Archive for October, 2011

No trick: It's Rupp

October 31st, 2011
By



Happy Halloween all. About to head out to cover UH basketball practice, where Kerry Rupp will be helping out for the first time. It might take a little while to get used to the sight of him in Hawaii for anything other than a road trip with Louisiana Tech.

Rupp, formerly the LaTech head coach for four years through last season, was officially announced today as the new director of basketball operations by UH and coach Gib Arnold.

“We are very fortunate to have Kerry join our staff,” Arnold said in a statement. “I've known Kerry for years and he's not only a great coach but also a great person. He's known for being an extremely hard worker and I know he'll spend countless of hours helping with all aspects of our program. This is a great get for UH basketball and I couldn't be more happy to work with someone of Kerry's caliber.”

Said Rupp: “It's an incredible honor to be here at the University of Hawaii. I'm thankful to Coach Arnold for giving me this unique opportunity. I can't tell you how excited it is to be associated with such an up-and-coming program like Hawaii with its combination of great players and staff.”

It will be interesting to see what kind of say he'll have in practices, or if he'll focus on being a behind-the-scenes guy. I have a feeling he'll have a voice — perhaps even a loud one.

Big pickup

October 22nd, 2011
By



If you haven't seen the breaking news section on the Star-Advertiser website today, here's what I posted about Evergreen (Wash.) senior center Caleb Dressler, who on Friday night verbally committed to play for UH starting in the 2012-13 season.

The 6-foot-10 Dressler's addition is big considering the lack of depth on the Rainbow Warriors' front line. More on him in Sunday's newspaper.

Dressler was clearly enjoying watching his future teammates in practice on Friday. The Ohana Hoopfest, with its plethora of crowd-pleasing antics, only helped matters. He will accompany the team to watch their football brethren take on New Mexico State today at Aloha Stadium.

The Hawaii men's basketball team picked up its first new commitment for the 2012-13 season in Evergreen (Wash.) High senior center Caleb Dressler late Friday night.

Dressler, a 6-foot-10, 240-pound native of Vancouver, Wash., said he offered his oral commitment to UH coach Gib Arnold after seeing a Rainbow Warriors practice and the Ohana Hoopfest at the Stan Sheriff Center on Friday.

"(Seeing those things) hit home the fact that I was home, and I wanted to seal the deal before the deal got away from me," Dressler said in a phone interview from his hotel. "It was a great deal for me."

He cannot sign a national letter of intent until the start of the early signing period on Nov. 9, but said he plans to do so.

The lefty, who is most comfortable with his back to the basket, averaged 17 points, 14.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game as a junior for Evergreen. Power forward and center are positions of need for UH.

He chose UH over two other final options, Portland State and Montana State. He had previously visited both.

Dressler represents one of two scholarships available for next season.

Big name up for ops job

October 17th, 2011
By



The Hawaii men's basketball director of operations job has to remain posted online for another week or so, but it's already attracted a surprisingly big name.

Former Louisiana Tech coach Kerry Rupp is said to be interested in the job previously occupied by the since-promoted Scott Fisher.

Rupp was fired at the end of last season after a last-place (2-14) finish in the WAC which caused the Bulldogs to miss the WAC tournament. Overall, he was 57-69 in four seasons at LaTech. The previous year, the Bulldogs went 24-11 and qualified for the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.

If UH coach Gib Arnold hired Rupp, he'd have two former Division I head coaches on his staff (along with associate head coach Benjy Taylor, whom formerly coached at Chicago State).

He's likely by far the most qualified (read: overqualified) for the job, but so was Fisher after his Hall of Fame stint in Australia's National Basketball League. The director of operations oversees day-to-day tasks like planning road trips and logistics. It's a job decidedly below that of a full assistant, which makes Rupp's interest, well, interesting.

Will keep you notified as this develops.

———

If you haven't seen the breaking news, OC Sports decided on its TV crew for UH basketball broadcasts this season. For men's games it will be Kanoa Leahey, Tony Sellitto and David Hallums. Artie Wilson and Howard Dashefsky will be involved with pre- and postgame segments, with Wilson reprising his role as color commentator from time to time.

If you've heard Kanoa's calls of Diamond Head Classic games over the last two years, you know he's excellent at UH hoops play-by-play. Sellitto has been a mentor to Gib Arnold since Arnold's return to the islands, and brings a wealth of coaching knowledge to the table. Hallums is a well-known former UH player and is comfortable around the media.

Three-man booths can be challenging to execute successfully for basketball, but my favorite team in recent years was ABC/ESPN's trio of Mike Breen, Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy. So it can be done, if the chemistry is there. (Pity Jackson is now coaching Golden State. ... And that there's a lockout).

For women's games, it will be Jim Leahey and Lori Santi, with additional crew members to be announced.

Glad to see the elder Leahey is still involved. That tandem has plenty of practice calling Wahine hoops games.

———

Injury update: junior center Vander Joaquim shook off a tweaked ankle during Saturday's practices and returned to action on Monday.

No other setbacks to report right now.

Captains ahoy

October 15th, 2011
By



UH coach Gib Arnold has elected his co-captains for the 2011-12 season.

Senior guard Zane Johnson and junior center Vander Joaquim were the picks. Expect Zane to do most of the talking; he spoke up on behalf of the team several times last year even without official captain's duties. Vander looks sharp coming off his summer with the Angolan national team and has impressed the coaches with his progress.

