Archive for August, 2012

Arnold on preseason battles

August 28th, 2012
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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."

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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."

Early outlook by position

August 25th, 2012
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To quote Gene Hackman in "Hoosiers," let's see what kind of hand we've been dealt here.

Gib Arnold added two players this week — forward Ozren Pavlovic of Croatia and guard Aaron Valdes of La Jolla Prep in California — which should finalize the 2012-13 Hawaii roster.

The team's got its full complement of players in school and has initiated open gym sessions. UH also updated its online roster with this year's jersey numbers (listed in parentheses below). Let's break it down, with the caveat that we're at a very early stage and players' roles could change drastically by November.

POINT GUARDS

Senior Jace Tavita (1) is the clear frontrunner to fill Miah Ostrowski's shoes despite being on the shelf for game action for the last season and a half, when he transferred out from Utah in the middle of the 2010-11 season. Some combination of junior Brandon Spearman (32) and freshmen Manroop Clair (33) and Michael Harper (24) will be expected to provide backup ball control duties, or possibly by committee; none of those three is a pure point guard. Kamehameha graduate Dyrbe Enos (10) could also get some spot looks at the position as a freshman walk-on. Junior Keith Shamburger (0) was a solid pickup for Arnold but he will be out this season as a transfer from San Jose State, so he will strictly be a practice player for 2012-13. purposes.

SHOOTING GUARDS

With the loss of Zane Johnson (who was only UH's single-season and career 3-point leader), the Rainbow Warriors will be looking to replace a large chunk of their offense. Junior Garrett Jefferson (2) and redshirt freshman Brandon Jawato (3) offer vastly different skill-sets at the position (one defensive- and slashing-minded, with the other shoot-first). The aforementioned platter of Spearman, Clair and Harper will get run at the 2-spot, with the emphasis on Spearman. Late pickup Aaron Valdes isn't yet on the official roster but could compete for minutes.

SMALL FORWARDS

This position is owned by senior and returning starter Hauns Brereton (21). He'll be expected to expand on his 7.7 ppg role he had as a junior, and possibly shoulder some ball-handling duties as well. Brereton took on a gunner's mentality in the recent college summer league, so look for him to continue that and be one of the team's top 3-point and scoring threats, albeit to a much lesser extent than his ridiculous 40-point scoring outbursts against that competition. Junior Christian Standhardinger (34) is more of a power forward but in a larger lineup could slide over to this position. Freshman Ozren Pavlovic (23) has the shooting game of a typical European big man. He could see minutes behind Brereton, especially if the incumbent's shot isn't falling.

POWER FORWARDS

Standhardinger, with his hustle and energy game, will be expected to come up with the production the team is losing from Joston Thomas turning pro (13.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg). But look for freshman Isaac Fotu (42) to be increasingly handed responsibility in the post as the season progresses. He already looks polished and should complement the center position well when the two are on the floor together. Freshman Caleb Dressler (25) isn't as game ready as Fotu at this stage and might be a redshirt candidate as many players are straight out of high school. However, big men tend to be more foul prone and Dressler could get looks if UH's frontcourt depth is tested.

CENTERS

UH fans rejoiced when Vander Joaquim (15) returned for his season, and rightfully so. There's no reason he shouldn't put up a nightly double-double in the Big West. The biggest question will be if Joaquim can be the 'Bows' top offensive threat game in and game out; he split that role with Johnson and Thomas last year. Is it reasonable to expect another leap similar to the one he made from his sophomore to junior season? Hard to say yet, but UH's season could hinge on it. Junior Davis Rozitis (13) is a solid backup for Joaquim at a legit 7 feet, and brings plenty of entertainment value in and out of games.

Clock's ticking

August 16th, 2012
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The holding pattern continues for the Hawaii men's basketball team, even as the days are shrinking before the cutoff to potentially add a player for the 2012-13 season.

The fall semester begins Aug. 20, but UH could theoretically squeeze a player through a week or two after that. Gib Arnold has a pair of scholarships available.

To reiterate, Bullard High's Aaric Armstead is not in the mix to join the Rainbow Warriors for this season. The prep school route is still in place for him, after which he will evaluate his options.

However, an international player is in the mix and could be added before the deadline.

There can be success stories out of players added at this late stage. Bill Amis — who recently retired from pro hoops to take up a real estate job in Honolulu — is one of the notable examples of recent years. He was picked up in August of 2007 by Bob Nash's staff.

UH added Garrett Jefferson from junior college last August, right around the Warriors to Asia tour.

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The last three Rainbow Warriors on board for 2012-13 but not in the islands yet — Vander Joaquim, Davis Rozitis and Keith Shamburger — should be arriving over the weekend. After his Olympic qualifying stint with Angola, Joaquim has been working out at various locations on the U.S. mainland.

