Arnold Call the Coach roundup

April 22nd, 2014
By

Hawaii coach Gib Arnold made a rare after-season appearance on KKEA 1420-AM's Call the Coach Show on Tuesday amid several offseason happenings for his program.

Highlights include Arnold saying he has two scholarships remaining for next season; stating that a game against Pittsburgh on Maui before the EA Sports Maui Invitational was likely; and saying his contract situation still has not been resolved.

Here's a sampling of Arnold quotes on some of the topics discussed, with questions asked mostly by host Gary Dickman and a few by fans calling in.

On signees Isaac Fleming and Roderick Bobbitt: "Both of them are really big athletic guards, something we haven't had since we've been here. They're both combo guards, but Roderick Bobbitt is more of a point guard."

On scholarships available: "I have two scholarships remaining for next year."

On what he needs to fill out the 2014-15 roster: "I always like best player available. I'm not a big guy on positions. ... If you look to where we're the thinnest … we're thinnest at the bigs."

On Negus Webster-Chan: "He's put on almost 20 pounds of muscle since he's been here. ... He could play the point for us. I have no problems with him doing it … but we're looking at him more at small forward."

On Keith Shamburger's departure: "You know, i'm just grateful for what he did for the program here. he played a big role in us winning our 20 games this year, which doesn't happen very often.  He had some big games for us… that UC irvine game he made that miraculous shot. He did have some ups and downs throughout the year but overall I thought he was really consistent. ... He's looking for something a little different and I support him."

On player movement in college basketball: "There's a lot of reasons. … for everybody it's a little different. It's an epidemic. It's something everybody is affected by. ... Utah State … lost their entire team. It happens. I think it has to do with the culture. Very few players play for one high school anymore."

On scheduling Pitt for a game on Maui in 2014-15: "Jamie (Dixon) and I have agreed to it. It's just a matter of getting it done. … We've agreed to a  date and time. I think everything's a go there. … We still have to put the contract together. We've talked about a home-and-home with Pittsburgh as well (the following year)."

On trying to schedule Kentucky: "We talked to Cal (John Calipari) about coming out here … he wanted to do it. He wanted 40 rooms. … it was something we wanted to do, but … you do the numbers, we'll have to play at Aloha Stadium to break even."

On Wichita State and Colorado playing in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic: "I'm a big Wichita State fan. I just love what they've done there and how they've done it. ... Colorado's made a name for themselves and done a great job in the Pac-12. I'm exctied. I'm looking forward to those games."

On the NCAA's proposal for unlimited meals for student-athletes and what that might cost schools: "I got no concern. I understand that we gotta figure out how to raise some money, and we gotta go out and make it happen. ... These student-athletes should have a great training table and they should be fed the right food. Our guys unfortunately sometimes skimp by a little bit …. We gotta just find a way. We will. These guys need to be fed, and they need to be fed right."

On his unresolved contract situation: "You know, I have not signed a contract. We have a lot of meetings and … I thought we were in an agreeable place. ... As of this time, I have not received anything written or anything across my desk. ... I would like to sign a contract, you bet I would. Of course I would. I've got five kids. I would like to stay here.

On whether his contract comes up in recruiting: "Every time. Every time. It's a big deal. … Every single home visit. That's a big topic. There's coaches out there who can use that against you. ... But I'm confident that what we agreed upon earlier will make it. I don't know with whom it's at. I don't deal with that. ... I don't want to get into a situation where you fight over this or that. I just want to a coach."

On his philosophy fouling up three in the Northridge loss in Big West tournament: "It does change a little bit depending upon a number of variables. I don't think there's any one way.  ... Coaches go back and forth on it. You gotta look at a couple things. One, have they been hitting shots. … Are they hot, have they been knocking down 3s. The second thing is, do you have free throw shooters that once you (inbound) … can those guys go down and knock down two free throws. This year I had free throw shooters. I'd like to get it into to Keith and to Garrett (Nevels). ... In the past, on a couple of times, my worst free throw (shooters) were my point guards."

