Culture / Sporting Life

Tramon Mark Noncommittal About Another Season at Houston — Elite Guard Mulling His Options

How Much of the Starting Lineup Will Kelvin Sampson Have to Replace This Time?

BY // 03.26.23

Update: University of Houston guards Tramon Mark and Jamal Shead are both testing the NBA Draft waters with Mark also entering the transfer portal, all but assuredly ending his UH career.

KANSAS CITY — Tramon Mark seems setup to be one of the elite returning guards in college basketball next season, one who could enjoy the kind of lead role season Marcus Sasser just put together for the University of Houston. But Mark isn’t fully embracing that type of UH future just yet.

“I don’t really want to talk about that right now,” Mark says after the Sweet 16 loss to Miami when asked directly if he plans to come back to play another season at Houston.

That’s not a Yes on returning.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Mark — and point guard Jamal Shead for that matter — test the NBA Draft waters.  With entering the transfer portal another major possibility for Mark. Going through the NBA Draft evaluation process allows a player to get feedback from the league while maintaining his college eligibility. Sasser did it last spring and returned to become a first-team All-American and the driving force of a Houston team that brought the program to new levels of national attention. Quentin Grimes got an NBA evaluation after his freshman year at Kansas before transferring to Houston. And ended up turning himself into a first round pick after staying a second season in The Third Ward.

UH coach Kelvin Sampson has long encouraged his players to get NBA feedback if that’s what they want to do. One could argue that some former Cougars like Nate Hinton and Armoni Brooks, who are both playing in G League, may have left a season too early. But that type of argument usually ignores a player’s circumstances and the simple fact that the NBA, not starring in college basketball, is the ultimate dream of the overwhelming majority of players today.

Kelvin Sampson knows to never take the decisions of college-aged kids for granted. The 21-year-old Mark did not publicly commit to returning for another season at Houston after the loss in the Sweet 16, but that doesn’t mean he won’t.

Mark does have an interesting answer when asked what he is going to take most from UH’s 33-4 season.

“Just staying level headed,” Mark tells PaperCity. “Never getting too down. Never getting up. That’s definitely what I’ll take.”

UH guard Tramon Mark is a creative shot maker who can draw a crowd. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
UH guard Tramon Mark is a creative shot maker who can draw a crowd. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

Mark successfully returned from the shoulder injury (and the resulting surgery) that ended his sophomore season in December of 2021 to start all 37 of Houston’s games this season. He starred in some of UH’s biggest games of all. Mark took over in the second round NCAA Tournament comeback against Auburn, scoring a career-high 26 points and telling Shead not to worry. He gave Memphis fits in that 65-63 road win at the FedEx Forum, often looking like the best player on the floor in an ultra high-level game. He put up a 20 point, nine rebound, three assist line when Sampson’s team clinched the American Athletic Conference title at East Carolina.

Mark’s size (6-foot-5), ability to get off his own shot at will and creativity is certainly intriguing to the NBA. But his shooting consistency (39 percent from the field, 32.8 percent from three this season) still needs some work if he’s going to stick on the NBA level.

If you don’t think Tramon Mark carries the potential to be every bit as good as a Quentin Grimes or Marcus Sasser — and possibly better — you simply haven’t been paying close enough attention though.

“Tramon has no idea how good he is,” Sampson says in the lead-up to the Sweet 16. “But he knows he’s good.”

During Sampson’s entire nine season run in Houston, the Cougars have only lost one player to the transfer portal who would have played a prominent role.

Tramon Mark and the Development Program Decision

Sampson has built one of the best player development programs in the entire country at Houston — arguably maybe the best — and more time under the tutelage of coaches like UH assistant Quannas White has proven invaluable for guards like Quentin Grimes and Marcus Sasser.

During Sampson’s entire nine season run in Houston, the Cougars have only lost one player to the transfer portal who would have played a prominent role. That’d be guard Caleb Mills, who left for Florida State in the midst of Houston’s Final Four season.

In the aftermath of the Sweet 16 loss to Miami, Mark was still obviously processing the ending of a season he and his teammates expected to go much longer. Expected to be storybook in many ways.

“We couldn’t raise our level of play when we really needed to,” he says softly.

Entering its first season in the Big 12, Houston should be in position for another significant March run next year. It’s been Sweet 16, Final Four, Elite Eight and Sweet 16 for the Cougars in the last four NCAA Tournaments that have been played. This is what Kelvin Sampson coached teams do in March.

With Shead, power forward J’Wan Roberts, young guards Emanuel Sharp, Terrance Arceneaux and (maybe) Ramon Walker Jr., and still raw big man Ja’Vier Francis presumably returning, and Texas Tech transfer guard Mylik Wilson (who redshirted this season) and a Top 20 freshmen class of power forward Joseph Tugler, combo guard Kordelius Jefferson, and big men Cedric Lath and Jacob McFarland coming in, Houston will once again not be lacking talented players. But having Tramon Mark back would give Sampson a potential offensive centerpiece to scheme around.

Now, there is at least some question if that will happen. But that’s college basketball in 2023 where nothing can be taken for granted.

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