Solar Universe wins it // UH player summaries

August 5th, 2012
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Congratulations to Solar Universe, which took home the 36th College Summer League championship on Saturday night with a 114-102 win in overtime over Flipbooks Hawaii.

It was an incredibly intense game. It felt borderline out of control at times; only one technical foul was issued, but it felt like several more were warranted. The packed crowd lent to the frenzied atmosphere in the Manoa Park Gym, kudos to you if you showed up for the league finale.

Brandon Spearman came alive when his undermanned team needed him, scoring 43 points in the win. He made the game-saving block on Kaunaoa McGee's jumper attempt at the end of regulation, then scored six of Solar's first seven points in the extra period.

"It felt good man, it felt real good," Spearman said. "We fought hard, real hard. It's an amazing feeling. I haven't felt this way since I won states (at Simeon in Chicago) back in high school my senior year. It showed me how much I love the game. Even in a summer league game, you get so hyped up and wanting to win. I just came out here and gave it my all."

Solar Universe, coached by Artie Wilson, was playing without both Derrick Low and Bobby Nash, two veterans of the summer circuit. Nonetheless, Solar exerted control in the first half — it led by eight at halftime — and built it up to double digits soon after the break. But Flipbooks, with multiple go-to scorers, went on a 15-0 run midway through the second half and took the lead. The top seed went up by six points with a couple minutes left, only to see that erased as Spearman hit a 3 and Rashaun Broadus (33 points) stole the ensuing inbounds pass and fed Nick Demusis for a score.

Solar drew even with 48 seconds left when Spearman hit Nahshon George with a keen bullet pass inside to tie things up at 101. Each team had chances to go ahead from there, but it would be settled in OT.

Flipbooks was hurting in the extra frame without Christian Standhardinger's presence in its front line; the UH junior fouled out late in the second half. The regular-season champ (it had previously lost only to Grantco Pacific on a Julian Sensley buzzer-beating deep 3) scored only a point in the extra period, as shots from McGee and Leon Ballard became increasingly forced.

"We wanted to come out strong (in OT), but that's what we did like the first half," Spearman said. "We gave it our all."

Spearman shook his head at the game's intensity and physicality. He had success driving to the rim and getting fouled (hard), or occasionally stepping out for 3s as well.

"Real intense. It was unbelievable," he said. "I haven't been in a game like that, like I said, since my senior year of high school."

McGee led Flipbooks with 25 points, while Ballard and Standhardinger added 24 apiece.

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All in all, it was an exciting summer league season, one that effectively showcased the games of some of the incoming UH players fans otherwise wouldn't be familiar with.

Here's my take on what each Rainbow Warriors player in the summer league offered over these last few weeks:

>> Hauns Brereton was the league's scoring champ at 34.8 points per game. He had some ridiculous scoring outbursts (most notably his 47-point effort against Grantco Pacific on July 12). It won't be like that during the D-I season, obviously, but Brereton will still be counted on for more of a scoring role than he had last year. This was a positive sign in that regard — even if his shot selection in this kind of setting was sometimes forced and questionable.

>> Garrett Jefferson seems to have genuinely worked hard on his offensive game in the offseason, right down to his free throws, and it showed in several summer games. It still seems to be a work in progress, but by season's start expect Gib Arnold (and Jefferson) to have greater confidence in the springy one's overall role on the team.

>> Jace Tavita is currently in line to see plenty of minutes at point guard for the 'Bows. His summer league showings were a mixed bag. Sometimes he could find his Central Medical teammate Brereton for open shots consistently. Other times, he'd take 3-pointers, and that was a risky proposition. When he's feeling it, he can hit. One of his greatest assets is still his size at his position, allowing him to guard forwards and even centers.

>> Brandon Spearman saved his most impressive summer showing for last, when (as seen above) he went off in the summer league title game. It was hard to get too amped on Spearman's showings prior to this. But he's shown flashes of ability in enough areas of the game that it's obvious UH will count on him for production this coming season, either at the 2 or the 1.

>> Brandon Jawato was a little late to the summer party after an ankle injury, but he had a couple nice scoring games near the end. He's noticeably slimmed down from his redshirt freshman season and looks poised to compete for minutes at the 2.

>> Dyrbe Enos can shoot, and he's not afraid to pull the trigger. A nice combination. His youth and small stature will be tough to overcome to have a Miah-esque renaissance in college, but give it time and who knows? He may find himself thrown in there at some point. And at least in this summer setting, he's knocked down a few shots.

