Andrew Anastasio – Sports Writer –
Having led the team in free-throw percentage a season ago, Owls sophomore guard Luke Houston has been named a starter going into the upcoming 2012-13 season.
“I’m looking forward to playing with the guys we have on the time this year,” Houston said. “I feel like we have a lot of chemistry this year with the guys returning and the freshmen who are coming along with us. I feel like we have great chemistry, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that’s going to play out on the court.”
Growing up in his hometown of Pearl River, N.Y., Houston played on his high school basketball team at Pearl River High. In his senior season, he captained the team while earning the Rockland County Player of the Year award, after averaging 20.3 points per game. Houston was also named the Class A Most Valuable Player by MSG Varsity, and received All-State, All-County, All-Section, and All-League honors.
“It’s fantastic having a player like Luke on our team,” head coach Mike Donnelly said. “We really fell in love with him as a player and as a kid. When we watched him in high school, we were sold on him right away. When we went to watch him play, we knew automatically that we wanted to recruit him. We really wanted him in the program, because we felt that he would be a big piece to potentially win a championship.”
Houston joined the Owls in the fall of 2011. He said he chose to come to Southern because of the desire the program expressed in him.
“I came to Southern because of the way the coaches recruited me,” Houston said. “I really liked what they sold to me coming here – to build a foundation for the future. I just liked how confident they were in me the whole time during recruiting. I know a lot of other schools looked past me because of my size and they didn’t feel that I could compete at this level. The coaches here never questioned that, and I appreciated it, and felt that Southern was a perfect fit for me.”
Despite Houston’s height being a supposed negative factor, sophomore forward Jose Cruz said Houston is able to compensate with his determination on the court.
“I think he’s able to make up for his height because he plays with so much heart,” Cruz said. “Every time he goes out there, he plays like he has something to prove. He may only be 5’11’’, but he’s able to make up for it by just playing harder than most guys he plays against.”
In his freshman season with the Owls, Houston averaged 7.5 points per game, along with 2.7 rebounds. He also tallied 44 total assists, which ranked him fourth overall on the team.
“What makes Luke successful as a player coincides with him being a very successful student,” Donnelly said. “He earned a 3.8 GPA last spring, and he decided to change his major to nursing which is extremely competitive of him. He’s a very competitive person who wants to be successful in everything he does. There are no excuses with Luke. He’s extremely motivated to be successful not only as a player, but as a student and I think that’s his greatest attribute, his competitive drive.”
Houston said his experience with the Owls thus far has been phenomenal.
“I’ve able to step in right away, and help contribute to this team,” Houston said. “I’ve been extremely comfortable, and I’ve been able to play my game. The guys I’m playing with are unselfish. It’s a big confidence booster when you’re able to play with guys who are leaders in the conference, and all the guys telling me to be confident and shoot the ball. Overall it’s been really good for me, and I’ve been happy since I’ve been here.”