On having players who appeared to be worn down at the end of recent seasons: "I did feel that we have worn down. One of our mantras going into the next year is 'finish strong.' ... I do think we need to, all the decisions I'm making early now are so we finish strong. I think we need to get deeper into the bench. ... I think you're going to see more guys play for me next year. I want to make sure we don't wear down. ... Even though the travel is not quite as far (as the WAC), we still travel by far more than anyone else in the country."

On whether Aaron Valdes will receive a scholarship next year: "I've given Valdes an academic goal, and if he hits that he will be on scholarship."

On the ongoing NCAA investigation: "You know, I'm really not allowed to talk a whole lot on that. … But I can reiterate from before, we did find something that didn't look right. When I found out about it, I immediately called Ben Jay. ...We went through the process. ... Once we found out a mistake was made, we did everything we were supposed to do. ... We found out now it was against the rules. We invited (the NCAA) in and opened up our books and records. When they come in, it's not like a little chat. You're getting interrogated over one thing. ... It's a new thing for me. ... They told me it will be taken care of shortly."

On reflecting on last season: "You know, just really proud of this team. Again, to win 20 wins was a big deal for us. I liked how the seniors stepped up and became leaders. Liked the development of the young guys. My guys continue to rip it up in school ... setting academic records. I was pleased. It was one of those years I really felt good every time we went to practice. ... I think we have a really good program right now and our goal is to go from good to great."

Musings on Shamburger

April 15th, 2014
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Well, if you haven't heard by now, Hawaii point guard Keith Shamburger is picking up his ball and going home.

Keith Shamburger

Keith Shamburger

If you drew up a list of likely candidates to leave early right after the conclusion of the 2013-14 season, Shamburger wouldn't have been near the top; his starting job seemed relatively secure. But now UH heads into the fall requiring a new starting ballhandler for the fourth straight year.

Less than two weeks ago, Shamburger was hyping up some pretty eye-opening (and still unconfirmed) names on the 2014-15 Rainbow Warriors schedule. Now, he'll wrap up his career at a to-be-named school, likely on the West Coast.

Both teammates I spoke to on Tuesday reacted with surprise. You can read their comments in Wednesday's Star-Advertiser.

So, is Shamburger leaving because of the impending signing of Indian Hills guard Roderick Bobbitt? It would be simplistic to peg it on either end of the spectrum — that it is the whole cause, or completely unrelated and more to do with his relationship with the coaching staff. The truth likely lies somewhere in between.

There were several blow-ups between Shamburger and teammates/coaches during the season, both public (think his first-half benching during the Cal State Northridge game on Feb. 1) and private (locker room angst after the win over Oregon State in the Diamond Head Classic, among other games).

At the time, there wasn't believed to be any lasting damage done, as there were several emotional personalities on last year's team — the head coach included). Well, in retrospect, maybe that wasn't the case.

Some were critical of Shamburger's shooting struggles (34.9 percent from the field, 30.8 percent on 3-pointers). But you also have to give him credit as the team's best free-throw shooter (83.2 percent); he helped put a few games away at the line. His ball distribution was generally solid (5.4 assists per game), and UH fans will always have the Hawaii-UC Irvine Sham-battle, which led to a Big West player of the week honor for him.

In one oft-rehashed postgame radio interview, Shamburger himself recognized his own shooting troubles and resolved to come back a much better with plenty of time put in the gym this offseason. He had moments of refreshing self-awareness like that that often made him one of the team's better interviews, his self-imposed media embargo (Shambargo) after the Northridge game notwithstanding.

UH fans should lament the lack of  continuity at point guard going into next season — it was the team's first chance in a while to have the clear-cut starter at the position back for another tour of duty. It'll be up to Quincy Smith, Bobbitt, Isaac Fleming or another newcomer to take command.

Personally, I'll miss the Sham puns.

General recruiting update

April 9th, 2014
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MONDAY UPDATE: Indian Hills Community College guard Roderick Bobbitt has verbally committed to UH.