>> Isaac Fotu was something to behold in these games. That's probably already come across in these blog entries, but to reiterate, the New Zealander with the poofy 'fro was the most impressive UH player over these past few weeks. Perhaps not in terms of pure scoring, but Fotu made the most of his touches, consistently, either by finishing inside with his tractor beam-like hands or passing out to open shooters. It will be interesting to see how many minutes Fotu carves out for himself as a true freshman this coming season, with competition against ....

>> Christian Standhardinger let everybody in Manoa know how he plays, in any game, regardless of its meaning toward standings or statistics. Hard. The German gets into it with refs, opponents, you name it. But he also gets a few baskets a game just by outworking his man. He'll be the most expressive 'Bow by far this coming season, and a lightning rod for fans both at home and on the road.

>> Caleb Dressler was, by his own admission, overweight when he first arrived. But the true freshman seems to have rounded closer into shape through these summer league games and the regular open gym sessions on campus. He's not a quick player right now, but he's got an accurate lefty hook shot and a soft touch, even showing some 3-point range when he steps out. Dressler has stiff competition at his power forward position with Fotu and Standhardinger; it's possible he is a redshirt candidate.

>> Michael Harper came into the summer league as a total unknown, but he didn't leave that way. The left-handed Aussie can straight-up shoot. He's transitioning into being a point guard for UH, which could be problematic in that his ball-handling isn't his greatest attribute. But Harper is an aggressive player, helping make up for average speed. He could crack into the UH guard rotation this year.

>> Manroop Clair gets an INC for his brief summer league showing. He appeared in just one game late in the season after shaking off an ankle injury. But he barely got onto the court even then, putting up seven shots in about nine minutes. His form is pure (and off in that game), but it was impossible to make any kind of judgement on so small a sample size.

Summer League finals set

August 3rd, 2012
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After two games on opposite ends of the drama scale — a blowout and a nail-biter — on Thursday night in Manoa, the finals of the College Summer League are set. Top-seeded Flipbooks Hawaii meets No. 2 Solar Universe in a winner-take-all championship showdown at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Manoa Valley District Park gym.

It was a worthy atmosphere for playoff games; the gym's seating area was at capacity and surplus fans rimmed the court. You can visit the league's site for footage and photos.

Solar Universe made the first semifinal an anticlimactic affair, drubbing No. 6 Central Medical Clinic 119-83 behind a team-high 25 points from UH junior guard Brandon Spearman.

It helped Solar's cause that Spearman had a big game with both Derrick Low and Bobby Nash out of town — he delivered with a few flashy dunks and 3s. Rashaun Broadus added 24 points, Nahshon George 22 and Nick Demusis 20 in the rout. The game was over early in the second half.

"The hardest thing about playing tonight was that we didn't have two of the top eight scorers in the league in Derrick Low and Bobby Nash," Solar coach Artie Wilson said. "Everybody came in thinking because we didn't have them, we wouldn't be able to compete. I knew we could compete."

"We tried to come out here and give it our all," Spearman said. "Coach Artie told us to just go out there and play hard, and that's what we did."

Meanwhile, "Haunslaught" Hauns Brereton was held in check, thanks mostly to a litany of double-teams thrown at him. There wouldn't be another 40-plus outburst this time; Solar guard Kawika Smith of HPU had the primary duties on Brereton and did a good job of getting under his skin, holding CMC's primary option to 26 points.

UH point guard Jace Tavita added 18 in the loss.

"I told Hauns and Jace that 40 points, 30 points, that's not going to happen," Spearman said. "Me and my team got too much pride."

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The night's second semifinal between Flipbooks Hawaii and Isaac Fotu-led National Fire Protection was a tight battle the entire way. It even featured (gasp) defense! Who knew?

Upset-minded NFP, the fourth seed, had a narrow lead for about 37 minutes. Flipbooks, however, used its multiple scoring threats to seize control in the final minute and take it 84-77.

National Fire's front line of Fotu and UH alum Bill Amis (summoned out of retirement for the playoffs) gave Flipbooks trouble for about 30 minutes. But a frustrated Amis got tossed with 10 minutes left when he ran into and knocked down Flipbooks center Scott Kato, earning a flagrant 2 foul. Flipbooks asserted itself from there.

John Avila of HPU had had the go-ahead 3-pointer to make it 78-77 with 1:40 to play. Kaunaoa McGee (24 points) and UH junior Christian Standhardinger (18 points) put it away with free throws.

"We're a second-half team," said Flipbooks co-coach Tim Thorpe, who also coaches the Hawaii Select exhibition team. "Our defense has been the key to every game we've won. When our defense is on, our offense really picks up. Tonight, they played great D on the other team."

Chaminade alum Leon Ballard led Flipbooks with a game-high 27 points, scoring in multiple ways with his usual quiet demeanor.

"We stick together as a team, that made it possible," Standhardinger said. "We got the win and I'm very happy about that."

