Archive for January, 2011

Big game

January 28th, 2011
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The Hawaii men's basketball team is feeling pretty confident going into tomorrow's showdown against Western Athletic Conference leader Utah State at the Stan Sheriff Center.

UH coach Gib Arnold promised "a little somethin'-somethin' " along with UH football coach Greg McMackin for fans who arrive early at the arena. Could it be the board shorts-and-slippers look he alluded to on the Call the Coach Show earlier this week? I don't think he was referring just to the Bud Light Tailgate Party (5 to 7 p.m. outside the SSC), but we shall see.

Apparently, the "All in Against the Aggies" promotion is paying off; expect a big crowd for this one. A UH official said tickets sold were already in the neighborhood of 6,500 today, meaning it should go above 8,000 in the 10,300-seat arena. It'll be interesting to see if the crowd eclipses that for the Florida State game in the Diamond Head Classic, which was about 8K.

A reminder, UH Manoa students get in free, as they have all season.

———

It will be a huge moment when Miah Ostrowski checks into the game for the first time since the death of his father, Kui, early Wednesday morning.

Ostrowski has practiced as normal (or as normal as possible) since the tragedy, something that continues to amaze me. Getting chills just thinking about the ovation he should get in the USU game.

Here's some extra Q&A from the Ostrowski interviews conducted a couple days ago:

Miah Ostrowski:
On his father:
He was my No. 1 coach. I never really listened to anyone as much as I listened to him. After games, before games. I’d always take his word over anybody’s word.
He made me mentally strong. Just the way he lived life and stuff. ... He was always cool to everyone. That’s how I try to be.
On the games last week:
When I look at it that way, it’s like, I’m happy I got to play for him, a couple games. And football I wasn’t really playing, but I got to play in the Tulsa game. He got to se me play a little, you know?
Basketball was his love. It was both of our loves growing up. He did everything for me. He always made sure I played the best, played up. Made sure I was ready for everything, talked to me before games.
I’d see him every weekend. He’d always call and see how everything’s going. It’s not that far away, but I always talk to him, they always check up to make sure everything’s OK. How’s practice going and stuff l ike that.
He was my biggest fan.

Tony Sellitto (Kui's former coach at Maryknoll)

On Kui:

He had a great winning attitude.
I liked to play with my kids and everything, but (Kui) was serious about his son. He’d do all this stuff with him every day. He was really into his son, really enjoyed Miah.
I must have said to him two words in two years. I never had to say anything to him. He played hard, he played smart. I think he was a captain, but he wasn’t a captain who said, ‘C’mon, get over there.’ He wasn’t that kinda guy. He just didn’t say anything. He just played all the time, hard, hard, hard hard. A great deal of pride.

Gib Arnold
I’ve said this since (Miah) showed up on our team, that he’s a great kid and great competitor.
When I came back (to Hawaii), I was able to spend a little bit of time with (Kui). Once (Miah) started playing for us, he was always out there with a big hug and a smile. Was really enjoying seeing his son play basketball and having success.
Obviously it’s tough on him, it’s tough on all of us, but it was business as usual with him and he’s taking this all in stride.

Pi‘i Minns
It’s a real shocker to me. I’d always see Miah’s dad at games and stuff. From the last game (last Saturday), I just seen him. I couldn’t really believe it.
Of course, I know what he’s going through because I lost my dad too when I was young. I mean, it’s just a real shocker. No words you can really say how he feels.
He doesn’t really want to talk, but at the same time we want to lighten the mood for him, get it off his mind. But it’s tough.
He looked the same (on the court), but now that I found out (what happened), I could tell in the locker room. Pretty much kept to himself, but Miah does his thing on the court and I’m sure he’ll be just fine.
My dad passed away when I was 2. I know what it’s going to be like for his mom, and I feel it’s going to be a lot different. I’d rather lose them younger than later because you never know.
I’ll just be there for him if he ever needs me.

Michele Ostrowski (Miah's mom)
The kids are very sad. They’re very close with their dad. He was close with all the kids. He was like a kid himself. They’re all having a hard time but they’re trying to be strong. He’s with his mom now. His mother (Leilani) just passed away (in 2009).

On watching Miah play:

He was always excited, always happy for him. They would always play basketball in outside leagues together when he was little.
Basketball was the start of it, when he was like 5 or 6 years old. Gave Miah knowledge of the game, what to look for. He was really good.
Saturday’s the first game that his dad won’t be physically there, but we know he’ll be there spiritually. ... It will be very emotional.

