Houston basketball: Can Tramon Mark become an All-AAC player?

Tramon Mark put together an impressive freshman season during Houston’s run to the Final Four. What does he have in store for this year?

Kelvin Sampson and his Houston Cougars are coming off a 28-4 season that culminated in a Final Four run. Houston has averaged 27.8 wins per season over the past four seasons and has made the NCAA Tournament each time. Without question, Sampson has made his Cougars into one of the premier programs in the country — and he has a rising star on his hands in sophomore Tramon Mark.

Houston lost four of its top five starters from last season, including first-round draft pick Quentin Grimes and Caleb Mills, who left the team midseason and eventually ended up at Florida State.

While Marcus Sasser will get a lot of the ink for Houston basketball this preseason, Mark looks like he has the potential to become a first team All-AAC performer. Here’s what the sophomore wing brings to the Cougars.

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How was Tramon Mark as a freshman?

Tramon Mark graduated from Dickinson (Texas) High School as the No. 84 prospect in the 2020 class via Rivals.com. The Houston-area native averaged 29.3 points per game during his senior season, leading his high school to the 6A state semifinals. Mark chose the hometown Houston Cougars over offers from a final group that included Texas A&M, TCU, Oklahoma and California.

At first glance, Mark’s rookie season was a solid if unspectacular one, as he averaged 7.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 20.1 minutes per game. That said, the 6-5 guard started the season on fire; in game one, against Lamar, Mark finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and two assists in 17 minutes played. It was a sign of the times to come.

Through Houston’s first five games of the season, Mark averaged 15 points and four rebounds while shooting 45.2 percent from the field. He was named the American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Week twice in the month of December.

Soon after those honors, the team was hit by COVID protocols. The Cougars were forced to miss their next three games versus Alabama, Rice and Sam Houston State. During the quarantine, Mark lost a reported 15 pounds. He came back, but he was not exactly the same player upon his return, as he regained his strength.

Is Tramon Mark ready to be a leading man?

Mark came into the season with the understanding that he would be backing up the AAC Preseason Player of the Year, Caleb Mills, as well as now-pros Quentin Grimes and DeJon Jarreau. However, in a season of twists, turns and transfers, Mark was able to find his way on the floor.

In the four games he started, Mark averaged 17 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.2 steals and shot 51.1-percent from the field. Mark also showed a penchant for the spotlight as he hit the two biggest shots of the season for Houston. In the season finale against Memphis, Mark knocked down a half-court shot at the buzzer for a 67-64 win. Then, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, with the Cougars down two with 20 seconds to go, Mark stepped up. He grabbed an offensive rebound, made a put-back through contact, and his three-point play put Houston through to the next round.

Mark played his best during the biggest moments of the season. When he was given an opportunity, he took advantage. This season, Mark has big expectations. Do not be surprised if he becomes the team’s leading scorer and the best player on what could be the strongest team in the AAC.

Houston’s Projected 2021-22 Starting Lineup

Guard – Kyler Edwards, Senior

  • Height/Weight: 6’4″, 195 lbs.
  • 2020-21 stats: 10.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.1 spg (with Texas Tech)

Guard – Marcus Sasser, Junior

  • Height/Weight: 6’2″, 195 lbs.
  • 2020-21 Stats: 13.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.4 spg

Wing – Tramon Mark, Sophomore

  • Height/Weight: 6’5″, 185 lbs.
  • 2020-21 Stats: 7.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.7 apg

Forward – Reggie Chaney, Senior

  • Height/Weight: 6’8″, 225 lbs.
  • 2020-21 Stats: 2.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg

Center – Josh Carlton, Graduate

  • Height/Weight: 6’11”, 240 lbs.
  • 2020-21 Stats: 3.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg (with Connecticut)

The Houston lineup will look different this season; however, similar results should be expected from the Cougars. Sasser was last season’s second-leading scorer behind Grimes, and he should be in a more prominent role this year. To succeed, he will need to tighten up his shooting after last year’s 38 percent from the field.

As discussed above, Mark should be in line for a big jump after delivering when called upon as a freshman. Texas Tech senior transfer Kyler Edwards and Cal State Bakersfield graduate transfer Taze Moore should bring valued depth to the guard spots. Both are veteran players who were double-figure scorers last year.

It will be a frontcourt-by-committee for the Cougars. UConn graduate transfer Josh Carlton should get first crack at the center spot, while returning senior Reggie Chaney started 11 of Houston’s final 12 games last season. Also in the fold are 6’8″ senior Fabian White, 6’8″ sophomore Kiyron Powell and 6’7″ sophomore J’Wan Roberts. Watch out for 6’4″ freshman Robbie Armbrester to possibly find his way onto the floor thanks to how hard he plays. Sophomore Jamal Shead could also be in line for a step forward.

If Mark turns into an All-AAC player — and last season’s performances suggest that is a real possibility — the Cougars’ ceiling may be higher than some folks think. With all the hype surrounding conference foe Memphis, many forget that it isn’t wise to bet against Kelvin Sampson.

Header image courtesy of Houston Athletics.



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