By Brian McInnis
That will be tough. Florida State offers Hawaii the best defense the Rainbow Warriors will probably see the all season.
But remember this cool fact: UH coach Gib Arnold is unbeaten in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, having won it last year in his final season as USC assistant coach.
It was the inaugural edition of Hawaii's new eight-team tournament, which is run by ESPN Regional TV. An extremely physical USC team edged Western Michigan, knocked off Saint Mary's (an eventual Sweet 16 team) and upset No. 20 UNLV in the title game. Trojans point guard Mike Gerrity emerged for his new team with dominant performances and was named tourney MVP.
"It's a little bit surreal, but it's great," Arnold said after Tuesday's light practice, which included some scout work for the 9-2 Seminoles. "I had a great experience here last year, and it was fun for me to come back and our team played well, and (got to) see family and friends. Now to be here permanently is pretty special and this tournament brings a lot of real good memories."
Besides Arnold, former USC backup center Davis Rozitis is also here as a transfer to UH. However, he is sitting out all games this season per NCAA transfer rules.
Senior point guard Hiram Thompson isn't resigned to missing the tournament with the stiff back, but his chances of a speedy return from the brutal fall he suffered against Chicago State aren't good. He was still limited to shooting and light running during yesterday's practice.
"Trying to get as much treatment as possible, and trying to get loose," Thompson said. "(On that play) I thought I had an open steal, and felt my legs get taken out. I tried to get my hands down (to brace for the fall) but it was too late. Just went straight on my back. I've already kind of had a bad back the past year and everything, so it just kind of re-aggravated some things I've tried to get healed up."
Ever a positive person, Thompson was holding out hope that he'd be able to come back for these next three games, which are big for UH with national TV exposure on the line.
"Right now it's kind of up in the air, but I think with the treatments this week, today and everything, hopefully I'll be ready," Thompson said.
Arnold appreciated Thompson's desire to come back, but was taking a realistic approach.
"You know, he's hurt," Arnold said. "He'll want to play hurt. But we're going to monitor it and make sure. If the doctors give him the go-ahead to the trainer, then we'll try. But if not, we're not going to do anything that could possibly damage him or hurt him worse."
UH will likely be down to eight active players. Senior forward Bill Amis still has his right foot in a boot because of a setback with his stress fracture.
"Guys are excited, guys are going to be fine," Arnold said. "We're down a little bit, but I don't think anyone's planning on not showing up. They're going to play for us. We know how good Florida State is, especially their defense. ... It's a pretty big task, but our guys are going to give it everything they got."