Archive for September, 2012

Vander goes down

September 27th, 2012
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There was one player over the rest that the Hawaii men's basketball team couldn't afford to lose for an extended period of time for the upcoming season.

Of course, we're talking about Vander Joaquim.

Yet it's Joaquim who is out for the next four to six weeks with a torn MCL in his right knee, suffered during a team workout session when bodies got tangled up and a teammate rolled into his leg.

Before people hit the panic button repeatedly, know that he won't require surgery and he could conceivably return for the regular-season opener on Nov. 9.

Everything else about this, though, is a downer for the Rainbow Warriors. Keeping Joaquim involved as much as possible in his final year is paramount for Gib Arnold and his staff. Now the Angolan is sidelined, leaving him out of workout sessions for the next two weeks and out of full practices once they start on Oct. 12. Conditioning could be a major issue by the time he returns.

And if one is being pessimistic, Joaquim's injury could linger going into some key games in December. It will all depend on how he responds to his rehab.

Arnold pointed out that he's had to deal with a key player going down for portions of his previous two seasons, between Bill Amis (foot) missing the early part of the WAC schedule in 2010-11 and Zane Johnson (mono) going out for the WAC tournament in 2011-12.

Davis Rozitis, Isaac Fotu and Caleb Dressler will now have expanded roles while Joaquim recovers.

If there's a silver lining here, it's that this didn't happen in the Big West season.

M. Thomas commits to UH

September 24th, 2012
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It was a good day for the UH men's basketball team on Monday with the oral commitment of  Michael Thomas to play for the Rainbow Warriors starting in 2013-14. He's the first pickup of that class for Gib Arnold, and privately the UH coaches are pretty excited about it.

Thomas, of El Camino Real High near Los Angeles, first announced his decision on Twitter at about 10 a.m., then talked about it in a phone interview in the afternoon. It happened just a day removed from him returning from the islands on his official visit.

He said the team chemistry he perceived among his future UH teammates as the biggest reason he pledged with the 'Bows over N. Arizona and UCSB. He can sign as soon as Nov. 14.

His coach, David Rebibo, said Thomas averaged 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks per game as a junior. Thomas gave his most recent height and weight at 6-6 and 200 pounds even. He'll be expected to play the 2 through the 4 at El Camino for the upcoming season, after being more of a post player last year.

His versatility on the wing is considered his best attribute, to go with his athleticism.

"If I have a big on me, I'm going to be putting it on the floor or spacing it out and try to go by him and shoot it," Thomas said. "If I have a smaller person on me, I'll post him up or take him to the rear block and try to bully them in get a bucket, or create for my teammates off of that."

There shouldn't be academic concerns surrounding Thomas akin to some that plagued previous UH signees out of high school in recent seasons. Thomas is taking AP statistics and other honors courses. He posted a 3.8 GPA in his previous semester, Rebibo said.

More on Thomas will appear in Tuesday's Star-Advertiser.

Michael Thomas close to deciding

September 23rd, 2012
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Michael Thomas flew back to California on Sunday after spending Friday and Saturday as an official visitor with the Hawaii men's basketball team.

Among other things, the 6-foot-5 El Camino Real High senior guard/forward witnessed the team's once-a-week 2-hour practice (allowed this time of year), UH's early morning Saturday beach workout in Waikiki, and the UH football game/disaster against Nevada.

He's choosing between UH, UC Santa Barbara and Northern Arizona.

Here's a Q&A session from Thomas on his trip to the islands, and what he's looking for in his school. Sounds like he'll know where he's going within the next week.

Q: General impressions from the trip?

A: The scenery is great and everything. I really like these guys, they play well together. Good team chemistry. Watching their practice, seeing how structured everything is. It's really good, I like it.

Q: Your thoughts on the beach workout?

A: It looks tough, but it looks fun. Looks like they get after it. (At El Camino) individually we do (on the sand). The seniors this year, we go to the beach maybe three times a month. Every weekend.

Q: What are your top college options?

A: I would say my top choices are (UH), Santa Barbara and Northern Arizona. I visited both of those (others).

Q: When do you want to decide?

A: I'm thinking the end of September.

Q: What's important to you when you figure out where you're going?

A: I would say, spiritually, campus ministry with my Church of Christ that I'm in. Basketball-wise, coming in and trying to make an impact, getting better and maximizing my talent, so I can go as far with basketball as I can. Academically, I want to major in business ... I want to own my own restaurant chain eventually.

Q: How would you describe your own game going into your senior year?

A: I would say developing or transitioning into a wing more. Putting up a lot more shots and creating off the dribble. ... This year I'm going off the bounce a lot more and shooting. Getting better at that. We're going to be pretty good this year.

