Archive for November, 2012

Stokes arrested

November 30th, 2012
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Hawaii hoops fans got some pretty shocking news from the Big Apple on Friday morning. Former Rainbow Warriors point guard Shaquille Stokes, and three other Hofstra teammates, were arrested for an alleged series of burglaries on the Hofstra campus.

Stokes, now a sophomore, had emerged as a key member of the Pride, averaging 10 points and 2.6 assists per game.

The former New York City player of the year out of storied Lincoln High was charged with multiple second-degree burglaries and has pled not guilty. He's also suspended from the team and university.

UH coach Gib Arnold heard about it soon after the 'Bows arrived in Las Vegas on Friday morning for their Saturday game at No. 24 UNLV.

The focus on the local newscast Arnold saw there was on Kentrell Washington, one of the four arrested, who hails from Las Vegas. But there was Stokes' mugshot to see, along with the rest.

"It sounds like it's an unfortunate situation," Arnold said. "I don't have all the details, so I don't feel it's appropriate for me to (comment further) on … alleged allegations."

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My take: It's a lot to take in about someone who could easily still be playing hoops at UH right now. This story spread pretty fast on national news media, including word from police detective Ray Cote that Stokes registered some of the stolen goods in his name, which blew the whole case open (scroll down).

It certainly appears, from what's out there right now, that Stokes is at the heart of this criminal case. But everyone should allow the facts come to light (and rest assured, there will be much more to come out) before making any sweeping judgment on him.

When he left UH, it wasn't because he was a bad egg. He was wanted back, but he said at the time he needed to be closer to his family and ailing grandmother.

Unfortunately for UH, many news outlets are running information on Stokes after the description "a transfer from the University of Hawaii."

It's true that Stokes hails from a rough neighborhood — Harlem — and was back in his home city. We can speculate that he might have fallen in with the wrong crowd, but speculation is all that would be.

Bottom line: Am I surprised that he'd participate in something so brazenly stupid as walking into dorm rooms and snatching up electronics? Yes. Who wouldn't be?

UH opponents update Part I

November 26th, 2012
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We're a handful of games into the 2012-13 men's basketball season now, so it's a good time to take stock of where nonconference teams on Hawaii's schedule stack up. Part II, Big West teams, will come later this week.

RPI ratings are from RealtimeRPI.com, out of 347 teams, after games played on Monday, Nov. 26. Hawaii stands at 221 with its 4-1 record. You'll see why the RPI is comparatively low when you see those of the opponents faced so far, with the exception of unbeaten Illinois, which is now ranked No. 22 in this week's AP Top 25 poll.

In order of appearance on the schedule:

Nov. 9: Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks — Record: 0-6. Conference: MEAC. RPI: 334. Result: Hawaii 76, UMES 64

Nov. 11: Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions — Record: 1-4. Conference: SWAC. RPI: 305. Result: Hawaii 81, UAPB 54

Nov. 12: Houston Baptist Huskies — Record: 3-3. Conference: Great West. RPI: 266. Result: Hawaii 73, HBU 60

Nov. 16: Illinois Fighting Illini — Record: 7-0. Conference: Big Ten. RPI: 8. Result: Illinois 78, Hawaii 77, OT

Nov. 20: North Dakota (insert nickname here) — Record: 1-3. Conference: Big Sky. RPI: 301. Result: Hawaii 71, UND 66

Dec. 1: UNLV Runnin' Rebels — Record: 3-1. Conference: Mountain West. RPI: 30

Dec. 8: Pepperdine Waves — Record: 3-2. Conference: West Coast. RPI: 36

Dec. 15: Chaminade Silverswords — Record: 3-3. Conference: Pacific West. RPI: N/A

Diamond Head Classic Teams (Dec. 22, 23, 25)

Arizona Wildcats — Record: 3-0. Conference: Pac-12. RPI: 132.

East Tennessee State Buccaneers — Record: 1-3. Conference: Atlantic Sun. RPI: 257

Indiana State Sycamores — Record: 4-1. Conference: Missouri Valley. RPI: 99

Miami Hurricanes — Record: 3-1. Conference: Atlantic Coast. RPI: 55

Ole Miss Rebels — Record: 5-0. Conference: Southeastern. RPI: 68

San Diego State Aztecs — Record: 4-1. Conference: Mountain West. RPI: 115

San Francisco Dons — Record: 3-1. Conference: West Coast. RPI: 63

Feb.23: BracketBusters opponent TBA.

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Point guard Jace Tavita and wing Brandon Jawato were both ill and out of practice on Monday. The team will go three more days of practice in their home gyms before flying out for Las Vegas for Saturday's game at No. 24 UNLV.

It made for a pretty uneven practice. The captain Tavita really helps to set the tone at the point position. The coaching staff will want him back out there before long. We'll see if he returns Tuesday.

