to make it to the Sweet 16 before a mid-game injury to do-everything guard Jamal Shead ended their run.


Houston enters this season as a known quantity — and a Big 12 favorite.

In this edition of Portal Thoughts, we examine Houston’s current situation this offseason and what remains to be done.

Houston’s Losses (2)

Guard Jamal Shead is headed for the NBA after earning All-Big 12 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the Cougars’ first season in the league. He averaged 15.5 points and 1.9 steals per game. His injury in that game against Duke altered the course of Houston’s season. He technically entered the NBA Draft early because he passed up, triggering his COVID waiver to return.

Guard Ryan Elvin, who played in 21 games last season, is not on Houston’s roster for 2024-25.

Houston’s Transfer Losses (1)

The Cougars lost just one player to the transfer portal. Guard Damian Dunn transferred into Houston from Temple before last season, and he averaged 6.4 points in 18 minutes per game. With a plethora of guard options returning, Dunn opted to use his final season at Pitt.


Houston’s Transfer Gains (1)

The Cougars needed a point guard, and they found one in two-year Oklahoma starter Milos Uzan. The junior-to-be averaged 9.0 points and 4.4 assists last season and is a better 3-point shooter than his 29.6% clip last season would suggest. He’s not Shead, but he’s a perfect facilitator for a team that should have plenty of weapons around him.

Houston’s Recruiting Gains (2)

Houston landed two Top 100 players in the 2024 recruiting cycle. The question is whether there is any space for them to make an impact this season.

Guard Mercy Miller from Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif., was No. 50 nationally as ranked by Forward Chase McCarty was ranked No. 89. He played his prep ball at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.


Set to Return (11)

The Cougars might have more returning players than any team in the Big 12.

The group includes huge contributors from last year’s team, starting with guard L.J. Cryer (15.5 points), who led the team in scoring. Guard Emanuel Sharp (12.6 ppg) was Cryer’s equal from the 3-point line. Mylik Wilson (4.4 ppg) gave the Cougars valuable minutes off the bench.

Houston will also get back guard Terrance Arceneaux, who missed most of last season after an injury against Texas A&M in December.

Guard Ramon Walker Jr. played 27 games but only averaged 10 minutes, while guard Kordelius Jefferson redshirted.

In the frontcourt the Cougars have both of their starters — J’Wan Roberts (9.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Ja’Vier Francis (6.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg). Houston will also welcome back JoJo Tugler, who played in 28 games as a freshman before he was injured late in the regular season.

Cedric Lath played in 25 games, while Jacob McFarland redshirted.

What’s Left?

The Cougars are overloaded, with 14 rostered players for 2024-25 (some are playing on the final COVID waivers leftover from the pandemic). Houston is the rare team where you know what you’re getting on both ends of the floor. The significant question marks are how Uzan fits into the backcourt and how Arceneaux and Tugler can impact the rotation, assuming they’re fully healthy.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.

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