Marcus Sasser is all about seizing the moment in big games. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Marcus Sasser is always looking for the opening in a defense. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Kelvin Sampson may have talked to Marcus Sasser more than any other player during most games he played. That's how crucial Sasser is. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Tramon Mark was out with a shoulder injury and Marcus Sasser wore a boot. But UH kept winning last season. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Former UH star Quentin Grimes wasted little time in making an impact with the New York Knicks.
Marcus Sasser knows how to control games for UH. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Marcus Sasser just did not want to lose. And the emotions came pouring out of the UH guard after the Final Four loss in 2021. (Photo by Trevor Brown Jr/NCAA Photos via Getty Images )
Marcus Sasser shows the fight Kelvin Sampson's UH program is known for.(Photo by F. Carter Smith)
University of Houston coach Kelvin Sampson and Fabian White Jr. share a laugh at a press conference. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
University of Houston basketball coach Kelvin Sampson has overseen a lot of winning. Year after year. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
If you're Kelvin Sampson's point guard, you're going to get plenty of teaching moments. Jamal Shead is learning as he goes. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Marcus Sasser is coming back, giving up the chance to be a NBA second round draft pick to chase a national championship with his teammates at the University of Houston. Sasser withdrew from the NBA Draft, hours before tonight’s midnight deadline with a simple proclamation of “Houston, we’ve got unfinished business” on Instagram.
“I’m happy to be back. Just a good coach-player relationship,” Sasser says of his bond with UH coach Kelvin Sampson. “The Final Four being in Houston. And just me coming back to be a veteran, a leader coming to lead this team.
“And just knowing the expectations that we have.”
Sasser worked out with the Orlando Magic earlier in the day Wednesday before meeting with his family and agents to make his return decision.
“I was relieved, excited — it was a lot of emotions,” Sasser says. “Most of it was just being excited to come back to this city. Knowing the fan base is going to be good. Knowing the team will be well. Me coming back knowing the ropes.
“Just happy to be here again as a leader. Didn’t get to play last year so kind of missed out on it. Just being able to come back and rerun this with a lot of my teammates. I was really excited about it.”
Sasser averaged a team-high 17.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.2 steals in 12 games last season before breaking his foot in that one point loss to Alabama. The talented guard shot 43.7 percent from 3-point range, but it’s his improved handle that dazzled most in the time he played last season.
Sasser seemed to be able to get his shot off against anyone with that handle.
He showed it in the NBA G League Elite Camp, putting in dribbling shows to earn an invite to the NBA Draft Combine, where he also impressed. That made Sasser’s NBA Draft decision easier — or harder — depending on your point of view, and which way you hoped he would go.
Sasser is used to rising to the moment. As a sophomore, Sasser scored 20 points in UH’s Final Four loss to Baylor, hitting five 3-pointers as most of his teammates struggled.
Marcus Sasser and the NBA Decision
He was not expected to be a first round pick — or even close to it — if he came out despite his success in the pre-draft process. Sasser could have been an impact second round pick, but there was no guarantee of even that. Instead, he’ll bet on himself and chance to make a Quentin Grimes-like jump into the first round by coming back to play one more season at Houston.
The only people who believed the fanciful notion that Sasser would automatically return if UH if he was not projected as a likely first round pick don’t know basketball. Or basketball players. This was a real decision and Sasser chose UH and the Sampson built program’s proven track record of developing its players.
Sasser says his decision came down to the final day in many ways. “I was really 50-50 this whole month,” Sasser says when I ask if anything in the last 24 hours swung things to returning. “Today was just a big decision day. And you know I worked out with Orlando this morning. . .”
The preseason hype already building around next season’s UH team will only increase with Sasser’s return. Kelvin Sampson now has an almost assuredly preseason Top 5 team and legitimate national championship contender. With last season’s point guard breakout Jamal Shead set to take on even more of a leadership role, NBA talent Tramon Mark returning from his own injury and McDonald’s All-American power forward Jarace Walker joining a talented cast of front court returnees, the Cougars have talent galore.
And a now healthy and more driven than ever Marcus Sasser could push them over the top. With the Final Four set to be held in Houston at NRG Stadium, this season could be a rare chance for a Houston basketball program that’s already established itself as one of the new powers in the game.
“I don’t care about that,” Kelvin Sampson told PaperCity when I asked him earlier about the supersized expectations sure to surround this team. “I think when you’re younger you do. But when you’re 66 years old you don’t care.
“It’s like me worrying about other people’s opinion. Are you kidding me, really? Do you think I really care what other people think or say. It doesn’t matter. Really, what does it matter what other people think?
“We do the best we can.”
Having Marcus Sasser back gives them even more a chance to reach that best and follow back-to-back Final Four and Elite Eight runs with more.