Archive for November, 2011

No Blakes this season

November 29th, 2011
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As bright an early signing period as it was for the Hawaii men's basketball team, news on the personnel front wasn't all positive.

Morningside (Calif.) High graduate Gerry Blakes will not be able to join the Rainbow Warriors over the upcoming semester break, as he continues to focus on academics at Citrus College in California. UH coach Gib Arnold was previously optimistic he could arrive midway through the season.

Right now, the combo guard is greyshirting and is not playing for Citrus' basketball team. An option is having him redshirt next season at Citrus in working toward an associates degree and joining UH down the road. It's believed UH is still at the top of his list, but he's been tantalizingly close to coming for what seems like a year and it's not happened yet. He could theoretically still arrive at Manoa with all or most of his years intact, but it will be more "wait and see" on this one for the foreseeable future, it seems.

If there's a silver lining, it's that even had UH managed to get Blakes in during December, it would have been extremely unlikely that he'd play in games this season.

It also seems that would-be walk-on Tyler McDaniels, the son of associate head coach Benjy Taylor, will not join the team at semester break, either.

However, UH is attempting to get early period signees Orel Lev of Israel and Isaac Fotu of New Zealand in at the semester break, Arnold said, though neither is a sure deal to be admitted by then. If one or both makes it in this season, they would redshirt the rest of 2011-12 as they get accustomed to UH's system.

Bringing the noise

November 23rd, 2011
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The battle between No. 6 Duke and No. 14 Kansas for the 2011 EA Sports Maui Invitational tonight should be just as interesting in the stands as it is on the court.

With a capacity of only 2,400, the Lahaina Civic Center has no chance of housing all of the hundreds of fans who flew over. Kansas filled the gym by itself in its two preliminary games, and Duke wasn't far behind.

Reports surfaced of fans waiting from 4:30 this morning for a coveted seat for the final.

After his team's semifinal win over UCLA, Kansas coach Bill Self had some entertaining comments on what he expected tonight's atmosphere to be.

"I don't know. But it was kind of rocking out there after the (semfinal) game with us. My family was having a good time in the stands. And they weren't even drinking.

"But I haven't been here but three times. And I will bet tomorrow night's atmosphere for the final game will be as good an atmosphere that this building's ever seen for this tournament. I could be wrong, but there will be — you're not going to be able to get all your fans in. People are going to be trying to scalp, do whatever for tickets.

"I think we brought ... well over a thousand. Seems like to me Duke brought a ton. I think it's going to be a great atmosphere. And there's something — this atmosphere may be as good a neutral court atmosphere that you could play in. It's better than an NCAA Tournament atmosphere because you can feel the crowd. They're actually a part of it."

A couple of the Jayhawks players followed up with their thoughts.

"I think this is one of the games when you come to Kansas you sign up for," senior guard Tyshawn Taylor said. "This is one of the big games that we're probably going to always remember coming to Maui playing Duke in the championship.

"So I'm definitely excited for this, and I think they (Duke) are going to have some great fans here. And our fans are great, too. I think, like Coach said, it's going to be real juiced in here. We've got to embrace it and enjoy this time."

Added junior forward Thomas Robinson: "The stage doesn't get any bigger than this, at least in the preseason. Duke versus Kansas in the championship for Maui ... this game might go down in history."

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Tough, rare home loss for the UH men's basketball team last night against Eastern Washington, and the way the schedule works out, there isn't a whole lot of time to fix things (around the Thanksgiving holiday) before Friday's game against Pacific.

Not too often you'll see the Rainbow Warriors get blown out at the Stan Sheriff Center by a Big Sky team, but that's exactly what happened. Per Jason Kaneshiro's story, scoring dried up with 5 minutes left in the first half as the Eagles bridged the halves with a 25-5 run.

I'll be back tomorrow morning to resume covering the team.

———

For any left who haven't seen it, UH officially added New Zealand forward Isaac Fotu on Tuesday.

Where Morningside High graduate Gerry Blakes fits into all this will be interesting. He could theoretically still come, but as it stands now, somebody among those four isn't getting a scholarship if he does arrive in Manoa. Of course, that could well change with changes in personnel after this season.

A note on EWU // Maui Day 1 in books

November 21st, 2011
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I was dispatched to the Valley Isle to cover the EA Sports Maui Invitational, so the intrepid Jason Kaneshiro will be our writer at the Hawaii-Eastern Washington game at the Stan Sheriff Center on Tuesday night.

EWU (1-2) won't be afraid of UH (1-1). The Eagles have single-digit losses at Gonzaga (the same team that just defeated the 'Bows by 19 in Vancouver) and at Oregon.

Should be a tester game for the 'Bows coming off a short rest from their return from Canada.

Jason will have a preview story in Tuesday's newspaper.

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The semifinal matchups are set on Maui: No. 6 Duke vs. No. 15 Michigan and No. 14 Kansas vs. UCLA.

