By Brian McInnis
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.