Amazing

January 26th, 2011
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It was simply amazing to see Miah Ostrowski go through Hawaii men's basketball practice today without his father's death — just hours earlier — showing any discernible effect on his play. He simply did what he does regularly by bringing energy and playmaking ability.

For those who haven't yet heard, Miah's father, Kui Ostrowski, died overnight after suffering a seizure and heart failure. He was only 43.

My condolences to Miah and his family. It was obvious how hard it hit Miah talking to him on the phone before that practice, which made his usual solid play on the court a couple hours later all the more remarkable. I'll release an extended Q&A about it from Miah and several others tomorrow.

Since he was 5 or 6 years old, Miah was guided by Kui, a former standout and state champion at Maryknoll.

A side note also mentioned by Dave Reardon in his blog entry: Miah would have likely joined the UH basketball team in the winter of the 2009-10 season, but put it off because of the death of his grandmother. After the 2009 UH football season, he devoted extra time to see to her services.

I think most UH fans are glad he's there now. And it seems he will make every effort to play against Utah State on Saturday.

Services for Damian "Kui" Ostrowski are set for Saturday, Feb. 12 at the Central Union Church. Visiting hours are 6 to 7:30 p.m. with the service to follow.

Also, to donate to the Ostrowski family to help with the cost of services, write a check to The Damian K. Ostrowski Memorial Fund, and deposit it at any Bank of Hawaii.

Real danger for Wahine // All in!

January 24th, 2011
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Last time Dana Takahara-Dias and her Rainbow Wahine went up to Fresno State, they got blasted by 41 points, a UH WAC record loss.

A couple different ways to look at today's matchup at FSU.  The last-place Wahine (6-12, 0-5 WAC) could say they have nothing to lose — they fell 53-43 at lowly San Jose State on Saturday — and play inspired ... or they could feel the weight of their brutal WAC start, come out flat, and get hammered by the league title favorite.

Should the Wahine lose, they will stretch their WAC road losing streak to 15 games and equal the program's worst WAC start (0-6), which was set under Jim Bolla in 2008-09.

UH needs to look at every game as an opportunity to pick up ground on eighth-place SJSU (2-16, 2-3). If they don't, they'll be sitting out the WAC tournament come March.

———

The Hawaii men's basketball team, winners of three straight, was given the day off from practice today as added recuperation time before Saturday's big matchup against WAC leader Utah State.

That didn't mean the UH marketing department wasn't busy. It  promoted the game as "All in Against the Aggies!" Students have gotten in free all season, but the team is really emphasizing that this week.

UH players and coaches were around campus and the dorms today to spread that message to students.

“We need a large and enthusiastic crowd to help cheer our players on to victory against a tough Utah State team,” UH coach Gib Arnold said in a statement. “It’s incredible the impact a spirited and energetic crowd has on the performance of our players. We hope the fans turn out in big numbers for this important WAC contest.”

There will be a $20-per-person tailgate outside the Stan Sheriff Center Gate B from 5 p.m. until the 7 p.m. tipoff. The UH coaches and some players will be at the event for about the first half hour.

Tickets (limited to the first 300) are available by calling Peggy at 484-4339 or e-mailing peggy.abella@anheuser-busch.com.

Mixed bag

January 21st, 2011
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There was plenty to like in the Hawaii men's basketball team's first half last night against Fresno State. The timely return of 3-point shooting, offensive execution and rebounding was encouraging.

Almost just as much to dislike in the second half, when the Bulldogs nearly made up a 20-point halftime deficit. The shots stopped falling, but FSU didn't have quite enough and fell 62-52 to the Rainbow Warriors.

In the end, it's still a UH win, and the Rainbows are in much better position than they were a week ago. A victory against San Jose State (9-8, 1-5 WAC) tomorrow gives the 'Bows a solid grip on seventh place.

The Spartans' star guard, senior Adrian Oliver, is third in the country in scoring average (24.2 ppg), behind only BYU's Jimmer Fredette (25.8) and UConn's Kemba Walker (25.5). Oliver missed the last two SJSU games with a concussion, but has resumed practicing this week. The UH coaches are assuming Oliver is playing.

Also, SJSU freshman guard Keith Shamburger returns to the islands for the first time since spurning Gib Arnold's Rainbow Warriors for George Nessman's Spartans. Shamburger (11.2 ppg) averaged 20 points in the two games Oliver missed, a win at Louisiana Tech and loss at New Mexico State.