Q: You've been a pure post player in the past?

A: Not pure. I started out as a guard. Then as got taller, and what they needed, I was put at that position last year. But I'm starting to branch out more. I'm a natural wing.

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Saturday's beach session was the team's penultimate before the annual "King of the Beach" festivities, where a preseason fitness champion is crowned. Hauns Brereton was last year's winner, edging out Christian Standhardinger on the final event.

Those two should get a run for their money from redshirt freshman Brandon Jawato. The shooting guard's conditioning level is far higher than at this time last year. He was among the fastest on the Queen's Beach sand.

"As of right now, I'm feeling pretty comfortable," Jawato said. "Just can't wait until next week, try my hardest, push myself. Give it 110 percent. Go hard for my team, basically.

"Last year I came in kind of out of shape, so now I'm just trying to be best conditioned, get my body right, trying to be faster, quicker, stronger. I've been training a lot this past summer, losing weight. So I'm looking forward to this season."

Meanwhile, Aaron Valdes remains in NCAA limbo. He was unable to participate in the beach workout.

Visitor inbound

September 20th, 2012
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The Hawaii men's basketball team is poised to host its first visiting recruit of the 2013 class in Michael Thomas this weekend.

Thomas, who has been offered a scholarship, is a 6-foot-5 senior at El Camino Real High in Los Angeles. He's the type of athletic wing player UH coach Gib Arnold covets.

Some Thomas highlights from his junior year can be seen here. They start around the 4:00 mark. He's clearly got some bounce.

The L.A. Times has reported Thomas has offers from Boise State, Santa Clara and Northern Arizona as well as UH.

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La Jolla Prep's Aaron Valdes is not yet cleared by the NCAA, Arnold said today. Valdes' 21-day window of participating in individual workouts with coaches has also expired, though he can still do weightlifting and open gym sessions.

Keep you posted on his status as it develops.

Redshirt prospects // Valdes update

September 11th, 2012
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Sometime between now and the Nov. 9 start to the 2012-13 season, Gib Arnold and the Hawaii coaching staff must decide which, if any, players to redshirt.

The idea or ideas behind redshirting a player is/are pretty straightforward. You maintain a season of eligibility while allowing the prospect to grow into a more developed player (and sometimes student) through the "farm system" of the scout team. You can alleviate logjams at positions too stocked with bodies, where not everyone will get to play anyway. This can sometimes prevent a player from growing despondent about a lack of PT, because he accepts his day will come in time. Brandon Jawato was such a player last season; it didn't make much sense to burn a season of eligibility playing behind the seasoned Zane Johnson.

Now, the retooled Rainbow Warriors have quite a few redshirt candidates this season. Arnold said today he would "most likely redshirt a few players this year."

"We haven't talked with any of the guys," Arnold said. "Not at all since everybody's been here. There is discussion, obviously, amongst the staff. I like the idea of redshirting freshmen. If I could afford to, I would redshirt every freshman. ... You're basically trading a freshman year for a fifth-year senior year. I think it's a good trade. It's not for everybody, but I like to do that.

"You have to have it figured out by the first game of the year. ... I'm no hurry. I've got a couple months before I have to make any decisions on that. We're letting them play and letting them grow. But in the back of my mind, obviously, and in talks with the coaches, we're having discussions on that."

The true freshmen on the team are:

>> Dyrbe Enos, 5-9, 160 G

>> Ozren Pavlovic, 6-8. 210 F

>> Michael Harper, 6-4, 200 G

>> Caleb Dressler, 6-10, 250 C

>> Manroop Clair, 6-2, 180 G

>> Isaac Fotu, 6-8, 240 F

>> Aaron Valdes, 6-5, 200 G

And, of course, Keith Shamburger is an automatic redshirt because of his transfer status from San Jose State.

Who do you think are the most likely redshirt candidates? Comment away, sirs and ladies.

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If you're watching the UH roster closely here, you'll notice Valdes is still the Invisible Man. According to Arnold, the NCAA hasn't yet gotten to his paperwork as a late admission to UH. Until then, he can still have workouts and open gym sessions with the team through a 45-day waiver. Valdes came in on Aug. 24.

The coach is unconcerned about an extended delay of clearance; he expects Valdes to be through well before the Oct. 12 start of official practices. He said there can be a delay while football players in limbo (the NCAA's priority at this time of the year) are cleared first.

"Then they start getting to the next sport, which would be us," Arnold said. "I have no concern on it at all, actually. I don't see any red flags. ... They just got his paperwork as a late signee. Normally we work on that stuff all over the summer, and we try to have everything in by the time before school starts. All that stuff didn't get in 'til late. (The clearninghouse) is swamped with football. That's what they're telling us."