By Brian McInnis
With the fall semester under way, the Hawaii men's basketball team has instituted workouts by position as well as player-run open gym sessions.
With 15 of 16 players on the roster eligible to play this year, not everyone is in line for regular playing time. From the sound of it, the team pecking order is starting to sort itself out.
UH coach Gib Arnold was asked today about the preseason positional battles.
"I think Vander (Joaquim)'s pretty much set. Outside of that, I think it's all up for grabs," the coach said.
The senior center locking down a position shouldn't come as a surprise, but it's somewhat interesting to hear Arnold say the rest of the field is open. Shooting guard in particular has a glut of players with no clear-cut favorite to emerge as the starter.
"We're going to let those guys compete every day. We told them, I like that part of it, I want to compete," Arnold said. "I want them to go at it every day. I want them to go compete in the weight room. I want them to compete in strength and conditioning. I want them to compete in the film room. I want them to know that it's competitive and not every guy's going to play. There's going to be some guys that start, some guys that come off the bench. Some guys that are on the scout team. And those decisions are not made yet. Those are being made. That makes for a really lively preseason, and that's good. I think that's real positive for this group. I think that's going to be one of the strengths, is that this group is very competitive and has so far shown great team chemistry, are pretty supportive of each other and willing to work hard."
It was in limbo for a little while, but rest assured that Aaron Valdes is now officially a member of the team.
Valdes was in on the team's open gym action today. His athleticism appears to be legit, and his shooting stroke was smooth; he made a couple from distance during one visitor's time spent watching the session, and went up for a tip-dunk attempt over a bigger body (it didn't go in, but still).
Arnold offered a few words about his latest player, now that his paperwork is cleared.
"Aaron brings us athleticism. He's a very good athlete, one of our better athletes. He's a big guard (6-5), which I like. I think he's got a load of potential in that he's somewhat new to the game. I like that too. We were able to get him into school and all that. We were very happy that we were able to pick him up late. Now that he's jumped in, he's missed a couple days of class (before he got here) but he's been doing great since.
On him being a two-sport athlete:
"He comes from a water polo family. His brothers played, and his dad was a coach. And so he had a lot of, as a young kid, most of his time was spent in water polo. But he was just an athlete. As he grew older he began spending more and more time on the court rather than in the pool. Even though he was a water polo All-American, he fell in love with basketball. In that essence, I think his emphasis is on, probably when he was younger, more on the water polo side. Now that he's starting to change, and basketball's become his primary sport, you've seen a growth in him, just in the last year or two. And I think it's only going to get better. His athleticism's going to really allow him to improve with a nice learning curve."
He was an unknown in hoops prior to prep school?
"Yeah, I think you can say that. Again, that goes back to because he was a two-sport guy. All those guys aren't on the summer circuit as much. They're doing other things and played for a good school and had good numbers but really wasn't on the circuit as much as a lot of guys. And then in this last year he played on one of the major teams in Southern California, the Double Pump team. And so people really got to see him, in some cases, for the first time."