With Wednesday's news that Abel Porter is still uncommitted leading up to his two-year LDS mission, let's talk about a couple guys who could be part of Hawaii's immediate future.

Jaleel-Cousins-55

Jaleel Cousins

I've been told that UH just hosted Navarro (Texas) College 6-foot-10 sophomore center Jaleel Cousins for an official visit early this week. Cousins, the younger brother of the Sacramento Kings' DeMarcus Cousins, averaged 7.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game on 52.9 percent shooting.  His complete stats for Navarro's 21-10 team may be found here.

With the departures of Christian Standhardinger and Davis Rozitis, UH is in desperate need of size heading into next season, so any 6-10 bodies still around are a commodity at this point heading into the late signing period.

Centers tend to do without eye-popping numbers in guard-driven JUCO ball, so he shouldn't be judged too harshly for his modest stats. Cousins blocked about a shot per game, so he's not elite in that area but you'd have to hope there is room for growth.

I'll try to firm up where Cousins stands in his recruitment.

Roderick Bobbitt

Roderick Bobbitt

UH is still set to host Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College guard Roderick Bobbitt this weekend.

The 6-foot-3 Bobbitt was an all-around performer at IHCC, ala Brandon Spearman a few years ago before he made the move to Manoa. Bobbitt averaged 15.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game for an elite (34-3) team and shot a respectable 47.2 percent. His complete stats are here.

There are obstacles in place for UH to get Bobbitt. IHCC coach Barrett Peery, Gib Arnold's cousin, is reportedly off to take an assistant coaching position at Arizona State, meaning Bobbitt might go along with him. And other offers Bobbitt reportedly has include power conference teams Oklahoma and Missouri.

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Ex-UC Riverside forward Joshua Fox is reportedly off to UC Davis, wiping one name off UH's board — though it was looking doubtful after Fox's visit in the fall did not result in any form of commitment. Those will be some interesting battles in the Big West between Hawaii-Davis and Davis-Riverside in the coming season.

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The signing period is upcoming swiftly at April 16, so stay tuned for updates.

Big names on 2014-15 schedule?

April 2nd, 2014
By

There was a little buzz Wednesday about some possible big names on Hawaii's 2014-15 schedule. Players Keith Shamburger and Aaron Valdes tweeted about Kentucky (a current Final Four team) and Pittsburgh (coached by former UH assistant Jamie Dixon) coming to the Stan Sheriff Center in nonconference play.

Keith Shamburger

Keith Shamburger

Aaron Valdes

Aaron Valdes

 

 

Before you get too excited, here's what Gib Arnold sent in a message back to an inquiry about the big names: "Nothing done. Nothing signed. Nothing official."

You can take that to mean there's some talks going on between the schools (which is saying something by itself) but also that considerable work remains before UH will feel comfortable announcing this. Pitt previously came up in speculation that UH was looking to book the Panthers either before or after the 2014 EA Sports Maui Invitational, ala Illinois two years ago, but it was thought that window came and went. Perhaps not.

And Kentucky, well, that would be a whole different animal, even with John Calipari's squad about to do another reload of one-and-dones.

Stay tuned for more on this.

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We've received word that the NCAA investigators looking into the men's basketball program concluded their on-campus business at UH by the end of March. Now, whether that's a good thing for the program remains to be seen.

Obviously, the sooner Arnold and Co. get resolution to the matter the better for them. But the NCAA isn't known for its speed in these matters, so don't be surprised if it's a while yet before they release their findings.

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Christian Standhardinger

Christian Standhardinger

Congrats to Christian Standhardinger on his impending participation in the NABC-chosen 2014 Reese's Division I College Basketball All-Star game in Arlington, Texas, on Friday.

The all-senior event doesn't include the biggest names in college hoops, but it is one final chance for Standhardinger and other under-the-radar players (in a national sense) to showcase their abilities to scouts the day before the Final Four.

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Speaking of the Final Four, how did your bracket picks pan out? Did anyone have UConn or Kentucky? Props to you if you did; any more than one out of four in this group of survivors deserves a self-pat on the back.