Here's highlights of each quarterfinal. Complete coverage in Tuesday's newspaper.

>> Michigan upset athletic No. 8 Memphis 73-61: Guards Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke controlled tempo against the Tigers' pressure and combined for 35 points and nine assists.

>> Duke pulled away from Tennessee 77-67: Freshman guard Austin Rivers, with dad Doc Rivers in the house at Lahaina Civic Center, scored several late baskets for his 18 points and Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly added 17 points each. Mike Krzyzewski's teams remained perfect on Maui with a 13-0 record.

>> UCLA dominated Chaminade in second half for a 92-60 win: First-year coach Eric Bovaird's Silverswords trailed only 40-38 at halftime, but were completely outplayed after the break. UCLA forward Reeves Nelson returned from a game-and-a-half suspension to spark the Bruins with energy.

>> Kansas outlasted Georgetown 67-63: The Hoyas gamely gave the Jayhawks everything they could handle despite a heavily pro-Kansas crowd. Georgetown kept hitting shots down the stretch but 20 points and 12 rebounds from KU forward Thomas Robinson and an efficient 16 from guard Tyshawn Taylor proved too much.

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Preparing for Northridge

November 14th, 2011
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Hawaii's opponent in its season opener tonight at 11 p.m. might be one of the more unique foes UH faces all season. Cal State Northridge is young (the youngest in Division I basketball), guard-oriented, and unorthodox with its defense.

UH coach Gib Arnold, who took scout duties himself for this opponent, had plenty to prepare for based on his knowledge of 16-year CSUN head coach Bobby Braswell.

"I'm expecting a lot of fullcourt pressure, both in the man-to-man and run-and-jump, a 2-2-1 fullcourt. They like to mix that up. We'll expect pressure the entire game. They'll fall back into man-to-man, they'll fall back into a 2-3. They'll fall back into a 1-3-1, but in the halfcourt and extended to three-quarter court. You gotta be prepared for all of that different stuff. In the past, he's also triangle-and-2'd and box-and-1'd.

"He'll throw everything at you and whatever sticks, he'll kind of stay with it and might come back with it later in the game," Arnold continued. "That's kind of what his reputation is and I've known Coach Braswell and that team for a long time. It's a really tough first game for us."

CSUN led at USC by four points with only minutes to go on Friday, but couldn't hold on in a 66-59 loss. UH, mindful of that, spent considerable time going against various defenses with its scout team.

"I think we went over almost any type of defense," junior forward Hauns Brereton said with a laugh. "I mean, 2-3s, 1-3-1s, traps, fullcourt man-to-man pressure, we've been working on everything. We're definitely ready for whatever comes our way. Now it's just up to our execution."

For those wondering why junior forward Joston Thomas didn't have a bigger say in UH's 62-56 exhibition win over HPU on Friday, it seems he's moving toward a more prominent role off the bench, if not a starting job again. Thomas wore a white jersey in Sunday night's practice (a first in weeks), signifying a return to the first team.

A fun fact about tonight's ESPN College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon: Brereton played against UH two years ago in the second edition of the now-annual event.

Brereton, then of Northern Colorado, remembered the atmosphere pretty well. He had a steal and a rebound in nine minutes in the Bears' 81-75 win over the Bob Nash-led 'Bows.

"Flying in, and then playing late, and against the crowd, it's home court advantage," Brereton said. "For the other team, it's going to be rough, but then again, for a basketball player, that makes you want to bring it. All the odds are against you and you just want to prove everybody wrong. So I know (today) is going to be a tough game."

Brereton said his brothers would tune in in the early morning on the mainland, and that he'd have about 15 members of his local family in attendance.

UH is 2-1 in Tip-Off Marathon games, with a loss to Northern Colorado and wins over Idaho State and Central Michigan.

This is the first time, however, that the game doubled as UH's regular-season opener.

"This is when it starts to count. This is why we had the exhibition," Brereton said. "This is what we look forward to. This is why we play ball. Growing up watching NCAA college basketball."

Arnold, Donovan on new deal

November 11th, 2011
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In lieu of a full press conference on Monday, UH elected on a press release today for Gib Arnold's new three-year deal worth $344,000 annually.

The new contract is effective going back to July 1, with this season counting as the first on the deal. It replaces his original three-year contract of his date of hire in March 2010.

Here's what athletic director Jim Donovan and Arnold had to say in the release.

“I think Gib had an outstanding inaugural year as head coach of the Rainbow Warriors,” Donovan said. “I'm glad that we've completed this contract and this helps insure Gib will be with us for at least three years and hopefully for six or even more years. I fully expect with the recruits that Gib has brought in and returning players we have, it should be another fantastic season.”

“I am honored and extremely grateful to Jim Donovan and our University of Hawaii administration,” Arnold said. “I absolutely love my job and am excited about the future of Warrior basketball as we continue to build this program.”

Up to three one-year extensions can kick in over the life of the contract, potentially lengthening the deal to 2017. There are slightly different sets of criteria for the coming season, and then the next two.