———

Speaking of Vander, the big man stepped on a teammate's foot early in Saturday morning's practice and sat out the rest of the session with his right foot wrapped. It didn't appear overly serious; he didn't limp when he walked around on it. Still, it will be worth monitoring.

All other players are healthy.

It's that time again

October 14th, 2011
By



Ladies and gentlemen, the first day of men's basketball official practices is upon us.

While teams on the East Coast must wait until after the stroke of midnight to practice (or conduct Midnight Madness) early Saturday morning, Hawaii benefits from the time difference to get in a full practice at a reasonable hour tonight, starting at 6:30 p.m. It will be open to the public at lower campus, should anyone want to check out Gib Arnold's second-year team.

In the spirit of a fresh season (and full disclosure) here's my selections in the Western Athletic Conference preseason media poll that I just submitted, with some notes on my reasoning.

I'll go last to first among the eight teams.

No. 8: Louisiana Tech. One of two WAC teams with a new head coach. Former Ole Miss assistant Michael White will have his work cut out to rebuild this program. Not only were the Bulldogs last in the WAC (2-14) last year, they lost their top two scorers in guard DeAndre Brown and forward Olu Ashaolu (who transferred to Oregon in the offseason).

No. 7: Fresno State. A sign of how disappointing center Greg Smith's sophomore season was: despite being the Bulldogs most talented player by far, he couldn't manage to lead Fresno in the scoring column, putting up just 11.7 ppg. Smith got some bad advice and jumped early to the NBA (or tried to; he wasn't drafted). Sophomore guard Kevin Olekaibe put up 12 ppg last year and is about the only known commodity back. FSU also has a new coach in Rodney Terry.

No. 6: Idaho. Give the Vandals and coach Don Verlin credit for their 9-7 WAC finish last season. Talent-wise, they were at a disadvantage pretty much every game, and so it probably will be again this year. But it will be difficult for UI to replicate its success with efficient center Kyle Barone (10.5 ppg, 61 percent FG) its best returning option. Sharpshooter guard Jeff Ledbetter and the rest of the Vandals frontcourt must be replaced.

No. 5: San Jose State. A fifth-place finish is probably the best-case scenario for the Spartans, but I'll give it to them here because of two solid starters returning in forward Wil Carter and guard Keith Shamburger. Though the best backcourt in the WAC in Adrian Oliver and Justin Graham is gone, Carter is good for a double-double per game and Shamburger set the SJSU freshman scoring record last year.

No. 4: Hawaii. Tempting to vote the Rainbow Warriors third or better with their returning talent, but several things have to go right for a finish like that. Senior guard Zane Johnson must build on his great junior season (15.8 ppg, UH single-season record for 3-pointers made) and junior center Vander Joaquim must be the All-WAC big man many think he can be. Questions about frontcourt depth must be answered and newcomers Shaquille Stokes and Hauns Brereton will be counted on to add a scoring punch. Improvement over last year's fifth place (8-8) finish is expected in a weak WAC.

No. 3: New Mexico State. The Aggies lost last year's top player, forward Troy Gillenwater, but get back undersized interior beast Wendell McKines from a year lost to injury. All indications are he's fully back and highly motivated to average a double-double. Combined with a proven point guard in Hernst LaRoche, that should be good enough for NMSU to contend for the WAC title until late into the season.

No. 2: Nevada. No excuses for the Wolf Pack this year after it failed to utilize its considerable talent in 2010-11. Its entire starting five is back, including four effective scorers in point guard Deonte Burton, shooting guard Malik Story and forwards Olek Czyz and Dario Hunt. That's 91 percent of UNR's scoring back. Talent-wise, the Pack also has the most by far.

No. 1: Utah State. It's a testament to the Aggies' system and coach Stew Morrill that a team from Logan, Utah, can lose basically its entire roster and still be expected to win the league. The only returning starter is All-WAC guard Brockeith Pane, and the only other rotation player back is uber-athletic forward Brady Jardine. But the Aggies' 10 newcomers (five JUCO transfers, five freshmen) are said to be loaded with talent, and once they buy into Morrill's system, it should be a fifth straight WAC title for USU, at least until another team proves otherwise.

———

Oh, the other part of the ballot is the player preseason picks. Here were mine for player of the year, newcomer of the year, and the All-WAC team.

All WAC:

Wendell McKines, New Mexico State F; Zane Johnson, Hawaii G; Brockeith Pane, Utah State G; Dario Hunt, Nevada F; Malik Story, Nevada G.

If there were a second team, here would be my picks without having seen any of the newcomers out there:

Vander Joaquim, Hawaii C; Deonte Burton, Nevada G; Brady Jardine, Utah State F; Kyle Barone, Idaho C; Hernst LaRoche, New Mexico State G

Player of the Year: Wendell McKines, New Mexico State F. Comment: USU's Pane won't have the numbers to justify it, even on what (should) be the WAC's best team. Nevada has too much talent across its roster for one player to be singled out for this honor. If UH has a big year, Zane Johnson will vault into consideration.

Newcomer of the Year: Shaquille Stokes, Hawaii G. Comment: Baby Shaq can light it up; he submitted double figures in each game on the China trip. The key for him will be how fast he can get comfortable with a Division I halfcourt game.