Uncertain times

March 19th, 2014
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With today's news that the NCAA will investigate the Hawaii men's basketball program, the next few weeks will certainly be interesting around the Manoa lower campus.

You can debate the merits of the college governing body sending representatives out here on the subject of assistant coach Brandyn Akana's apparent suspension self-imposed by UH. Certain parties believe the infraction that was committed has been totally overblown and was caught before real damage was done. Others say it was a very serious matter that cannot be overlooked.

Head coach Gib Arnold came out in staunch support of Akana in today's paper. If you talk to just about anyone who knows Akana, they are likely to laud him for his character — before or after this event. But his future with the program is in question now, depending on the NCAA's findings.

Nothing might come out of their trip out here. Or they might find something totally unrelated to tag some kind of penalty on UH; that's always the danger once they find reason to go through your books.

Regardless, we'll monitor the situation closely here at the paper.

What are your thoughts about the matter? Are you nervous for the program? Confident that the matter will be resolved quietly? Rolling your eyes at the NCAA for descending on another mid-major? Please share.

 

Showtime

March 13th, 2014
By

Honda warmups 1

Honda warmups 1

Honda 2

Honda warmups 2

The Hawaii women's basketball team raised the bar in the Big West tournament on Wednesday. Can the UH men do the same?

We're a handful of minutes away from tipoff between the No. 4 Rainbow Warriors and No. 5 Cal State Northridge at the Honda Center in Anaheim. UC Irvine is in the process of banishing UC Riverside in the 1-8 game.

Irvine has the best fan showing thus far, with a couple thousand in house. I'm hearing the UH crowd will be a little better than last year's respectable showing of a few hundred; we'll see how that bears out.

UH's body language was poor throughout its first-round loss to the Anteaters in last year's quarterfinal; the team had lost back-to-back games going in and the all-conference awards (Christian Standhardinger first-team, Vander Joaquim honorable mention) exacerbated some existing divisions within the team.

The Rainbows' chemistry has remained solid all season thus far and getting Standhardinger and Isaac Fotu on the first team together should only help matters.

This should be an exciting, fast-paced contest between the two highest-scoring teams in the conference. Should UH prevail and reach a conference semifinal for the first time since the 2012 WAC semis, you'd have to like UH chances of another victory against Long Beach State; though the 49ers swept the regular-season games, they by no means looked like a superior team.

Every preseason suicide sprint, every inbounding drill, every chew-out by coaches all comes down to a 40-minute season. Now we all find out if UH has what it takes to be a true contender in the Big West.

 

 

UCSB apologizes

March 7th, 2014
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UC Santa Barbara wasted little time in exercising damage control for Thursday's widely replayed and nationally discussed fan incident on the Gauchos' senior night game against Hawaii.

The Gauchos athletic department issued an all-points apology on the matter on Friday:

"On behalf of the UCSB student-athletes and staff we are disappointed and saddened by the singular act of a student during the first half of last night's men's basketball game versus Hawai'i.  We have apologized to Hawai'i athletics director Ben Jay and Big West Commissioner Dennis Farrell. Head Coach Bob Williams also apologized to Hawai'i head coach Gib Arnold on behalf of the department.  

The safety of all student-athletes, coaches and fans is paramount to us and we are reviewing the night and solidifying event protocol in hopes of preventing any one person from repeating this incident.

This one person's selfish act does not represent the passionate atmosphere our students display. We also note there were no incidents before, during or after the game by the students or anyone else. We have great respect for Hawai'i, its fans and student-athletes. In particular, we appreciate that the UH players and coaching staff handled the situation with class when engaging the student."

That last part is important to note. Things could have gotten much worse had any UH coaches or players acted beyond a simple push-away of the unruly fan. The 'Bows should be credited for showing restraint, especially coming off a heated sequence in which Brandon Spearman and Arnold were both assessed technical fouls.

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The game itself was disappointing for UH (19-10, 8-7) when you consider it was their last chance to make some regular-season noise against one of the other upper-tier teams in the conference, against which the 'Bows are now 1-5.