This year (2011-12), a one-year extension will kick in if UH achieves one of four things: Making the NCAA or NIT tournaments; winning 18 games; a first- or second-place finish in regular-season WAC play; or making the WAC tournament championship game along with a winning overall record.

For the next two seasons (2012-13 and 2013-14) the criteria are slightly different to kick in a one-year extension. They are: Making the NCAA or NIT tournaments; winning 18 or 19 games with a Sagarin strength of schedule rating of 185 or better; winning 20 games without regard to strength of schedule; finishing first or second in Big West regular-season play; or making the Big West tournament championship game with a winning record.

UH takes on Hawaii Pacific in an exhibition tonight at 7 at the Stan Sheriff Center.

———

As for UH's prospective signees during the current early period, the team has Caleb Dressler's information signed and sent and is waiting on Israeli guard Orel Lev's information before Arnold can comment.

Now visiting

November 4th, 2011
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Friday's UH men's basketball practice had some international flavor to it.

Two prospective players for the Hawaii men's basketball team are on official visits to the Manoa campus this weekend.

Orel Lev, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Tel Aviv, Israel, and Isaac Fotu, a 6-foot-7 forward from New Zealand, took in the Rainbow Warriors' practice.

Lev, who's captained the Israeli Under-18 national team, also has experience with Maccabi Tel Aviv's U-18 amateur squad. He could potentially join UH over the semester break (and likely redshirt) should he and the team wish.

Fotu, of Rangitoto College (High) School, is believed to be the youngest player to qualify for the New Zealand national team, and also the first of Tongan ancestry. He's played with the New Zealand Breakers' development team and was in competing with N.Z. in the Boris Stankovic Cup in Guangzhou, China, the same time as UH's Vander Joaquim was there with Team Angola this summer.

Fotu is believed to also have scholarship offers from Saint Louis, Utah and Oregon.

UH has three scholarships to offer for 2012-13 — two if Gerry Blakes qualifies for UH by semester break and follows up on his commitment to Manoa.

Washington prep center Caleb Dressler is also verbally committed to sign with UH in the early period starting Nov. 9.

High-energy guys

November 1st, 2011
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Every team needs them, and the 2011-12 Rainbow Warriors have several.

Two of them won't be seen on the court by UH fans this season, however. Senior point guard Jace Tavita and junior forward Christian Standhardinger will both redshirt 2011-12 to help the 'Bows down the line. But they'll also be of help this year, too, as staples of the scout team.

In Tavita's case, the Utah transfer could have been eligible for the second half of the season but, after conferring with the UH coaches, agreed it'd be a better deal for him to sit out the entire season and get to play a full year next year instead of burning his final year of eligibility on a half season.

Tavita was impressive with the scout team during a 40-minute scrimmage on Monday. He consistently pushed the primary point guards, Shaquille Stokes and Bobby Miles, to play him honest at both ends. The 6-foot-4 Tavita, a walk-on at UH, has the build of a linebacker. He was known as more of a physical defender with the Utes but showed off some nice takes to the basket, too.

"I'm going to try to push these guys and make them better every day," Tavita said. "(Sitting out) is hard, but I'd rather play a full year than a half. If I use it wisely, I think it'll be good for me, continue to work on my game, get all my academics caught up.

"(Competing for playing time) is the way I look at it. I'm trying to compete for a spot for next year. I want to show the coaches every day what I can do. Just push myself and go hard every day."

In Tuesday's morning practice, it was the Nebraska transfer Standhardinger who drew the accolades from UH coach Gib Arnold. The 6-foot-8 forward made the going tough for starting center Vander Joaquim by actively using his body and hands to bother the taller player.

"If I play or not play, I can always bring high energy," Standhardinger said. "Some days the shot will not fall. But you can always affect how you hustle, how you sprint, how hard you go. That's what I'm trying to bring to this team this year. I'm not playing — trust me, it's very hard for me. But I will get these guys at the next level, I will play hard against them. Every practice, so they don't get days off. ... I'm trying to do whatever I can do help this team win, even if I cannot be on the floor. I will be the best cheerleader there is."

That sort of effort from the two wasn't lost on Arnold.

"They play a much bigger role than anybody can imagine," the coach said. "The saying we say often here is, 'Be responsible for the energy you bring to the room.' And those two guys bring a lot of energy to the room. It's their job. They're not going to score any points for us, get any rebounds for us this year. But they can make us better this year, and it's what they're supposed to do and why those two guys are really good for us.

"I expect our guys who are playing to match their energy and it's hard, because those two guys have a bunch of it, especially Christian. Both of them, but Christian has as good a motor as anyone I've ever coached. If those two can continue to do that, then I think our team will be that much better."

Another redshirt possibility is freshman shooting guard Brandon Jawato, who's effectively third on the depth chart at his position behind senior Zane Johnson and sophomore Garrett Jefferson.