———

UH freshman shooting guard Bo Barnes, who returned to his early season form with 12 points on 4-for-7 shooting (all 3-pointers), apparently isn't the team's only shooter to reinvent himself.

Junior guard Zane Johnson is wearing No. 50 at practice today, though it's not a permanent switch. Apparently his usual No. 3 wasn't available. Number looks a little strange on him, must say.

Too early to tell if junior Miah Ostrowski has completely supplanted freshman Bobby Miles in the point guard rotation behind senior Hiram Thompson. Miles didn't play at all against Fresno, but we'll know more on this after tomorrow's game vs. SJSU.

UPDATE: Sophomore swingman Dominick Brumfield didn't suit up for the Fresno game because he was academically ineligible, and will likely be so again against SJSU.

———

The UH women's basketball team's game at San Jose State is no gimme. The Spartans, winless at 0-16 before last night's 63-61 victory against Idaho, got a much-needed breakthrough. SJSU improved to 1-3 in the WAC, while Dana Takahara-Dias' Rainbow Wahine are still winless at 0-4.

Pivotal game for the Wahine.

Fresno State prep

January 19th, 2011
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The Hawaii men's basketball team has played basketball at all hours this season. There was the late-night game in the Rainbow Classic, a morning game in the Diamond Head Classic on Christmas Day, not to mention awkward hours of practices on UH's recent road trips.

So the Rainbow Warriors (10-8, 1-5 WAC) shrugged off a late-night practice at Klum Gym last night — held from 9 to 10:45 p.m. because coach Gib Arnold had just returned home from a recruiting trip — and got plenty of rest before a normal afternoon practice today.

Energy levels seemed to be fine in preparation for tomorrow's game against Fresno State (7-9, 3-3), which has lost three in a row after a 3-0 WAC start.

"We were alright," junior guard Zane Johnson said. "Some of us got in the cold tub, some of us older guys. We use that cold tub a lot, I really think we recover faster with that."

In addition, the Rainbows got a present: new adidas game shoes.

"We've been waiting on these for a while," Johnson said.

Interesting subplot to the game against FSU: UH associate head coach Walter Roese was an assistant to Bulldogs coach Steve Cleveland for several years at BYU. Roese naturally had the scout against his old boss.

———

Meanwhile, the Rainbow Wahine basketball team scrimmaged against its men's practice squad, Da Braddahs, in Gym 2.

The Wahine are trying to shake off the disappointment of a narrow loss at Boise State last week, in which they allowed a 37-point game from BSU forward Lauren Lenhardt, ultimately UH's undoing. UH takes to the road again tomorrow for Saturday's game at winless San Jose State (0-16).

Though the Spartans are impossible to describe as anything but awful, this is an opponent the Wahine (6-11, 0-4) cannot overlook.

Ostrowski comes up big // Jackson moves up to No. 2 nationally

January 17th, 2011
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While senior forward Bill Amis (22 points and 12 rebounds) rightfully got much of the credit for Hawaii's huge 56-48 win at Louisiana Tech on Saturday, the Rainbow Warriors got much-needed support from junior guard Miah Ostrowski to help put the game away.

Ostrowski got a steal and fed Joston Thomas for an alley-oop basket, then grabbed a rebound as was fouled in the final minutes, making both free throws.

His two points and one assist in 12 minutes of play weren't outstanding in the box score, but were instrumental in UH (10-8, 1-5 WAC) ending its 13-game WAC road losing streak going back to 2008-09.

When coach Gib Arnold added Ostrowski to the team in December, it was a mystery if he would use the Punahou product (and UH football slotback) in meaningful game situations. The answer to that question has been a resounding yes. Look for more of that out of him in the second half of WAC play.

———

The Rainbows had a weightlifting session and shootaround in lieu of a full practice today, as they endured roughly 17 to 18 hours of travel getting back to Honolulu from Ruston, La., on Sunday. Another reason for no full practice — Arnold and assistant Benjy Taylor remained on the mainland for recruiting.

Associate coach Walter Roese took the reins, guiding the team through some good-natured shooting contests. Just about all the players had smiles on their faces; it's amazing to see what one win (especially on the road) can do for a team's spirits.

Arnold returns tomorrow night. Meanwhile, UH prepares for its opener of a three-game homestand on Thursday vs. Fresno State.

