Phi Slama Jama, Remix?

The University of Houston's looking to regain national prominence

by Peter Robert Casey September 22, 2011 9:18am ET
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Kelly Kline
Texas PRO's Danuel House (pictured) and Danrad Knowles are looking to revive an early '80s powerhouse.

Before their 2010 first round loss to Maryland, The University of Houston hadn't sniffed an NCAA tournament since the '91-'92 season. Which was a long, dreadful 18-year drought for Cougar fans.

This was a program that used to instill fear in opponents in the early '80s. Boasting two future NBA top-50 all-time players in Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, the Cougars were better known as "Phi Slama Jama," and won games at a frenetic pace while assaulting all rims and backboards in the process. 

They were fierce and fun to watch. The Cougars peaked with three straight Final Four appearances from '82-'84, but were never able to capture that elusive crown. Still, they had swag. They won. Regularly. And recruits wanted to go there. 

Flash forward to 2011, and the buzz is back.

Second-year Head Coach Mark Dickey is navigating the recruiting trail like he has a built-in GPS system. Dickey has already secured 2012 commitments from Danuel House (Missouri City, TX/Hightower) and Danrad Knowles (Houston, TX/Homeschool Christian Y.A.), a pair of top-50 nationally ranked recruits plucked straight from Space City.  

And he's not surprised. From Yahoo! Sports:

“Not at all,” Dickey said. “We have a lot to sell here...Remember, Houston still has a national name. That’s important. Three of the NBA’s greatest all-time players – Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon and Elvin Hayes – all played here. No other school can say that.”

That's a fact, but in today's "What have you done for me lately" society, it's still a tough sell. Credit goes to Dickey for getting Knowles and House to buy into rebuilding their hometown program. 

“I chose Houston because Coach Dickey made me think long and hard about staying home and playing in front of my family and friends,” House told reporters. “I want to help bring back Houston basketball where it needs to be nationally.”

House, a 6-7 small forward, is Rivals' No. 15 ranked overall player in his class and fourth best wingman. Knowles, a 6-9 power forward, is listed as the 47th best player in his class and No. 14 at his position. House and Knowles are also teammates on the circuit, where they play for Marland Lowe's Texas PRO squad. 

Though Class of 2012 prospects can't officially sign with a school until Nov. 9, it's a great coup for Coach Dickey and Houston. It's too early to tell if House and Knowles can bring the program back nationally, but there already starting to grab widespread attention.

And that alone's a great start. 

Danrad Knowles Highlights

Danuel House Highlights