Valdes giving thanks

November 23rd, 2012
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Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving.

It most definitely was for freshman Aaron Valdes, who said he got word from coach Gib Arnold that he's finally cleared by the NCAA for team activities with Hawaii.

He should be able to practice from now on. But don't expect him out there in any game action this year ... barring unforeseen circumstances. He's missed all the team's practices so far — other than as a spectator — with the exception of a 10-day exempted window in mid-October.

Valdes was probably going to redshirt no matter what. This just allows him to get in-system with plenty of time to spare for next year.

Lastly, the starting five showed off its festive side.

Will have an update on the status of redshirt freshman Brandon Jawato (who did not dress in the 71-66 win over North Dakota) after tomorrow's practice. He was said to have an unspecified injury after the game.

UPDATE: Gib Arnold said Jawato had a bruised thigh. He practiced on Friday with a slight limp.

Operation Bounceback // Janevia Taylor update

November 20th, 2012
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Well, now everybody's had a few days to digest Hawaii's 78-77 OT loss to Illinois on Friday night.

Feel any better yet, those of you who were there?

Can't blame anyone if they don't. That was a tough one for the Rainbow Warriors, and their 'fro-clad fans, to swallow.

If it's any solace, the Fighting Illini absolutely went off in their EA Sports Maui Invitational opening game against USC on Monday night, spanking the Trojans 94-64. They shot 68.8 percent — ! — in the first half. If they threaten to win Maui over the next two days, UH's close loss to them won't look bad at all.

Tonight's 7 p.m. game against North Dakota offers a prime opportunity for a bounce-back win before UH heads out for possibly its toughest game of the season, Dec. 1 at No. 18 UNLV.

The Former Fighting Sioux (now sans nickname) are a guard-driven team, like Illinois, minus the offensive explosiveness.

Senior swingman Hauns Brereton was still feeling the loss over the weekend, but told SA writer Jason Kaneshiro he'd be ready.

"Watching that game (on film), it magnified our weaknesses and what we need to tighten up," Brereton said. "What we did wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either. We need to do is tighten up where we catch the ball in offensive sets. We need to tighten up where we push people on  defense. We were making mistakes by not having them 2 feet back. If we would have moved our defenders 2 feet back that would have made so much difference on how they were scoring or if they would have scored. Two feet makes a big difference in basketball. Just that extra effort makes a big difference."

Also, per Dave Reardon, combo guard Brandon Spearman might get some run at the point tonight. It's an interesting option which might free up Garrett Jefferson for his more traditional defensive role at the 2.

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Credit to the UH students for coming out in force, making it look and sound like a true college atmosphere on "Wig Night." Of course, Illinois is used to them just about every game in the Big Ten, and wasn't fazed down the stretch. UI coach John Groce still gave credit to the UH game atmosphere in Monday's postgame presser and said that game helped his team prepare for Maui.

If UH can draw the youth like that on a game-to-game basis, that's a huge plus. Tonight's UND game is "Beach Night," and the students are encouraged to have their beach attire going. So, umm, that could be interesting while UND takes its free throws at the Manoa Maniacs' end.

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I ran into former UH women's basketball assistant coach Serenda Valdez along press row this morning at the Lahaina Civic Center.

Valdez, who now works in the UH admissions department, keeps regular tabs on how former Rainbow Wahine point guard Janevia Taylor is doing.

Unfortunately, Valdez says, it's the status quo for Taylor, now in a care facility in North Hollywood where her medical bills are paid by the state of California. It's been over five years now since Taylor's life-threatening car accident put her into a coma, and over four since this update on her. Valdez last saw her in August and said there hadn't been any recent encouraging signs of her stirring like there were in the first year or two.

Her family keeps hope, though. You hear those stories about people waking up years and years after going into a coma.

Midnight madness

November 12th, 2012
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Time for the best crowd of the year.

Not in terms of numbers, of course. But Hawaii's 11 p.m. College Hoops Tip-off Marathon game vs. Houston Baptist should again attract the usual rowdy, younger bunch of past midnight games to make the Stan Sheriff Center come alive in front of the ESPN cameras.

UH is also trying to claim its 13th overall Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic title, and second since the Rainbow Warriors' once-signature event went to a four-team round-robin format. The tournament went on hiatus last year.

Past crowds for these midnight games have hovered right around 2,000. All seats are general admission for this one.

It's a "Blackout" night, so any fans looking to participate this evening should keep that in mind with black shirts, pants etc. Try not to bump into each other in the dark.

UH (2-0) and Houston Baptist (2-0) both shot the lights out in their Sunday games against hyphenated teams, with the Rainbow Warriors winning 84-51 over Arkansas-Pine Bluff and the Huskies prevailing 70-55 over Maryland-Eastern Shore.