———

The UH women's basketball team had a chance to end its losing streak at Boise State on Saturday, but couldn't hold on and dropped its fifth in a row, 69-63.

In the loss, freshman forward Kamilah Jackson posted 22 rebounds, increasing her season average to 13.2 rpg and bumping her up to second in the country. Only Courtney Hurt of Virginia Commonwealth (13.3 rpg) averages more.

You'd like to think if Jackson grabs that many boards and starters Keisha Kanekoa, Shawna Kuehu and Megan Tinnin each go for 14 points or more, you'd have a good chance to win. But the Wahine (6-11, 0-4 WAC) must try to end the streak (and should) on Saturday at winless San Jose State (0-16).

Road woes

January 14th, 2011
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That's 26, count 'em, 26 combined Western Athletic Conference road losses for the Hawaii men's and women's basketball teams.

First-year men's coach Gib Arnold and second-year coach Dana Takahara-Dias are still looking for their first league road breakthroughs. The programs' last WAC road wins came under Bob Nash and Jim Bolla in 2008-09.

Perhaps a positive sign for the Rainbow Warriors: After trailing by 30 at New Mexico State, the second unit (featuring UH's three freshmen) trimmed the gap to the final margin of 18 in the 82-64 loss.

At this point, when it's becoming apparent that UH will again be fighting to stay out of last place for the rest of the WAC season, you look for whatever positives you can find.

That's why tomorrow's game at eighth-place Louisiana Tech (9-9, 0-4 WAC) looms large. Every win is huge when you're trying to stay out of the basement, especially when you can gain an edge tiebreaker-wise on one of the teams you're going to be nervously eyeballing the standings for the rest of the way.

Three wins wasn't enough to save UH from missing out on the WAC tourney last year, so getting one at LaTech is critical.

———

The 24-point beating the Rainbow Wahine suffered at Idaho, meanwhile, is disappointing coming off a closely contested home loss to Louisiana Tech, one of the top teams in the women's WAC.

Idaho, probably a middle-of-the-pack team, outplayed the Wahine (6-10, 0-3 WAC) in all phases except rebounding in a 72-48 decision at the Cowan Spectrum in Moscow. Not exactly the way you want to start off a stretch of five straight road games.

The Wahine continue that brutal road stretch at Boise State (10-7, 1-2) tomorrow, then return home for a two-day respite before taking to the road again.

Fresh semester, fresh start? // Kuehu matchup not to be

January 11th, 2011
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The Hawaii men's basketball team had little choice but to practice light on Monday, the start of the spring semester. A few of the first-year UH players had to miss practice to arrange time to declare a major, so the Rainbow Warriors did myriad shooting contests (which many of you will point out they could use right now) and some light offensive set work.

Today was back to a standard-issue practice in Gym 2, the team's last before it departs for Las Cruces, N.M., site of Thursday's game against New Mexico State, where the Rainbows will try to halt an 0-4 start to the Western Athletic Conference season.

The team leaves tonight for Dallas, then flies west to El Paso and will arrive by bus tomorrow in Las Cruces.

The good news for the slumping (9-7 overall) 'Bows: everyone is healthy, and senior forward Bill Amis continues to look sharp in practices. Now he's just got to find a way to make that translate to game nights, as he did through four games of nonconference play.

"We're all staying together as a team, and as a whole family and work through this," Amis said after today's practice. "We've just been in a little slump. ... It's about getting into a rhythm for me. I've only played a few games in two years now, so I just need to get a rhythm out there."

———

It didn't happen last year, and won't happen this year — in the first of two possible games, anyway.

Twin sisters Shawna Kuehu (Hawaii) and Shaena Kuehu (Idaho) still won't play each other for the first time in a real game on Thursday. That's because Shaena has been out the last five games for Idaho for medical reasons, and a UI team spokesperson confirmed she will remain out for the UH game in Moscow, as she is back in the islands.

Shaena started the first nine games of the season for the Vandals, averaging 6.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.

Shawna missed the entire WAC season last year with a torn ACL suffered just a few games into the season, preventing the first possible matchups between the two former Punahou teammates. And no, collegiate summer league games don't count.

We'll see if Shaena is recovered by Feb. 5, when the Vandals and Rainbow Wahine meet in Honolulu.

