In a sport stuffed with episodic underachievement from the Houston Cougars, this second might need been considered as only one extra disappointment on the option to departing the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Trailing Rutgers by 5 factors with 2:53 left of their second spherical sport, star guard Quentin Grimes approached the foul line with a chance to chop that right down to the margin of a single 3-point shot. Grimes, usually 77 % dependable, missed each free throws.
That may have been it for Houston, the American Athletic Conference champs and the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Midwest Region. Grimes is nothing, although, if not resilient. He fought for his personal rebound, restarted the Cougars offense and, inside seconds, fired in a 3-pointer that appeared to persuade Rutgers that it could not be holding that lead.
Which is how Quentin Grimes got here to be the best basketball story of the Sweet 16.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of a young man from where he started to where he is now,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson mentioned this week. “And it’s all driven by his work ethic. Before practice, during practice, after practice, year-round — I don’t think he ever goes two days where he’s not in the gym.
“In an era where guys have a million distractions, that kid’s distraction is the gym.”
There absolutely are charming tales all through the Sweet 16 about family connections or obstacles overcome, the sort of stuff they specialise in when presenting the Olympic Games.
In the purest basketball sense, although, Grimes is what faculty basketball is all about: creating as a participant to the fullest extent, nonetheless lengthy that may take — as long as it happens inside the allotted 4 seasons of eligibility.
Grimes arrived in faculty basketball on the similar evening as Zion Williamson, in the similar place. They had been half of the 2018 Champions Classic at Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and Grimes was so excellent that he practically stole the present earlier than Zion may even take the court docket.
Ranked by a consensus of recruiting analysts as the No. 8 participant in his class, Grimes began his first faculty sport for Bill Self at Kansas towards Michigan State and lit up the Spartans by hitting 6-of-10 from 3-point vary. His muscular construct and compact kind gave the impression to be indestructible. He scored 21 factors and handed for 3 assists — and a star was born.
It simply turned out to be Zion, not Quentin. That evening actually was as good as it could get for Grimes as a Kansas freshman. He scored in double figures simply 12 instances in the remaining 35 video games. He made solely 5 of his subsequent 28 3-point makes an attempt, six instances ending and not using a three in that 10-game stretch. He shot 34 % from lengthy vary for the season.
What was presupposed to be straightforward — come to varsity, dominate, file for early entry, be referred to as as a lottery decide by NBA commissioner Adam Silver — had develop into an anticipated, unwelcome problem.
Grimes positioned his identify in the 2019 NBA Draft, and it appeared from afar that he would do as so many different latest freshman prospects have carried out: get out of the collegiate sport, whether or not prepared for the NBA or not, and see the way it all labored out. Instead, Grimes selected to withdraw from the early entry checklist, then switch nearer to his residence in The Woodlands, Texas. He selected Houston.
Grimes advised ESPN.com final season that he had not been fixated on being one-and-done as a KU freshman, nevertheless it was obvious that he couldn’t make himself comfy in the Kansas offense.
“Every situation isn’t always the right fit for the person’s particular skill set,” Marshall Grimes, Quentin’s father, told ESPN. “Coach Self is a great coach. He’s a Hall of Fame coach. Most of the people there are really good people.”
It took some time at Houston for Grimes to once more develop into the participant who’d been so enthusiastically endorsed by scouts, however his assimilation as a Cougar was quick.
“Coming in, I was kind of like a freshman in a sense,” Grimes advised reporters this week. “I was kind of just learning everything, learning what coach Sampson wants every day in practice. Really trying to get a feel, get comfortable, and that’s kind of what I did this year.
“Some teams might get jealous or might get egotistical about another player coming in. But they embraced me like I’d been there already. It’s kind of just made the transition easy.”
As a sophomore final season, he averaged 12.1 factors and shot 32.6 % from deep. Sampson noticed that it could require some work to restore Grimes’ broken confidence. Without perception in the infallibility of the subsequent try, with out the knack for forgetting about the shot simply missed, no shooter can thrive.
“I think there was some disappointment in him from a lot of people because he didn’t live up to other people’s expectations,” Sampson mentioned. “Since he’s come here, what we’ve been able to convince him to do is let his work and his preparation drive his confidence. He’s playing with great confidence.”
Grimes provides a particular point out to assistant coach Quannas White, the level guard on Oklahoma’s 2002 Final Four workforce and a member of the UH workers since 2017, who takes on the accountability of teaching Grimes on his jumper.
“I just feel like there’s never a day off,” Grimes mentioned, and he meant that as a praise and never grievance. “Every day, we’re working on getting to my spots, where I like to get it: before practice every day, after practice every day. He never lets me slack off, even on days that I’m tired. He never lets me go slow. It’s always 110 percent. I just feel like always having those guys pushing you, always kind of seeing what’s in you that you might not bring out yourself, I think that’s the main key that kind of stands out in this program.”
Grimes and the Cougars subsequent will play in the Midwest Region semifinal Saturday evening towards Syracuse. A 6-5, 210-pound guard, he is averaging 18.1 factors and 6.0 rebounds. He connects on 41.7 % of his 3-point makes an attempt. He scored 22 factors in the Rutgers sport, 21 in the slender AAC semifinal victory over Memphis that propelled Houston to the league match title, and 17 in the season-ending win over the Tigers that saved alive Houston’s hopes of a No. 2 NCAA seed. He not often has endured a tough evening in a single of the Cougars’ greatest video games.
For all of this and extra, he was named a third-team All-America by all 4 main selectors acknowledged by the NCAA, including Sporting News. If third-team appears meager, keep in mind that makes a participant one of the high 15 out of greater than 4,000 Division I gamers. Grimes additionally is a finalist, and presumably the favourite, for the Jerry West Award, introduced by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame to the high capturing guard in faculty basketball.
That’s who Houston had at the line in these closing minutes towards Rutgers, and the expectation after seeing him at work this 12 months was that it absolutely would all work out. It did, simply not as deliberate.