The second unit of Davis Rozitis, Quincy Smith and Aaron Valdes played well, but it wasn't enough to undo subpar nights by Isaac Fotu, Garrett Nevels and Spearman — those three starters shot a combined 4-for-23.

UH is locked into the No. 4 seed and will play either Cal State Northridge (7-9) or Cal Poly (6-9) at the No. 5 spot in the Big West first round. Cal State Fullerton (Saturday's senior night opponent) has a similar record (6-9) but loses out on the tiebreakers even should it beat UH to end the regular season.

Travel gripes

March 6th, 2014
By

Gib Arnold had to do a double take when he saw the final version of the Big West portion of the 2013-14 schedule.

This week's games — the last of the regular season — feature a bizarre travel itinerary for Hawaii. After the Rainbow Warriors play at UC Santa Barbara (4 p.m. HST on ESPNU) today, they  must race Cal State Fullerton back to the islands for Saturday's senior night at the Stan Sheriff Center.

UH can't fly out after today's game, which the 'Bows need to take if they still want a chance at finishing third. They will drive back from Santa Barbara to a hotel right next to LAX and fly out Friday morning. They'll practice immediately after getting back to the islands Friday evening. It's entirely possible Fullerton will get in first.

Here's what Arnold had to say on the matter when asked if he would bring up the schedule quirk with the Big West, which handles conference scheduling.

"I will bring it up," he said. "There were, I think, four different scheduling changes. This schedule (pattern this week) was not on the previous three that I was able to look at. Our last coaches meeting ... they handed out the new and improved schedule. And that was the first time I noticed it. I didn't even notice it. One of the other coaches brought it up and said, 'you see what they're doing to ya?' I looked at it, and you know, it was pretty much done with. That became the permanent schedule.

"I think it's necessary to be brought up," he continued. "We're going to go 18,000 miles in eight days. That's an awful lot of miles."

The schedule is similarly difficult for the Wahine basketball team, which must depart after tonight's senior night game against UCSB for a mainland contest at Fullerton on Saturday. From there, Laura Beeman's team will remain on the mainland for the Big West tournament next week.

Hawaii isn't the only team to be affected by a mixed home-away schedule this week around the league, but UH's situation is, of course, a little unique compared to the rest of the California-based league. And opponents like Santa Barbara and Fullerton must negotiate a similar travel burden flying out to the islands right before or right after their home game.

Still, there's no comparing this travel to some of the hurdles required in the old WAC.

Much would be alleviated by having an even number of teams in the league (10 would seem to be ideal) for travel partners, like what UH enjoyed last season with Cal State Northridge. But until the Big West takes on a team like, say, Cal State Bakersfield or Sacramento State, travel could be bumpy for the foreseeable future.

A fateful defeat

February 28th, 2014
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Another agonizing defeat in The Pyramid for did one thing for Hawaii — it helped shape the Big West Conference tournament picture quite a bit.

After Thursday's 63-61 setback at Long Beach State, fourth-place UH (19-9, 8-6 Big West) will very likely remain in fourth with two games still to play, trailing co-second-place teams LBSU and UC Santa Barbara (9-4) by two in the loss column. The Rainbow Warriors are up two games on Cal State Northridge and Cal Poly, which are tied for fifth at present at 6-8.

Should the 'Bows hang onto the fourth seed, they'll be matched up with the No. 5 team, which is looking more and more like Northridge. Cal Poly has not played well of late, and has the tougher final two games, at UC Irvine and at home to UCSB.

There is a chance CSUN will win both of  its last two games, at UC Riverside and at home vs. LBSU. If that happens and UH doesn't manage to win either of its last two — at UCSB and Cal State Fullerton on the Rainbows' senior night (yes, I realize that's unlikely) — CSUN would win the head-to-head tiebreaker with UH and becomes the 4 and UH the 5, in which case they'll meet anyway in the first round.

