If you're a sports fan in Houston, then you know Carl Dukes. He will tell you how it is, and take your calls weeknights from 7-10 on News Radio 740 KTRH's Sports Beat. He covers everything passed, sliced, blitzed, slapped, and caught. If you're a fan of Cougar Basketball, then you love Carl Dukes. He's been covering and broadcasting Coog basketball with his unmistakable style for the past six years, bringing his wealth of knowledge and passion to the mic, night after night. He is, of course, the color analyst for Houston Cougar basketball, heard on ESPN 790 The Sports Animal, and a true friend of the program.
DJ - Thanks for spending some time with CoogFans, Carl...
Carl... if you were a tree... what kind of a tree would you be?
CD - I think I would be an Oak Tree…
DJ - Yah…. Oak trees are nice.
Tell CoogFans a little about yourself...
CD - Well I have been a broadcaster for over 14 years, starting in music radio wanting to be a Morning Show Disc Jockey…But, those dreams faded when I realized I had a lot more to say than "More Continuous Hits Coming up" So I made the transition to sports while in Denver, Colorado doing music radio on an FM station. That took me to San Antonio where I spent five years doing a sports show on AM55 KTSA and on KTFM's Morning Show. I then got a call from KTRH in 1997-98 and I have been in Houston ever since…
DJ - How did the Lombardi dinner go?
CD - It was great, there is nothing like getting the best college linemen in the country in the same room and their coaches…
DJ - I won't get into how Joe Clay got robbed by not being invited... let's talk a little hoops...
You've been around Coog Basketball for a several years now... can you talk about the changes that you've seen?
CD - The Change has been significant since Tom Penders has come in as the new head coach of the Coogs…Penders knew exactly what he wanted to do when he came in, and he has executed it to perfection. Up-tempo, aggressive defense and score a lot of points… that is what the Coogs are doing…it's been a change of attitude and the kids are buying into it.
DJ - You and I discussed the Tom Penders hire in the off-season, can you talk a little bit about Tom... and what he brings to the Hoff?
CD - Experience!!! The guy has won over 500 games in his 31-year career…He knows how to win, period! This might tick some people off, but you can hire a young guy, you can hire an up and coming guy, you can hire the next big thing… but when you want to win, you hire a winner. Penders has won 70% of his games on the road throughout his career, which means he not afraid to travel to play the best teams. The other thing Penders has done is reach out to the UH family and the Community.
DJ - With the hiring of Tom Penders, you just knew that the Coogs were going to run like his Texas, Rhode Island, and GW teams... we've got a few games behind us now, did you expect us to be this athletic, this soon?
CD - YES! I went to a practice about three weeks before the season started and Coach P (that's what I call him) asked me to watch practice and tell me what I thought after…so the team starts doing there full court drills and I notice that all the guys, everyone is dunking…Lanny Smith, Brian Latham, Kevin Barber he's 5-11 with shoes on! I immediately noticed how athletic the team was. After practice coach P comes over and says what do you think. I smiled and said "WE ARE GOING TO WIN"
DJ - That press... that suffocating press... has really been throwing teams off... big or small, Tom is pressing...
CD - The thing most people don't know is that Coach P's offense starts with defense…Turnovers created by the press creates easy baskets on the offensive end…plus the biggest thing the press does is it take teams out of what they want to do offensively.
DJ - Andre's back, one of three returning starters... and Andre's well... Andre. What have you noticed about his game under Penders?
CD - It's better. Andre Owens is one of the best players in the country. He can do it all, and under Penders… his game has been refined. Coach came in and told Dre, "what if I told you, you will score 20 or more a game with less shots" Andre said "how" and Coach P says "by being smarter and taking better shots" and that is what he is doing he has scored 20 or more in four of the Coogs' last five games.
DJ - Lanny has been stepping up...
CD - "Boogie" Smith…we call him Boogie because he has all that shake to his game! But Lanny has been tremendous, and he is maturing as a point guard. You heard it here first, if he continue to progress like he is, in three years he will be a high draft choice in the NBA.
DJ - Latham, that kid can drive, defend, and show the range...
CD - I love Brian Latham because he plays with all heart he is not the most talented kid on the floors but he has a heart as big as Texas. He is a defensive stopper but has also shown that he can score. Brian is also an Academic All-American he is handling his business.
DJ - Still early... but is it easy to say that the new kids are gelling with the old?
CD - With out a doubt the new kids are gelling with the old five JC transfers would be tough for any team, but let me says that these kids hang out on and off the court and helps.
DJ - With the way we run, gun, and press... is this team feeling that lack of a "prototypical" big man?
CD - No…the team just got back Darrius Brannon back from some Academic issues. He is 6'9 big guy that can play, many people may know of him he played a Port Arthur Lincoln…But the name of the game is putting the ball in the basket and the cougars have plenty of guys that can do that. But I think Brannon is going to help!
DJ - Having said that... Tom's looking right?
CD - Sure, he has already signed a 6'9 kid out of Florida that will be here next year and he will continue to get big time kids to come here as the team continues to win.
DJ - Who's been your biggest surprise thus far?
CD - Ramon Dyer is the teams leading rebounded and has really picked up his offense for the team.
DJ - Nice non-conference win at Mizzou...
CD - That is a game that at the end of the year we will look back as a game that got us going in the right direction. They are a tough physical team with good guard play and should finish in the middle of the pack of the Big 12.
DJ - Tough loss to Rice, but that's a tough Owl team....
CD - The Owls should win the WAC and be a tournament team this year.
DJ - We could have used a few more whistles at Autry, sounded to me like you thought so too....
CD - Well you don't want the refs to take the game out of your hands, but what you do want is the ref to call what he should …even if it means it's the last call of the game.
DJ - A few publications and polls had the Coogs finishing pretty close to the bottom of C-USA... this team isn't playing like a bottom feeder...
CD - It won't be a bottom feeder, this team will surprise a lot of people. 12th in C-USA? Come on. If they finish 12th, I will wash your car butt-naked with a sun visor on.
DJ - Go Coogs. (laughter)
Who's the team to beat in C-USA? Louisville? Cincy? Marquette?
CD - Louisville is a Top 10 team this year and the team to beat in C-USA, both Marquette and Cincy are good but Louisville might be a final four team.
DJ - Okay, we got them on Wednesday, January 5th, how do we match up?
CD - They have Francisco Garcia who is the pre-season player of the year in C-USA, a great all-around player who is 6-7 and can do it all. Taquin Dean can shoot the three and they have a great inside presence…and like us they like to press.
DJ - What does this team need to accomplish, this year... to be considered successful?
CD - Win more than nine games would be a start…but I think this team needs to win 15 games or more to be considered a success. I know the coaches think the number will be higher than that and be one of the teams to make the conference tournament.
DJ - Having said that... when do Coogs start talking Dance cards?
CD - This year… I think they can win 18-20 games, and with the strong schedule and a strong RPI… I think they can get in…
Carl... good talking with you, hope we can catch up again in March, just to see if everything, is everything... maybe get your thoughts on the tourney. In the meantime, we look forward to your insight the rest of the season on KBME.
And a side note... Carl will talk Coog sports with anyone... call in to Sports Beat or introduce yourself at the next KTRH live remote or Coog broadcast, a nicer man... you will not meet.