Like usual, UH's game is third up in the marathon rotation. Here is ESPN's preview of what you might expect in each.

The late-night games have typically been pretty close, with the exception of last year. This year could see a return to barn-burner status with HBU of the Great West Conference looking pretty frisky in its unbeaten start. It is the first appearance on ESPN's flagship station in HBU school history.

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Here's the complete list of UH Tip-Off Marathon games since they started. UH is 3-1 in this event.

2011: Hawaii 86, Cal State Northridge 67. Zane Johnson hits six 3-pointers and scores 24 points, briefly becoming a trending topic on Twitter. Trevor Wiseman adds 19 points and 16 rebounds in what was also UH's season opener because of the (temporarily) scrapped Rainbow Classic.

2010: Hawaii 65, Central Michigan 62. Bill Amis scores 17 points on 8-for-11 shooting with eight rebounds, while tourney MVP Hiram Thompson scores 15 and is assessed a technical foul on a play he had nothing to do with.

2009: Northern Colorado 81, Hawaii 75. Current 'Bow team captain Hauns Brereton was on the winning side for this one as a UNC Bear, albeit in a reserve role as a freshman. UH's ill-fated backcourt of Jeremy Lay and Dwain Williams led the way with 18 and 17 points, respectively, in the loss.

2008: Hawaii 67, Idaho State 63 (OT). It's something of a wonder UH's tie-in with the Tip-off Marathon lasted beyond this year. This one was cringe-worthy, made worse by the fact that it went five extra minutes. Both teams shot in the mid-30s and they combined for 42 turnovers. Roderick Flemings scores 17 points, including five in OT, to win it for the 'Bows.

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In the early OHRC game today, UAPB defeated UMES 62-52. The Golden Lions of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) take third in the Classic at 1-2, while the Hawks of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) finish last at 0-3.

Enjoy the game, those going tonight.

Feeling the pressure

November 11th, 2012
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The Hawaii men's basketball team was able to handle the biggest team (aside from itself) in the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic on Friday night, prevailing 76-64 over Maryland-Eastern Shore.

The next two opponents, including today's contest against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, will present a different sort of challenge.

UAPB and Houston Baptist, guard-oriented teams, will likely look to test the Rainbow Warriors' ability to bring the ball upcourt cleanly — especially after UH faltered in that aspect late against UMES.

As I type this, Houston Baptist is eviscerating UMES in the prelude to the UH-UAPB game. Should the 'Bows get past the Golden Lions tonight, they could be in for quite the test in the ESPN midnight game. The Huskies have a rotation of speedy, athletic guards that get into their opponents.

Jace Tavita had about a good a debut as a UH fan could have hoped for against UMES. He'll need strong follow-up outings today and Monday if the 'Bows are to take the OHRC title.

It will continue to be a steep learning curve for backup points Garrett Jefferson and Manroop Clair. Their D-I debuts at PG weren't highly convincing, but Jefferson is still very useful for his defensive prowess and Clair, if he finds his comfort zone, can space the floor with his 3-ball.

I've been asked plenty if Brandon Spearman could be handed the keys to the offense at some point. I wouldn't expect it in this tournament. But keep an eye out for it if bringing the ball up continues to be an adventure.

Season opener blog blowout

November 9th, 2012
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It's that time ladies and gentlemen. The UH basketball 2012-13 season tips off tonight against Maryland-Eastern Shore at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Here are some things to keep an eye on in this one:

>> Vander Joaquim's minutes. It's looking like the big fella will play, but the question is, how much? Does Gib Arnold give him spot minutes off the bench? When he's in, which other bigs will he play alongside?

>> Point guard play. It was a struggle against HPU in the exhibition last week. Will Jace Tavita get into a rhythm early? If not, how long will Arnold wait until calling upon Garrett Jefferson and/or Manroop Clair?

>> Big man battles. UMES has one of the biggest front line rotations (6-11, 6-10, 6-9, 6-9) UH will see in the nonconference season. We'll find out early how the 'Bows' bigs go up against comparable size.

>> Defensive strategy. UH played almost exclusively man-to-man defense in the preseason, with smatterings of zone thrown in. Expect the same tonight. But the zone could emerge if UH plays a big lineup with Isaac Fotu or Christian Standhardinger at the 3.

>> Student turnout. UH made a renewed push to get its student base out to these first games, knocking on dorm doors, having a rally at campus center this week, and offering free shirts to the first 300 students to show up tonight. It's always been tough getting UH students to show up in droves at basketball games (with the exception of the midnight games). We'll see if this made an impact.

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Here's some Q&As from interviews conducted after Wednesday and Thursday's practices.

VANDER JOAQUIM

Q: Are you all good to go for this weekend?

A: I'm ready.  I'm ready to be out there and contribute for the team.

Q: Have you felt better as the week of practice has gone on?