Should UH get past the first round in that 4-5 game, it won't necessarily meet the No. 1 seed, be it UC Irvine, Santa Barbara or Long Beach. The Big West reseeds teams in the semifinals to match up the lowest seeds with the highest seeds, so if there is an upset in the 3-6 or 2-7 games, it will shift the bracket. Just something to keep in mind.

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Congratulations to Christian Standhardinger for becoming UH's 16th 1,000-point scorer in the LBSU loss. He stands at 1,001 in his two-year UH career after going for 17 points and 11 boards.

Christian Standhardinger

Christian Standhardinger

Only three other 'Bows ever reached that plateau in two years: Tom Henderson, Anthony Carter and Reggie Cross.

He also broke John Penebacker's single-season free-throw attempts record of 224 with a 5-for-7 effort at the line — the new record is 228 and counting. The late Chris Gaines' single-season makes record of 184 won't last long, either. Standhardinger is at 175 and, at his current clip, will break it on senior night.

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Now, back to the bad. There's no disputing UH's late-game execution was lacking at Long Beach, as UH gave up a late five-point lead and several key offensive rebounds.

UH did a pretty good job most of the way of limiting the damage done by Mike Caffey and A.J. Spencer, the two players who hurt the most in LBSU's win at Hawaii. Role player Travis Hammonds was the guy who hit the game-winner this time, and I think that's something Gib Arnold can live with.

The  decision not to call timeout on the final, frantic possession with 8.1 seconds left wasn't too surprising. But Keith Shamburger dribbled up and was trapped at the top of the key, then forced up a difficult look that was blocked; there would be no repeat of the UC Irvine heroics. In retrospect, a timeout there could have kept UH alive.

Isaac Fotu (8 points, 2 rebounds, 4 fouls) was a nonfactor for much of the night, as his aggressiveness was robbed by three offensive foul calls, including one on a particularly egregious flop by LBSU big man Dan Jennings.

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UH will rest up for a few days before heading back out to the mainland on Tuesday for its game next Thursday at UCSB, which will be difficult task with the Big West Player of the Year-in-waiting Alan Williams on the prowl.

It's a strange trip, as UH must hustle home immediately after that game to play Fullerton on senior night Saturday. Not ideal for anyone involved.

Road Warriors

February 17th, 2014
By

Raise your hand if you thought Hawaii would have a better conference road record (4-2) than home (3-2) coming down the stretch of Big West play.

That's reality, and it's certainly the first time in recent years that is the case. UH has a record active streak of four away games in a row coming off wins at UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton last week.

Garrett Nevels

Garrett Nevels

The second-half execution at Fullerton wasn't perfect, but you have to credit the Rainbow Warriors for coming back from eight points down with eight minutes to play. And credit shooting guard Garrett Nevels specifically for his cold-blooded shot-making down the stretch, both from the corner on the go-ahead 3-pointer and at the foul line to put UH up three in the final seconds.

UH will have the opportunity to extend the streak even further with upcoming away games at Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara — though those will be two of the tougher ones of the season.

First up, though, is a tester at home that will either keep UH around in the regular-season title race or all but eliminate it from contention for the top seed at the Big West tournament. The 'Bows stole one at UC Irvine last month on Keith Shamburger's miracle shot to send the game to overtime.

Christian Standhardinger

Christian Standhardinger

The Anteaters will look to settle the score on Thursday in Honolulu, in what's being dubbed "Wig Night," the second straight year that "Frotu"-esque theme was chosen for the UCI game.

Congratulations to forward Christian Standhardinger for his deserved Big West Player of the Week award, his second of the season. Cases could even have been made for Nevels, Isaac Fotu and Shamburger, as well.

Standhardinger was able to foul out UCI's 7-foot-6 freshman center Mamadou Ndiaye in the last meeting. Maintaining that aggressiveness and limiting the shot blocker's minutes due to foul trouble could be key in the rematch.

One final note: Maybe teams will stop scheduling UH for their homecoming games in the immediate future. The Rainbow Warriors are 3-0 on those nights in two years of Big West play —  twice at CSF and once at UCI.