By Brian McInnis
A weekend retreat to Molokai seems to have done the Hawaii men's basketball team good.
For starters, junior forward Christian Standhardinger made a sooner-than-expected return to the court coming off his staph infection on his right elbow. His arm is still wrapped up; it will probably be that way going into Friday's exhibition vs. Hawaii Pacific and the Nov. 9 regular-season opener.
"Everything is fine," Standhardinger said on Monday. "They cut it open, and it (healed) a lot quicker than the doctor thought. He said I've got a huge hole in my elbow now but if you wrap it around, it cannot get any worse. Might as well play through. … It hurts, but you can play through it."
There's also this: senior center Vander Joaquim also seems to be progressing relatively on schedule. He's back in on non-contact drills and is running the floor well. But his lateral movement (the real tester) is still coming along slower, and it sounds like he's still pretty questionable for the Maryland Eastern-Shore game.
"He's a couple weeks away, they tell us, from anything with contact," UH coach Gib Arnold said. "But it's just good to see him running. I have him on a team, but he's not in the game, he's on the sidelines. When they run, he's supposed to run. I think he got a little winded today. Hopefully we'll keep him in best as shape as you can without playing. Obviously there will be some adjustments. He hasn't been with us for the entire preseason, so we'll need to adjust to him and he'll need to adjust to stuff."
The Molokai trip itself required a little ad-libbing by the team; because of the Saturday tsunami scare, they ended up spending both Friday and Saturday nights sleeping in the Molokai High gym "The Barn" instead of just Friday as originally planned. But they still got to go hunting with guides and have some team time around a bonfire. MHS was the designated evacuation zone so the team was joined by several area residents.
Arnold said he asked the team to share three things: their families, who inspires them the most and how their path took them to play for UH. The coach said it got "a little emotional" at times.
Here were a few players' thoughts on the getaway:
"It was a big team builder. Not just basketball-wise, but everything. Off the court, we wanted to become closer as a team and as a family, and I think we did that. We did a lot of different things. We went out hunting. We had to hunt for our own food. It was a good experience, though.
"I thought they were kidding when they said there would only be one stop light. I didn't even see the one stop light. But it was a cool place. Really peaceful. So I think it was a good place for us to go and bond as a team. There's no distractions out there. The people were really friendly to us, they took care of us. It was a good experience.
"My group was me, (Brandon) Spearman, (Isaac) Fotu and (Caleb) Dressler. The plan was, we were hunting for boar, but we ended up hunting down a deer. So it worked out. We were in the woods for about six hours. You had to be really patient. We got to spend some time together.
"That was after the morning practice. … Somehow (we had enough energy). The adrenaline of chasing down a wild animal kept us going.
"We gutted and got the meat. The coaches and all them, we had a big ol' barbecue. They cooked it, and it tasted pretty good."
"Coach (Brandyn) Akana took us around the island. He knew everyone from the island. On Saturday, one group went fishing but it was too rough so we just caught some waves. Two other groups, one group went deer hunting and one group went boar hunting. But we didn't get a boar, we got a baby deer instead. They got two deers, and we cooked them up. They we had a good meal.
"Not much hotels or big buildings or anything. It's wilderness. That was fun.
"Yeah (we heard about the tsunami). The high school was an evacuation site, so we had a couple of old people stay over as well. We were just roasting marshmallows on the camp fire.
"We stepped up our chemistry by a lot, I think. We talked a lot about what we want to do with the year and what we what to get out of it."
"It was a very unique and new experience for me. You find out about each of the players and the coaches. I think it was an amazing team bonding experience. I'm happy I was a part of that.
"Favorite part? You know, I do like hunting a little bit. Watching those guys on their hunt. … They were supposed to hunt the pig, but they got a little deer. We were hunting for the big deers. We got two of them.
"It tastes better if you were part of providing it."