The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

H’s up, H-Town

How the Rockets and Texans gave the Houston faithful something to cheer for
Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
CJ Stroud and Will Anderson Jr. are revealed at their introductory press conference.

“With the second pick in the 2023 NFL draft, the Houston Texans select…”

This pick will change the future of the youngest franchise in the NFL. After multiple years of suffering in the NFL cellar, Texans fans need hope, and this pick has the opportunity to give fans something to root for. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell steps up to the lectern and announces the selection.

“…C.J. Stroud, quarterback, Ohio State.” The purest passer in the 2023 draft class was just picked by the Texans, and fans now have hope.

“A bunch of excitement, a lot of happiness,” senior and Houston superfan Sebastian Quinonez said.

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Immediately after selecting Stroud, General Manager Nick Caserio made a massive trade to select Will Anderson Jr., widely regarded as the best defensive player in the draft. This move shocked many NFL fans around the country, with some claiming that the team gave up too much draft stock to trade for just one player.

“Since we got both of them [Stroud and Anderson] they gave us a huge advantage,” Quinonez said. “Both were players I really wanted.”

All Stroud did in his rookie season as an NFL quarterback is lead the league in passing yards per game and touchdown to interception ratio, the only rookie to ever do that in the history of the league. He also orchestrated multiple game winning drives, showing absolute composure in the highest pressure moments. His leadership has been noted by players and the media, and has been composed even when he has 46 seconds left to score a touchdown.

The Texans are not the only team forcing the national media to turn their heads to H-Town this fall. The Rockets, who have not experienced a winning season since the 2020-2021 season, are coming up from the depths of a dreary rebuild. After trading away James Harden, one of the most gifted offensive players in the history of the league, the Rockets soon spiraled into one of the worst defensive teams in NBA history.

Houston Rockets forward Dillon Brooks, left, looks to drive around Memphis Grizzlies guard Jaylen Nowell (24). (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

“Those were not good times,” senior Will Baptist said. “However, there were flashes of the potential that gave me hope.”

However, it wasn’t the play on the field or the court that gave the fanbases the most hope, it was the offseason hiring of two brilliant head coaches: Ime Udoka and DeMeco Ryans.

Ime Udoka, the Rockets head coach, led the Boston Celtics to the NBA Finals in his lone season in the 2021-2022 season. His hard-nosed attitude has helped completely change the locker room culture of the organization and implemented a strict, no-nonsense structure that was absent the last couple of years. The direct impact of this culture shift is on defense. From finishing 30th and 29th in defensive rating the last two seasons, the Rockets are now seventh in the exact same metric this season.

“Ime has done a lot to shift the culture, then bringing in two guys like Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks, especially Brooks on the defensive end,” Baptist said. “That’s changed a lot of things for this team.”

Fred VanVleet, signed from the Toronto Raptors, is an NBA champion and brought the championship pedigree to a young team searching for leadership. Dillon Brooks, signed from the Memphis Grizzlies, is an All-NBA defensive player after finishing on the All-Defensive second team last season.

“They’ve [Brooks and VanVleet] changed the culture completely,” Baptist said. “It’s helped the development of some of the younger players like Alperen Sengun, Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr.”

Jalen Green (former second overall pick), Jabari Smith Jr. (former third overall pick) and Amen Thompson (last year’s fourth overall pick) have all been the prized acquisitions from the draft for the Rockets. However, it has been the two players selected in the mid-first round that have made the biggest difference: Tari Eason and Alperen Sengun. Eason—taken #17 overall in the 2022 NBA draft—is a high-motor, tenacious defender who has taken an offensive leap this year. The LSU product’s defensive rating this year is at an absurd 94.5, which is 16 points lower than the league-wide average of 110.6. If Eason keeps this rating up, not only will he have the best defensive rating this year, he would be top 10 all time. The other prized pick, Sengun, or Alpi as he is known, has taken a massive jump each year since being taken #16 overall from Turkey in the 2021 NBA draft. His scoring, rebounding and assist numbers are all up from last year, drawing comparisons to Nikola Jokic – the best player in the world and multiple time league MVP.

“I see a lot of Jokic in [Sengun’s] game, with his passing, playmaking abilities, and IQ.” Baptist said. “So when you run the offense through him, we’ve been very successful.”

The Rockets’ success has been well documented this season, as they are in the thick of the playoff race early into the season, and have almost surpassed their win total from last year.
On the court, Ime Udoka is working wonders with the Rockets. On the gridiron, DeMeco Ryans is spearheading one of the NFL’s most surprising turnarounds of the season. With the Texans already having more wins than the previous two years combined, Ryans is in the conversation for coach of the year as the Texans chase a playoff spot.

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