Sports

11 Reasons Houston Sports Fans Should Be Excited

Yordan Alvarez can swing the bat...thank god.
Yordan Alvarez can swing the bat...thank god. Jack Gorman
Just a few years back, we were basking in what we believed might be the best era in Houston sports ever. It was worth debating given the staggering success of the Astros, the arrival of Deshaun Watson and James Harden's offensive dominance. What a difference a few years makes. The Astros remain great, but the rest haven't faired so well...until now.

Houston sports fans have always had reason to bemoan Houston sports, particularly after the precipitous falls of the Texans and Rockets. But, things are changing and we could now argue the future of Houston sports is brighter than ever. Here are 11 reasons you should be excited.

Kelvin Sampson's defensive coaching.

The UH men's basketball team is currently third in the nation, but they are number one by a LONG shot. In fact, they have a chance to be, by the numbers, the greatest defensive college basketball team in history. This has been the norm under Sampson, a tough, defensive-minded coach who challenges players to lock down their opponents. Watch for the upcoming matchup against BYU, arguably the best offensive team in the NCAA on January 23.

Hannah McNair's enthusiasm.

Listen, say what you will about the McNair family and their handling of the Texans franchise over the years, Cal clearly got one thing right and that is marrying Hannah. Watch her as she shouts at the ESPN camera after the Texans clinched a playoff birth. This coming just a couple weeks after she could be seen cracking back against the Tennessee "Oilers" after the Texans beat the Titans. She's a superfan.
Joe Espada's familiarity with the team.

When you are choosing a new leader in the clubhouse, it better be someone that isn't just good but able to mesh with your players. This is particularly true of a veteran ballclub like the Astros, which is why when they tapped bench coach Joe Espada as their new manager, it made perfect sense. Espada is well liked by players and management, and he provides continuity for a team that is already extremely good.

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C.J. Stroud is as cool as it gets.
Photo by Eric Sauseda
C.J. Stroud's poise.

Someday, we'll be talking about Stroud's moment the way people speak in hushed tones about how Joe Montana once came into the huddle in a Super Bowl so calm that he pointed out John Candy in the crowd to his teammates. It's rare for a rookie quarterback to be as good as Stroud. It's unicorn like for one to play with this much poise.

Ime Udoka's toughness.

Accountability is the buzzword used often this offseason around the Houston Rockets. A very young team with a lot of talent but not much to show for it needed someone disciplined to guide them and keep them playing the right way. Enter Udoka, whose tenaciousness is legend as is the love players have for him. He has turned a losing team into a winner in a matter of weeks.

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This dude slid to 20.
Photo by Sean Thomas
Cam Whitmore sliding in the draft.

It's early and he's just getting time in the rotation, but the Rockets rookie forward is instant offense and an absolute fireball to watch on the floor. He looks at times like he is being shot out of a cannon. The fact that he slid all the way to pick 20 is remarkable luck for a team already loaded with talented young players. Don't be surprised if Whitmore continues to get more time on the court even as a rookie with a big crowd at his position.

Nick Caserio's draft skills.

We would be praising the Texans GM for how well he has drafted the last couple years, but in comparison to where the Texans were prior to his hiring, it's almost laughable how much better they are. It's like going from a middle school team to the pros in terms of the difference between amassing young talent pre-Caserio and post-Caserio. He is literally changing the franchise through the draft.

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The "Dirk" is just one of Sengun's moves now.
Photo by Sean Thomas
Alperen Sengun's footwork.

Not since Hakeem Olajuwon have the Rockets had a big man with the skills around the basket of Sengun. Yao Ming was close, but the leap Sengun has taken in his third year is stunning. Besides using his formidable skills to get to the basket, his ridiculous court vision has improved the fates of his teammates as well.

DeMeco Ryans being DeMeco Ryans.

Seriously, has any move by any team in Houston sports history been as storybook as this one? It's only year one, but it feels like they shut the franchise down last year and fired everyone just to hire Ryans and rebuild. And literally no one is unhappy with the decision outside of H-Town.

Yordan Alvarez's swing.

He's young, he's insanely talented and he's signed long-term. He has a clear shot at MVP in the American League with Shohei Ohtani moving on to the Dodgers. If that isn't enough for you, there's this memory.

The Rockets "dunkstronaut."

Has there ever been a better logo?

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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke