Archive for October, 2012

Standhardinger returns // Team bonding

October 30th, 2012

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:

Jace Tavita:
"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."

Isaac Fotu:

"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."

Christian Standhardinger:

"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."

My Big West ballot

October 26th, 2012

With the story on the Big West preseason poll in today's edition, I thought I'd  offer up my ballot for inspection to those curious. (I won't be doing this for my general election ballot.)

First, here's what the actual preseason poll/player team was.

2012-13 Big West Preseason Media Poll
1.   Long Beach State (13) -194 points
2.   Cal State Fullerton (6) - 164
3.   UC Irvine (1) - 153
4.   Hawaii  - 132
5.   UC Santa Barbara  - 129
6.   Pacific (1) - 113
7.   Cal Poly - 100
8.   Cal State Northridge - 83
9.   UC Davis - 44
10. UC Riverside - 43
( ) First-place votes

Preseason Media All-Conference Team
James Ennis, G/F, Sr, Long Beach State
Stephan Hicks, G/F, So, Cal State Northridge
Vander Joaquim, C, Sr, Hawai'i
D. J. Seeley, G, Sr., Cal State Fullerton
Kwame Vaughn, G, Sr., Cal State Fullerton
Michael Wilder, F/G, Sr., UC Irvine

And here's how I voted. Yes, voting for six players on the all-preseason team, without a preseason player of the year, is as strange as it sounds. The Big West has a set list of pre-approved candidates to choose from; Vander was the only UH player on that list whereas every other school had two or three. I might have been tempted to vote Christian Standhardinger in, too.

1. Long Beach State
2. Cal State Fullerton
3. Hawaii
4. UC Irvine
5. Pacific
6. UC Santa Barbara
7. Cal Poly
8. Cal State Northridge
9. UC Davis
10. UC Riverside

D.J. Seeley, Cal State Fullerton
Kwame Vaughn, Cal State Fullerton
Vander Joaquim, Hawaii
James Ennis, Long Beach State
Michael Caffey, Long Beach State
Michael Wilder, UC Irvine

There's room for plenty of movement around the middle of the pack. Pacific and UC Irvine return the most from last season, so don't be surprised if those teams hurdle up a few spots.

Scrimmage sudden death

October 26th, 2012

Before the Hawaii men's basketball team's closed scrimmage against BYU-Hawaii on  Thursday, they held a 30-minute intrasquad scrimmage on Wednesday night in the Stan Sheriff.

Wanted to get details of the scrimmage (with refs) up sooner, but was experiencing some technical difficulties on the blog — since resolved.

It was a pretty exciting battle.  The "first" team that day (those that got to wear the black jersey) were coached by Benjy Taylor against Brandyn Akana and the green team. Head coach Gib Arnold was moderator and called his own timeouts where necessary, when he saw something that needed addressing.

The Black team was Jace Tavita at point guard, Brandon Jawato at shooting guard, Hauns Brereton at small forward, Ozren Pavlovic at power forward and Isaac Fotu as a forward/center. This five played the whole way.

"That was something else, but I loved it," Brereton said. "We were figuring out how to fight through fatigue, and that's what we did."

The Green team was basically a four-guard lineup — Garrett Jefferson, Brandon Spearman, Keith Shamburger and Michael Harper — plus Caleb Dressler at center. Manroop Clair and Dyrbe Enos subbed in as reserves.

Fotu excelled for the Black team with 24 points, while Jawato added 17, Brereton 11 and Pavlovic 10. Tavita focused on assists and finished with a lone 3-pointer.

Spearman led the Green team with 23 points and Jefferson 20. Harper started off slow but finished with 14. Shamburger focused on distributing, while Clair had four points and Dressler a lone free throw.

"Everybody played hard, from the Black team to the Green team," Spearman said.

Vander Joaquim (MCL) and Christian Standhardinger (staph infection) sat out. Davis Rozitis had a class and had to leave before the scrimmage. Aaron Valdes sat out because his waiver expired and he's back in NCAA limbo.

It turned out to be very balanced. With the Black team up 62-59 in the final seconds, Spearman ended up having three chances at 3-pointers to tie it up. He missed on the first two but nailed a top-arc line-drive at the buzzer after Fotu was called for traveling on a rebound.

"The third time I knew it was going in," Spearman said. "You can't give me too many chances."

Arnold called for a one-minute overtime period, but no one scored. The referees were about to head out with the game called a dead heat, but the players protested and the coaches relented. Arnold ruled a sudden-death, first-to-score scenario was in order.

Green got the ball on the tip, but Fotu redeemed himself with a big block on a driving Jefferson, snared the rebound and fired an outlet pass to Tavita. Tavita dished to Brereton on the right wing, and he coolly buried a trey for the game-winner.

"(Spearman) hit a great shot, so we had to answer back," Brereton said. "I ran the floor and Jace found me. He knows where to find me and he gave me the perfect setup."


The team departs today (Friday) for its retreat to Molokai. I'm sure they'll be full of entertaining stories upon their return.

UH frontcourt takes another hit

October 22nd, 2012

Former UH hoops player Bill Amis, who will be a member of OC Sports' pre and postgame UH men's basketball shows this season, quickly demonstrated a keen media eye upon his arrival at the Stan Sheriff Center on Monday.

"Where's Christian?" Amis wondered within minutes of studying the Rainbow Warriors' zone defense drills.

It didn't take too long to find out. Christian Standhardinger arrived halfway through the session in street clothes and his right elbow taped up thoroughly. The junior forward will miss an estimated two weeks with a staph infection, which will take him up right around the Nov. 9 season opener. In other words, he's now in the same boat as Vander Joaquim.

Standhardinger's elbow swelled up pretty good over the weekend since he first noticed an inflamed area on Friday, and he visited a hospital Monday to have it treated.

"This is bad luck. I was here the whole preseason and summer league, and I never missed a practice," the Nebraska transfer said. "Now I'm out until close to the season (start). A little bit unfortunate. But you just gotta play the cards you (are dealt) as good as possible. Trying to be back as soon as possible."

He said he will try to learn the team's implemented schemes in the meantime, and work on his left hand if he is allowed.

Freshman Ozren "Ozi" Pavlovic was moved to power forward in the first group in Standhardinger' stead. It's somewhat out of position for the lean Croatian, but he showed competence, especially on offense.

"It's pretty tough," Pavlovic said of the situation. "Coach moved me to power forward with Hauns (Brereton), because we lack big players now. It's good injuries hit us now in the preseason and not the middle of the season. Vander is our best player. I think he'll be back when our season starts. And Christian is really good. He's going to play a good role for us. We expect him back pretty soon too."

For more on the adjusting the 'Bows had to do on Monday, including coach Gib Arnold's take on the situation, check out Tuesday's edition of sports.


Other takes from Monday's practice, the first to be opened to the media:

>> Freshman forward Isaac Fotu has transferred the confidence and comfort he showed during the Manoa summer league to Arnold's practices. He may not be starting once both Joaquim and Standhardinger return, but rest assured "The Fro" will see minutes regardless.

>> Junior guard Brandon Spearman was hitting his shots from the outside, a good sign. He was especially hot once the team went to a 5-on-5 to end practice.

>> Don't be surprised to see more zone defense in games this season. Arnold said it will be a core theme both used by and against some of UH's bigger lineups (an expected strength of the 'Bows).

>> Garrett Jefferson had a slick no-look pass for a teammate's open layup in halfcourt drills. Not sold yet on the junior defensive stopper as a point guard, but that's the kind of play he'll have to make offensively to keep teams honest when he has the ball in that role.

>> Freshman Aaron Valdes is still not yet cleared by the NCAA, but he can practice with the two-week waiver he was given. However, those two weeks are almost up. We'll see where it goes from here.

** TUESDAY UPDATE ** Valdes has exhausted his number of allowed practices by the waiver. He had to sit out Tuesday's practice and will for the rest until the NCAA makes a definitive ruling on him.

No lineup determinations yet

October 20th, 2012

We're just under two weeks out from the Hawaii men's basketball team's exhibition against Hawaii Pacific on Nov. 2, and under three weeks from the regular-season opener vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore on Nov. 9. That means lineup and rotation tweaks get a little less experimental and a little more solidified as the days advance.

But the Rainbow Warriors are not solid or set there yet, UH coach Gib Arnold said after Saturday's practice.

"I'm mixing and matching," Arnold responded to a query on a possible starting five. "Because we're going to play a lot of guys. And I want to make sure we're comfortable with all lineups, when we go big or small. And obviously with Vander (Joaquim) being out that changes a lot of things. ... Haven't distinguished a starting five or a go-to five. Not yet. Not ready for that yet, and probably won't have that until after the (closed) BYU-Hawaii scrimmage, this coming weekend. Once we work through that then we'll probably start narrowing that down. Now we're aiming toward that HPU (exhibition) then the season opener."

It sounds like a similar timetable on making determinations on this year's redshirt players. Arnold said he's still looking at redshirting "three or four."

Here's what Arnold had to say on his team's general progress in the meantime:

"You know, I wouldn't say anyone's particularly distinguished themselves," he said. "I will say the freshmen are learning at a very high speed, which is good. They still make a lot of mistakes. But they're learning. I think they're playing harder. I like that. I like how we're pushing the ball. I think our offense is further along than our defense. I don't think our defense is where it needs to be quite yet. And we need to make sure that Nov. 9 we're much better defensively. But we're hitting shots, which is good. That's kind of the overall general view, I guess."

Practices have been closed to this point (they'll be opened up to the media on Monday). Look for a report on first impressions of that session shortly thereafter.


Who doesn't want a little input from Davis Rozitis?

The junior center is one of only two players, along with Joaquim, to be on the roster since Arnold's first season in 2010-11. That gives him a little more perspective than the average 'Bow.

Here's a post-practice Q and A session with the big Latvian:

Q: You're a guy who's been here three years now. What's your take on the team's progress compared to seasons past?

A: I think we're doing a great job on both ends. But you know, since we're a young team, seven (true) freshmen, Coach is patient with them. It's still a learning process. We returnees, we've gotta help them get in the system. Guards like Jace (Tavita), (Brandon) Jawato, Garrett (Jefferson), we've been here for a year or two, just help the freshmen guards get in the system. Me, Vander and Christian (Standhardinger) help the bigs to get in system. It's teamwork.

Q: What are your thoughts on Gib's assessment of offense ahead of defense right now?

A: Yeah, I can see that. All the guys here are the best at what they were doing in high school. And when you're lumped together you're going to be better at scoring over people. But right now, as Coach said, he's going to give us freedom in offense, he's going to be OK with that. But there's going to be no excuses on defense, so guys have to accept that. You don't just guard your man, your guard the ball, you guard five guys. You help each other out. And that's the most important thing to understand about his system.

Q: Who's impressed you here so far?

A: Ozi (Pavlovic), definitely Ozi. Coach was on him and he keeps coming back. Manroop (Clair), because he has a hard time getting back on defense and Coach gets on him. But he keeps fighting back, don't let yourself down, just keep fighting. Coach might yell at us sometimes, but that's for our own good. Just don't take it personal. Just try to get the best out of that. Oh, and definitely Isaac Fotu. He's done a great job in the low post, getting rebounds, helping people out on drives. Fronting the post. Really impressed.

Q: With Vander out right now, and the starting five undefined, are you making an assertive push for playing time?

A: Nah, I don't think about that. I agree with Coach. He always says it doesn't matter who starts the game, it matters who finishes. And I know all the guys here would rather be in there for the last minute of the game, get that last stop. I prefer myself that. I remember in WAC tournament last year against Idaho, I was in there, I was involved. It's an amazing feeling. You gotta get that one stop to win the game. I agree with Coach.

Getting the point

October 14th, 2012

One of the most interesting storylines around the Hawaii men's basketball team all season will be point guard play.

Jace Tavita has assumed the mantle of the starter after coming in from Utah nearly two years ago and redshirting since that time. Barring something drastic, he'll get the bulk of the time at the position.

But you can't, obviously, have him responsible for all 40 minutes every game of the season. With no other traditional point guards on the roster (not including Keith Shamburger, who must redshirt this year), a couple of interesting scenarios are in play.

True freshman Manroop Clair is young, but coach Gib Arnold credited him with his strongest practice yet after Sunday's four-hour session at Klum Gym. He could see time behind Tavita if he develops and earns the trust of the coaching staff.

There's also true freshman Ozren Pavlovic, who's played some version of point guard in the past. I think if Arnold had a choice here, though, he'd keep him as more of a scoring option.

Junior Brandon Spearman is a combo guard, so by definition he has elements of a point guard to his game, and it's likely he will assume some ball-handling duties in stretches, especially against pressing teams.

And no, don't expect a miracle point guard to fall into the team's lap ala Miah Ostrowski. Or Shaquille Stokes changing his mind to come back from Hofstra.

Another possible solution is on the table. It may come as a surprise, but junior guard/defensive stopper Garrett Jefferson is being groomed as a backup point guard ... at least in these early practices.

Arnold touched upon the options.

"Obviously Manroop’s gotta share that load with (Jace). And we're working with Jefferson in there. It’s a way to get Garrett into the game, and he’s such a good defender. Defensively that helps us because he’d be guarding the point guard, and taking out the point guard on defense. Offensively, he’s never played that before, so it’s just something we gotta keep teaching him. I think he’s a little more comfortable than he has been. He’s played exclusively point for us since we started practice.

"We’re giving him a lot of reps now," Arnold continued. "Now come game time, whether we play him there a little or a lot, is still to be determined. But it’s a good way to get him into the game planning. Point guard controls tempo both offensively and defensively. (Jefferson) controls tempo defensively as good as anybody I’ve coached. Now we just need to work with him offensively. And he’s trying hard and is going to do OK. Ozi Pavlovic is a guy who’s played point in the past. Same deal. We have to work with him on some things."

So, there's no perfect solution to the point guard situation. We'll just have to see how close to perfect the Rainbow Warriors can get things by Nov. 9.

I'd give a personal assessment of progress at the position by Jefferson and the others, but so far practices have been closed to the media. Arnold said today they'd be open again after the coming weekend. Look for more detailed reports at that point.

It's that time again

October 9th, 2012

Yup, it's that time of year again. People formulate Halloween costume ideas, early holiday season plans and, most important of all, wild conspiracy theories on the content of UH basketball's now-annual Ohana Hoopfest.

What can we expect this year? A "Gangnam Style" performance? Gib Arnold vs. Laura Beeman in 1-on-1? All the Rainbow Warriors' international players singing "It's a Small World After All" complete with costume?

Don't rule anything out, but Friday night's activities are slowly coming into focus. And whatever happens, UH will have the benefit of some recruits taking it in; Arnold said Monday he was expecting "probably two guys in there" for the festivities.

They're expected to be high school players. It's a pretty effective recruiting tool, what with all the Stan Sheriff Center crowd and bells and whistles not seen by recruits in other typical weeks. Last year, Caleb Dressler verbally committed to UH soon after visiting and taking in the Hoopfest.

Besides a previous UH announcement that a dunk contest would happen, Arnold said on Monday that a 10-to-15 minute freshman vs. upperclassmen scrimmage would be played to highlight his new-look team.

"It'll be the Freshmen Challenge. We're going to have the eight freshmen challenge the eight upperclassmen in a game," Arnold said.  "An actual green and white game. We'll have celebrity coaches, refs and judges, but the actual game's going to be more of a true scrimmage. So many questions about the new guys, I think it'll be good for the fans to come out and actually see them play a little bit.

"I want to give the young guys a chance to play in front of a big crowd. You have so many new ones, I think it'll be advantageous for us to go out and compete a little bit. It'll be a fun night and a casual night. I want to see how the guys respond."

It will take the place of the men's celebrity game of the last couple years. The UH women's basketball team should still have a celebrity game of its own, but these things are subject to change. We'll see.


The UH men wrapped up their final strength and conditioning testing of the preseason.

"Everybody improved," Arnold said. "The whole goal of that was to get bigger, stronger, faster. ... Guys that needed to put on weight put on weight, the guys who needed to lose weight lost weight. Everybody had their times run, it was all quicker and faster.

"I think they're really looking forward to (practices starting). Everybody's excited and everybody's ready to go. Gotta get a couple guys more healthy. Obviously with Vander (Joaquim, MCL tear) and Manroop (Clair, sore knee), banged up a little bit. Everybody else is pretty healthy. They are excited, as are we the coaches.

On yet-to-be-NCAA-cleared freshman Aaron Valdes, Arnold said: "Still waiting. So we're obviously hoping that's something cleared up by the 12th."