By Brian McInnis
New strategy by Hawaii coach Gib Arnold today — no outsiders allowed. The doors of Gym 2 were locked shut as the team practiced at high intensity (the coaching staff was audible far outside the gym as they got after the players).
With the season-opening exhibition vs. Chaminade approaching fast on Saturday, Arnold turned it up a notch. He said he intends to close practices to everyone (public and media) until the exhibition.
"We're going to close practice this whole week, and set the mind-set that it's business time now," Arnold said. "We're really locking in. ... I think there's definitely a sense of urgency right now and when you shut (practice) down and do that, it just adds a little incentive to get to work. Guys responded well and we had a good practice today."
The coaches are still in the teaching phase of introducing new plays and schemes.
"Honestly, I would probably like to have at least another month before we could go, being that everybody's new," Arnold said. "It takes twice as long with no guys knowing anything. It's a little early for this team, but what do you do? We're going to get in as much as we can."
Junior shooting guard Zane Johnson said the team spent the entire first hour of practice working on defense, traps, and boxing out for rebounds.
"Just a really, really intense practice today," Johnson said. "Coach really brought it today. He was really into practice today, he was on some people. But we definitely got better. Right away we were going 100 percent, there was no letting down the whole practice.
"I'm sure everyone sweat the most they've ever sweat today. I rang my shorts out about five times with sweat. He definitely got after us."
"We got after it today," agreed freshman guard Jordan Coleman. "It was a fun practice for me, we were just running and stuff."
Sophomore center Vander Joaquim thought it was "top two" among the team's best practices so far this preseason.
"At the end of practice (Arnold) was happy, that's all that matters," Joaquim said. "We feel like we had a real practice ... we got a lot better today."
Arnold said he has "a pretty good idea" of who his starting five for the Chaminade game are. But he plans to keep their identities under wraps until game day, with the exception of senior forward Bill Amis. Amis was as close to a lock as you could get at the start of preseason training.
"Bill Amis is starting, I will tell you Bill Amis is starting," Arnold said with a grin.
Today's Q&A from the preseason is senior center Douglas Kurtz.
Q: You look like a different guy ... when did you start work in the offseason for your final year?
A: To be honest, I never stopped working, man. I’ve been working hard through the summer and now, it’s been a good experience playing with Gib now ‘cause it’s a different system, and the way he plays here, it’s fast. So, adjusted myself, I lost 15 pounds from last season. I’m way faster, I’m in good shape. I’m 268 (pounds).
On his fitness level compared to last year:
I am in one of my best shapes now. I think I love this system man, and I think we have a great opportunity this year to do good job.
What did your offseason work entail?
I was in Iowa for a month, so I didn’t go to any camps or anything, but ... I had a lot of big man friends of mine there so we were doing a lot of 1-on-1 stuff, running, and weights. I came back here, was working with Nick (manager Milan) through a month and a half. We were basically every day in the gym, shooting, running, doing weights. When Gib got (hired) here, I wasn’t in that bad shape, but definitely better now.
What about the new offense works for you?
This offense gets a lot of looks on the bigs. I think me and Vander (Joaquim) going to get a lot of playing time this year. The system, it works. I think the chemistry is working well, and the team this year, not being selfish with the ball. We rotating with the ball, guys is doing their job inside. I love it.
On the system:
I can post in every play, it just depends where the ball’s at. Last year sometimes I’d be out by the 3-point line.
On associate head coach Walter Roese, a fellow native of Brazil:
Last year we went to the Olympics, the colleges in Serbia (the World University Games). He was the head coach, we went and had fun. It was awesome. ... I actually met him when I was about to go to the U.S. (three years ago).
On his senior year:
I’m not playing around this year, man. I’m giving it my all and my best and all I have this year. I’ve been three years in college now and haven’t got a championship yet. This is it, man, this is the year I got to get one. Not being selfish; I want to get it this year, man.
Are you a new player?
I feel a lot more motivated and it sucks because it’s my senior year, and I want to get the best of it. As soon as we came in to start working out, it was never easy. Eight weeks of preseason, every single day was super hard. You gotta get serious at some point, man. Everybody on the team got a lot better, stronger and faster.
On him and Vander as the centers:
We go hard, man. We foul a lot because he’s a strong guy, too. It’s hard to play against him ... and of course he’s making me better, too. We work out together, lift weights together.
Yeah, definitely (talk in Portuguese).