Houston is not a modern recruiting powerhouse. Since the early 1980s, when Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon did their Phi Slama Jama thing, the Cougars have mostly existed outside the margins of elite basketball and elite recruiting. That has been especially true in recent years. Frankly, Houston is not a school you expect to announce big or impressive recruiting news -- it just doesn't ever happen.
And yet, here we are. On Sunday night, Houston officially earned commitments from five-star small forward Danuel House and four-star power forward Danrad "Chicken" Knowles. House is the No. 15-ranked overall player in the class of 2012 and the No. 3 player at his position. Knowles is No. 56 in the country overall and No. 15 at the power forward spot.
So what gives? Why did two of the country's top 50 or so recruits, including one of its best, suddenly decide to play their collegiate basketball at Houston despite offers from schools like Georgetown, Kansas, Texas, Ohio State, and so forth? Both players seem thrilled by the prospect of bringing Houston basketball back to the national conversation. From ESPN recruiting analyst Paul Biancardi:
"I choose Houston because Coach [James] Dickey made me think long and hard about staying home and playing in front of my family and friends," House said. " I feel that will be an honor and a privilege to do that.
"I want to help bring back Houston basketball where it needs to be nationally," said House.
"We want to bring success to the city of Houston again," Knowles said. " I picked Houston because I trust Coach Dickey and the coaching staff and they made me a priority. Everyone who I know and trust is here close to me."
Whether the long-term Houston revitalization project takes hold or not, at the very least, both players will bring the kind of elite talent that C-USA usually only sees when Memphis comes to town. This is a fascinating development. Sustaining this kind of recruiting momentum is always difficult, but if Houston coach James Dickey can keep it rolling, this might just be the start of something major.