The Houston Cougars open their 2017-18 season Friday night against McNeese State, and thanks to an NCAA rule, Kelvin Sampson will not be able to use his best player. Redshirt senior guard Rob Gray has been suspended one game by the NCAA for playing in a church recreational league game during the offseason. News of Gray’s suspension was reported by Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle.
Per NCAA rules, basketball players are only allowed to play in one offseason league that has been officially sanctioned by the NCAA. While no details on the church league were given, that may have been what led to Gray being forced to sit out Houston’s season opener.
Gray is one of the best players in the American Athletic Conference, as he’s coming off of a redshirt junior season in which he earned first-team all-conference honors.
Last season Gray averaged 20.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, shooting 47.3 percent from the field, 38.2 percent from 3-point range and 81.3 percent from the foul line. Gray led the American in scoring, and he also ranked third in the conference in effective field-goal percentage (53.8). Losing Gray does hurt Houston, but in McNeese State the Cougars are opening their season against a team that won just seven games in 2016-17.
Without Gray in the rotation, Houston can call upon juniors Galen Robinson and Corey Davis Jr. to handle the lead guard responsibilities against McNeese State. Starting alongside Gray, Robinson led the Cougars in assists last season with an average of 4.8 per game. Davis is in his first season at Houston after averaging 17.4 points, 3.7 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game at San Jacinto (Texas) JC last season.