Anyone who thinks basketball is nothing but tomahawk dunks, no-look passes, behind-the-back dribbles and midair gyrations need look no further than Kevin Houston.
The 1982 Pearl River High School alumnus won’t win many fast-break footraces. His jumping ability leaves him a few rungs – OK, a lot of rungs – shy of the ozone. Razzle dazzle is not and never was part of his roundball repertoire.
But Houston is living proof that there’s room in the game for an unspectacular 6-foot guard who accentuates his strengths and compensates for a lack of athletic firepower with unparalleled court savvy. Plus, of course, one of the sweetest shooting touches Rockland County has ever seen.
In the crucible of college basketball competition, Houston was at his best.As a senior at the United States Military Academy at West Point, in 1986-1987, Houston led the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I in both scoring average, at 32.9 points per game, and free throw percentage, at 92.0 percent. He is the only player in NCAA Division I history to lead the country in both categories.
Here’s a scene from the Kevin Houston highlight reel: Time running down on the shot clock, the ball in Houston’s hands at the top of the key, guarded by, let ‘s say, Mark Jackson of St. John’s University (and later the Indiana Pacers), a frequent opponent of his. Houston lowers is left shoulder and drives, pulls back, a hesitation dribble, head fake, pump fake, a whippet-quick release of the shot from a tough body angle with Jackson draped over him.
So it went for the freckle-faced lad from “The Town of Friendly People.” His senior year he made third-team All-America; was Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year; was co-winner (with Mark Jackson) of the Haggerty Award for Player of the Year honors in the New York metro area; set ARMY Meadowlands Arena record with 53 points in the MAAC Tournament semifinals, enroute to his second straight MVP award for that tourney; and was chosen to the East-West All-Star Classic.
Furthermore, he made All-Metropolitan first-team and second-team once each; All-MAAC first team three times; was the All-Service Academy Tournament MVP his junior year, beating out David Robinson of Navy (and later the San Antonio Spurs); was honorable mention All-America the same year; and was MAAC Rookie of the Year and All-Metropolitan co-Rookie of the Year (again, with Jackson) his freshman year.
Houston showed glimpses of his hardcourt promise while developing his skills at Pearl River. As a senior he made first-team All-County, was honorable mention All-County as a junior and played on the Section 9 championship team as a sophomore. In varsity cross country, he contributed to the Pirates’ Section 9 and New York state championship team his junior year, and the team’s Section 9 title and third-place state showing as a senior.
After college, Houston continued to compete in basketball at an elite level. He played on the All-Army and All-Armed Services teams; was chosen to take part in the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials and 1990 Goodwill Games Trials; had tryouts with the New Jersey Nets and the Washington Bullets in 1990; has starred for the Hudson Valley Region several years in the Empire State Games; played semipro ball and continues to play in recreational leagues.
This past season Houston, who’s 35, made a successful coaching debut on the high school level, guiding the Storm King School of Cornwall, Orange County, to a 20-1 record; an undefeated league season and the Hudson Valley Athletic League regular-season title; and the New England Prep School Athletic Council postseason championship.
He has been employed by Bell Atlantic for nine years and is currently operations manager for corporate security in Manhattan. Houston lives in New Windsor with his wife of 13 years, Liz, and children Lauren, 11; Luke, 7; and Leanne, 5.