Houston redshirt senior forward Justin Gorham, a native of Columbia, Md., and graduate of Calvert Hall, is currently preparing to make a serious run at the Final Four in Indianapolis.
Gorham began his college career at Towson and spent his first two seasons there. While forever grateful for the opportunity to represent the local Tigers, Gorham transferred after his second year at Towson in 2017-18 with the intention of competing with a higher-level program.
This sustained run by Houston (26-3) — the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region — is the exact reason why Gorham made the move. He’s quite excited for the upcoming battle against No. 11 seed Syracuse at 9:55 p.m. on March 27.
“It’s a blessing. All eyes are on us, but we’ve just got to play to our culture and toughness and advance,” Gorham said on Glenn Clark Radio March 24. “It’s not a lot of pressure. We just have to take it one game at a time and play like it’s a regular-season game.”
Buddy Boeheim and the Orange now stand in the way of the Cougars. While not initially seen to be a contender to cut down the nets, Syracuse’s shooting and zone defense, along with the incredible play of Boeheim, will make the Sweet 16 far from a cakewalk for Houston.
It’ll be a team effort to slow down Boeheim, according to Gorham. Boeheim, who is averaging 18.0 points per game this season, has poured in 55 points during Syracuse’s two tournament games.
“He’s a great shooter and a great player,” Gorham said. “We’ve just got to find him wherever he is, because he’s a great shooter from all ranges of the court.”
Gorham is a key reason why Houston is one of the top contenders to be the last team standing when “One Shining Moment” plays in living rooms across America. The 6-foot-7, 255-pound forward has started all 28 games for the Cougars this year and is averaging 8.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, eerily similar to the 9.6 points and 6.7 rebounds he put up during his final year with the Tigers.
Transferring to Houston now seems like a shrewd business decision, as the Cougars are currently favored to advance to the Final Four out of the Midwest (since Illinois was knocked out by Loyola Chicago). Houston had its back against the wall in its second-round game against No. 10 seed Rutgers March 21. The Cougars were down by nine with less than five minutes to play before coming back to win.
Gorham discussed what has made this such a dynamic team.
“We faced a lot of adversity. We lost the preseason Player of the Year in Caleb Mills to Florida State [in January],” Gorham said. “We just stuck together, and stuck together as a team. Coach [Kelvin] Sampson always preaches togetherness and we stayed together. It just helped us make this run.”
It is not difficult to pick out reasons to root for Gorham, especially given his Baltimore roots; the Calvert Hall native noted that he has gotten into shouting matches with teammates about whether Louisiana crawfish rivals Baltimore seafood. Another reason is his ability to persevere through the tragic loss of his father, Jerry Gorham, who passed away in 2016.
“He’s the one who introduced me to basketball, and he put the basketball in my hands,” Justin said. “My junior year at Calvert Hall he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He was battling my junior year and senior year. My senior year he couldn’t come to the games so my mom would FaceTime him. My first practice in college, my brother called me and said, ‘Come home, he’s in his final days.'”
When asked if he thinks about him when playing basketball, Justin’s answer was quite concise.
“A lot,” he said. “Every day.”
For more from Gorham, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: 2021 NCAA Photos