By Brian McInnis
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.