For the Sam Houston men’s basketball team, the first season in the WAC may be considered a success. The Bearkats had wins over New Mexico State, Grand Canyon and rival Stephen F. Austin. But, there was also the slow start to the 2021-22 season. It wasn’t until a team meeting after a blowout loss in El Paso that things started to come together.
And finishing 13-5 in WAC play to earn the 5-seed wasn’t bad. Although, the Bearkats will look back at a home game against Utah Valley and perhaps a loss early in WAC play at Tarleton that kept them from winning the regular season crown.
Superstar Savion Flagg is gone. But, Jason Hooten and his staff have depth to compete in a wide open WAC in 2022-23. Here is a short look back at the 2021-22 season for the Bearkats.
Flagg and Company Leave Mark in 2022-23
It’s no surprise that Savion Flagg was a big piece of the Bearkats success in their first season in the WAC. The Texas A&M transfer played his final season at the school and for the staff that were the first to recruit him out of high school. And Flagg did not disappoint. The First Team All-WAC selection was third in the league in scoring and second in rebounding. Flagg averaged 18.6 points and 8.1 rebounds in his only season in Huntsville.
In his first big game as a Bearkat, Flagg calmly went for 31 points and 11 rebounds in a 74-65 loss at Nebraska. Want to hear a remarkable stat? Sam Houston played 32 games this season. Flagg started and played in all 32. And along with that, Flagg scored in double figures in 31 of 32 of those contests.
It’s safe to say Savion Flagg had a huge influence on the Bearkats in 2021-22.
But let’s give credit where credit is due. DeMarkus Lampley was stellar at times including in his final game in a Bearkat uniform. Lampley went 4-5 from 3-point range and finished with 17 points in Sam Houston’s season-ending loss to GCU at the WAC Tournament. Tristan Ikpe, Javon Grant, and Jaden Ray also had really good seasons for the Bearkats. Javion May and Donte Powers were also stellar at times for Jason Hooten and the Bearkats.
Team Meeting Leads to Quick Start in Conference Play
The non-conference slate in 2021-22 was not friendly to Sam Houston. In fact, it wasn’t until the Sun Bowl Invitational Dec. 21-22 in El Paso that Sam Houston figured things out. One night after getting blown out of the Don Haskins Center by Bradley, the players had a closed-door team meeting. Savion Flagg referred to it as a ‘Coming to Jesus’ minute where they laid everything on the table and made a decision.
That decision paid off. Sam Houston beat up on North Carolina Central the following night. And then won eight of its first nine WAC games including a 71-46 blowout win over New Mexico State in Huntsville. The Kats cooled off after their hot start to WAC play. Sam Houston finished conference play 13-5 and earned the 5-seed at the WAC Tournament.
Sam Houston beat California Baptist in its first WAC Tournament game. Actually, the Kats absolutely destroyed California Baptist at the Orleans Arena. Sam Houston led 15-3 just seven minutes in and coasted to a 65-35 win. The following night, Sam Houston had a chance to knock off Grand Canyon.
With 58 seconds left, Savion Flagg had a chance to perhaps seal the win for Sam Houston. The Bearkats led 62-61 and Flagg had a open 3-point attempt. It didn’t go and GCU outscored the Bearkats 10-4 down the stretch to advance.
Sam Houston finished 19-14 overall and 13-5 in WAC play. 2022-23 is the last season the Bearkats will compete in the WAC. Sam Houston is set to move to Conference USA for the 2023-24 season.
What to Watch in 2022-23
Yes, Savion Flagg and DeMarkus Lampley are gone. And yes, Javon Grant and Jarren Cook are gone. But, the Bearkats are deeper than they were in 2021-22. Javion May, Jaden Ray, and Donte Powers are back. Tristan Ikpe returns. And Hooten and his staff went out and got some quality transfers in the portal. Ronald Mitchell Jr. comes over from UMass Lowell. Big man Kaosi Ezeagu comes over from UTEP.
But the biggest recruit could be guard Qua Grant. The 6-1 transfer from West Texas A&M also played at Wichita State. Lamar Wilkerson also comes to Huntsville after averaging 16.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game at Three Rivers Community College.
Depth, size, quickness, and athleticism. Considering the WAC is a guard-heavy league, keep an eye on Sam Houston who is deep in the backcourt.