———

Also, senior forward Allie Patterson's recent absence on the Wahine bench was because of a medical issue that forced her to visit the hospital, she said. Patterson — who had a starting job  in the UH frontcourt at the start of the season — hasn't played in five straight games. She hasn't practiced lately while she recovers, and won't be making the first leg of this five-road-games-in-a-row stretch to Idaho and Boise State. She said she hopes to regroup with the team next week when it returns to Hawaii prior to the second stretch, at San Jose State, Fresno State and Utah State.

Extra Q&A on Tavita

January 8th, 2011
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While Hawaii's game against Boise State tonight is obviously the main focus, many are curious about the team's new addition, Jace Tavita, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound transfer guard from Utah.

Tavita will be a practice player for the rest of the season, and most of the fall portion of next season per NCAA rules.

He already looks to be the most physical of any guard on the UH roster.

Here was what UH coach Gib Arnold had to say at yesterday's practice about the team's new addition.

Arnold:

"Love him. He can guard it, he’s athletic. Obviously love the fact that he’s Hawaiian, he’s got family here ... and he can play. He’s a Division I player who started a lot (19 of 30 games last season) at the University of Utah. I’ve known Jace since (eighth grade at a basketball camp). He’s going to end his career here. I told him he’s going to come back home, although he’s never lived here. He went home to finish his career."

"He’s a great athlete, he’s tough as nails, and he’s going to bring that attitude to the floor every day, and he’s going to give our guards fits by getting into them and guarding them and doing those things. He’s going to make us better and he’s going to make that scout team better as well.
And we’ve improved our ability to do the haka as well over Christmas break, with adding him and Miah."

Arnold wouldn't say whether Tavita would be a scholarship player (the team has two available right now with the departure of guards Anthony Salter and Jordan Coleman).

———

Tavita was happy to do a little Q&A yesterday after his first UH practice:

Q: How did you come to be here?
A: I just wasn’t happy with my situation at Utah. I knew the great things Coach Arnold was doing over here, so I just wanted to be a part of that. That culture and stuff. Coming back here, where I got a lot of family, my Poly roots, I thought it’d be a good thing for me.
I was born in California and raised in Utah. My grandparents were born here, my mom was born here. So it’s cool to come back over here.
Both my grandparents are both full Hawaiian. Got some Hawaiian in my blood.

Q: On getting in five games at Utah this year:
A: Yeah, the style of play over there, I didn’t really fit it. More of an athlete, I like to get up and down and run. (Coach Boylen’s) plays kind of slowed tempo. It didn’t really fit me, and I wasn’t really happy over there. So I decided to make a change.

Q: What's your history with Gib?
A: Yeah, I’ve known him since, like he said, eighth grade, so we have a good relationship. I’m comfortable playing for him and I like what he’s doing over here, so I want to be part of that.

Q: Were you with Utah when it came down for the Diamond Head Classic?
A: No, I had already gotten my release. I watched it. I was rooting for Hawaii and I’m happy they won.

Q: What were your thoughts on your first UH practice?
A: I thought it was good. We got up and down without killing the guys’ legs, because they have a game (today). Working on the things he talked about, rebounding and getting stops. Being tougher. So that was good, I like that.

Q: Will you be on scholarship?
A: We haven’t really talked about it, so I’m not worried about it as of right now. Just trying to get situated.

Regrouping and reloading

January 7th, 2011
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There's no way to describe Hawaii's 59-44 home loss to Idaho last night as anything but ugly, but perhaps some new blood can help the Rainbow Warriors get past their recent frustrations in the Western Athletic Conference.

UH (9-6, 0-3 WAC) will look to pick up its first league victory tomorrow night against Boise State (10-5, 3-0).

Utah transfer Jace Tavita practiced for the first time with his new team. He sat on the bench last night and watched the debacle vs. the Vandals, but on first impressions from today's practice, looks like a solid defender who could help the Rainbows get better. The only thing is, he will have to do it as a practice player for two full semesters because of NCAA transfer rules.

"Jace, you look good in that green and black. A lot better than that red," UH coach Gib Arnold told Tavita during a drill in today's practice.

Tavita, a junior, will sit out games the rest of this spring. He will be eligible to play in the spring of 2011-12.

In five games for the Utes this season, he averaged 1.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in 16 minutes per game. He was voted a team captain at the start of the season, but requested his release once playing time became scarce.

———

The team didn't seem overly down about suffering its second straight blowout loss of league play, but there did seem to be a sense of urgency today.

More on the must-win nature of tomorrow's game against the Broncos — who are coming off a quadruple-overtime win at San Jose State — in tomorrow's newspaper.