In wake of devastation, Houston-area college basketball programs helping out

Scott Pera waited almost 50 years to get a head coaching job in Division I men's basketball. After Mike Rhoades left Rice for VCU in March, Rice promoted Pera, who was an assistant to Rhoades, to the post. In July, he and his family moved into a house, ready to start an incredible chapter personally and professionally.

That house is now under water as a result of necessary dam relief in the Buffalo Bayou area of Houston. Billions of gallons were given way as a precaution against potentially worse destruction that could have come by not alleviating the dams. That triggered inundation to neighborhoods in and around the suburbs of western Houston. Hurricane Harvey has forced Pera to relocate, as he's now living indefinitely with a former Rice player who resides near the school's campus.   

Pera said Rice's campus, remarkably, held up well amid Harvey's blasts of wind and rain. The school did not face a mandatory evacuation, and on Thursday it re-opened. Pera spoke to CBS Sports from his office on campus. He'd just got through meeting with his team for the first time in a week. 

"Mentally, it was something I don't wish to have someone go through," Pera said. "Hope in one hour, despair the next. Forecast, 'No, they're wrong.' Up and down, up and down. ... We are safe, we've never been in danger, and I feel for the people who've had boat rescues, the water is in their attic. It's hard to digest. The area in and around Rice has remarkably held up. That's one of the eerie things. My wife and I took a walk around the neighborhood here last night, and you wouldn't know it drizzled. Which I'm happy for. But it's hard for us, with what we saw for five days ... we're 10 miles away and it's complete devastation."

Pera specifically mentioned the pride he had for his players. They've set forth a goal to raise $1 million in Hurricane Harvey relief, and have set up an online donation hub using the same company Houston Texans star J.J. Watt has used en route to raising north of $10 million. They're also challenging coaches everywhere to donate $1,000 on behalf of their school -- a tax-exempt gesture -- in an effort to bring more money into the Houston area. The latest estimates on Harvey's destruction are a record-setting $190 billion.

Rice's basketball players have also taken the time to help out, and stay overnight, at the George R. Brown Convention Center, which is housing nearly 10,000 evacuees. 

"The kids have been phenomenal," Pera said. "The character they have is off the charts, and so I'm not surprised -- I'm proud."

Basketball teams -- and many sports programs -- in the Houston are responding enthusiastically to do what they can. Houston Baptist spent Wednesday and Thursday in the community, helping clean out homes and restore the lives of many who have been temporarily, if not permanently, displaced. 

Houston Baptist coach Ron Cottrell was evacuated from his home last weekend, but believes his house has not succumbed to significant flood issues. 

"We had a scare with it last night as they had updated some [evacuation] lists," Houston Baptist assistant Steven Key said. "And very close to our house, and included my sister-in-law's house just around corner. Updated again this morning and they weren't on it any longer. But still not out of woods. I've been out today helping my good friend, our head baseball coach, who was displaced. Literally lives five minutes from my house."

And yet, amid that, Houston Baptist's program has continued raise money. You can donate to HBU's relief fund here

Meantime, with the University of Houston, Kelvin Sampson's initial challenge to basketball coaches across the country has now eclipsed the 1,000-response mark. And that's from Twitter alone.

Houston sports information director Jeff Conrad said the school has received more than 1,000 commitments on social media. That includes nearly 450 colleges, more than 220 high schools, 15 conference offices, a number of elementary and middle schools. Sports teams from all the lower 48 states have reached out and sent packages.

Sampson's request has turned into a huge movement, something that is punctuating what college programs have been able to rally for in the wake of such devastation. Houston's been overwhelmed by the goodwill of so many sports programs of all sizes. And for all the good that's come in from around the country, it's the locals who continue to sacrifice in myriad ways daily, amid the deluge.

"Highlight the people of southeast Texas and their unbelievable willingness to help," Pera said. "People going door to door, bringing trucks, boats, chainsaws for fallen trees. In water, wading, on boats, wading (through) to help you."

With all Houston-area colleges having no classes until Tuesday at the earliest, the plan is to continue to visit shelters, help communities discard of destroyed items, and find as many ways to do good around Houston as is possible.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

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