Fotu had a team-high 20 points in the loss, completing an impressive run of summer league performances.

Playoff Intensity

August 1st, 2012
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Now that's more like it.

The first round of Tuesday's College Summer League playoffs offered two of the more exciting games all season at the Manoa District Park gym.

"It's playoffs. Even in the Manoa league it gets intense," UH senior Hauns Brereton said after dropping 43 points for Central Medical Clinic.

Sixth-seeded CMC stunned No. 3 Grantco Pacific 105-104 with a Hail Mary play in the first quarterfinal. Then No. 4 National Fire Protection beat No. 5 Wealth Strategy 100-89 in overtime when Isaac Fotu took over in the extra period.

CMC plays second-seeded Solar Universe in the 6 p.m. semifinal on Thursday. National Fire follows against top-seeded Flipbooks Hawaii at 7:30.

In Game 1 on Tuesday, Grantco was in great position after two free throws with 2.5 seconds left had it up 104-102. But CMC used a timeout to diagram a play to lob the ball up past midcourt — and quickly called timeout again, losing only a couple tenths of a second off the clock. Then a lob play was drawn up for Brad Anderson near the rim, and he got fouled and completed the three-point play for the stunning win.

"It was pretty fun. They were up two and in 2.5 seconds we had to go the length of the floor," Brereton said. "Luckily we drew up a play for a lob, and he caught it and got the and-1. Nailed the free throw, and we won, luckily. It was fun though, fun getting intense in the playoffs. ... It's always fun to have another game."

Some of Brereton's family from Aiea and Waimanalo came down to support him.

"Everybody was biting their nails. I talked to my family after, they said their hands were sweating."

UH teammate Jace Tavita added 18 to complement Brereton's latest 40-point-plus outing. CMC had missed Tavita's services the last few games.

"Thank goodness he came today," Brereton said. "During one spurt he hit five 3s in a row. And he was the one who called the plays at the end, along with coach (Allan Silva). They talked about it and it was good to have him back."

In the loss, UH alum Geremy Robinson scored 33 for Grantco, while Chaminade's James Francisco added 26 and UH freshman Caleb Dressler 21. Dressler left early with a hurt ankle, however. Grantco missed out again on the services of the talented Julian Sensley, who has been on the mainland.

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In the nightcap, Wealth Strategy looked to have the upset in the bag, building a 20-point lead even without UH junior Garrett Jefferson, who was resting an ailment. But National Fire kept chipping away and drew even near the end of the second half.

"We came back from 20 points down, and you're never going to lose after that," Fotu said. "It just never felt like we were going to lose. ... I put everything in there at the end and we came out with the win."

It almost ended another way entirely. Wealth guard Chandler Pearson had a chance to win it in regulation, getting fouled with 0.8 seconds left as he brought the ball upcourt. But he converted only one of two at the line and the game went to OT.

That's where UH's Fotu took over. He scored nine of his 24 points in the extra period. (That was nine of his team's 13 points in OT.) It was clear where the ball was going on offense, and he delivered in the clutch. That was despite a 25-point outing from UH teammate Brandon Jawato for W.S.

"I put more heart in it. I was playing harder," he said of the burst. "I knew if we lost we would have gone home. I have to play with that intensity all the time. Come season, I will."

Fotu earned a Thursday rematch against UH teammate and Flipbooks' top scorer Christian Standhardinger. The two Rainbow Warrior power forwards played each other almost evenly in the regular-season finale last week, but Standhardinger had better efforts from his teammates. "Oh man, I'm excited," Fotu said. "I'm excited to play against some good defense, and also play good defense on him.

"Hopefully," he added.

NFP coach Tim Shepherd, the former 'Bows big man and director of operations for Bob Nash, is becoming a Fotu believer. Here's what he had to say about the up-and-comer:

"He's a legitimate big man. He's got the moves, he's got the poise. He just needs to work on that engine, to be more deliberate, more assertive and aggressive. You know, he'll get that in time. I like how he closed out the game. He had some fresh legs from when he came out the last couple minutes, and it worked. That's all we needed, was for him to come through in clutch moments."

Shepherd was asked where he felt Fotu was against most incoming college freshmen.

"I think he's ahead of the curve. I'm not sure how Gib's going to use him, in what capacity, but I think he's ahead of the pace. For me, in my opinion, he's gotta get that drive going, be more deliberate, be more assertive. I don't want to say be selfish, but at times he's going to have to be. ... He passes out a lot. He has to kind of re-establish himself in the post. Floats out a little bit too much too. But over time he'll learn that stuff. He's got a lot of experience with national teams and everything else. So I think he'll be a quick study, and I think he'll be a player to watch in the future for the 'Bows."

William Broadus led W.S. with 28 points.