A: Oh, yeah, definitely. Every day I just keep getting better. I'm adjusting my game, feeling more comfortable every day. (Friday) no excuse. I'm ready to play. Whenever I'm out there, I'll give it my all.

Q: Coach sounds like he wants to be pretty careful with you ...

A: That's true. I don't be careful. I'm the one who should be taking (it) careful. Coach is going to take careful. But if I'm ready to play, I'm ready to play. I'm looking forward to it, I'm excited.

ISAAC FOTU

Q: Thoughts on the opener?

A: I'm excited. It was good to get the exhibition game out of the way to get the nerves out of the way, first time playing in front of a crowd. I'm excited for the game.

Q: How do you feel the front line has come together with Vander back?

A: It feels strong. Any two that's in there, whether it's Davis or Christian or Vander or myself. I think that will be one of our strengths this year.

Q: What kind of crowd are you expecting?

A: I think it will be a decent crowd. We've been going around the dorms getting people to come to our game. But I imagine a big crowd. Whatever happens, I think if we start winning, people will turn up to watch. That's the plan.

Q: What do you think about trying to make an instant impact with this team?

A: I think playing against grown men back home really helped me to mature quicker and get used to the speed of the game. I'm just trying to have an impact in any way I can and help the team.

Q: Have you played something like three games in four days before?

A: Only in national tournaments. You have to look after the body and eat the right things. Get good rest so you're always fresh for the games.

BRANDON JAWATO

Q: What's your general feeling on team readiness?

A: As of right now, I feel pretty confident. We've been working hard during practice, we've been playing good defense, executing offense. So we're looking forward to this weekend, we're just going to go out and play 100 percent.

Q: How does it feel for you to be set for your first game after redshirting last year?

A: Yeah, I'm very excited. Actually last year, I wanted to the get on the court, but I couldn't, because I redshirted. But this year I'm very excited. I'm just going to go out there and try to play my hardest for the team to get W's.

Q: Where do you feel you've come as a player from then?

A: I think, actually, I came a long way. I got into shape. I know the college game better now. So, hopefully we'll see what we can do this weekend. Put something together.

Q: Know anything about your opponents?

A: We honestly have no idea. I've never heard of these teams, but you gotta go out there and just give it your all.

Q: What's it like having Vander back?

A: It's been great. Big Vander is a plus, of course. He just spreads out the floor for us to get me and Hauns open 3s. He's a big force down low on defense.

Q: Got any family coming down to Hawaii for any games this year?

A: Actually yeah, yeah, at the Diamond Head Classic, my family's going to come out. And I'm going to be seeing them a lot in Cali. They're probably coming out to every game (there). I'm excited, can't wait.

Q: Where are you guys as a cohesive unit?

A: As of right now I think we're a good team but as the season kicks in, I think we could be a great team, just by executing on offense. Playing together, mainly on the defensive side.

GARRETT JEFFERSON

Q: How different does this group of guys feel to last year's at this point?

A: It feels pretty different. I feel like the chemistry is really well right now. We're kind of clicking on all cylinders. But we're still trying to get better at the same time. So I mean, at this point of the season everyone's real excited and everything feels really good.

Q: What's it been like with Vander out there working his way back?

A: Oh, it's been fun. Not only we're excited for the season, we're excited Vander's back. He's going to help us a lot. It just amps us up for the first couple games.

Q: You're a guy who saw him all last year. Does he look like himself yet?

A: I'm sure it's going to take him a little time, but he still looks good. He still looks like Vander. That never hurts.

Q: How are you feeling on progressing in a point guard's role?

A: I feel pretty good. I'm still learning stuff every day, from Jace and watching film and the other point guards. Still learning, but I feel pretty good and confident going into these games.

Dressler will redshirt

November 7th, 2012
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Hawaii coach Gib Arnold confirmed on Wednesday he would redshirt freshman center Caleb Dressler this season.

"Caleb, Caleb's family and I are all on the same page," Arnold said. "I'd rather have a fifth-year senior year for him than a freshman year."

The 6-10 Dressler is playing behind a four-man rotation among the bigs — Vander Joaquim, Christian Standhardinger, Isaac Fotu and Davis Rozitis. His playing time at this stage of his college career would have been limited at best.

Dressler will continue to man the scout team as its inside man.

He is the second confirmed redshirt this season (Aaron Valdes is the other).

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The Rainbow Warriors are holding a rally at the UH Campus Center on Thursday at 11:45 a.m.

UH players and staff will greet students and hand out prizes for about an hour, and offer reminders that students get in free for home games, with the exception of the Diamond Head Classic.

Seems like a good idea. Any increased student participation at games makes for much more of a raucous atmosphere ... just think of the annual midnight games.

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Multiple people around the Twitterverse picked up Wednesday on former UH point guard Shaquille Stokes receiving an NCAA waiver to play immediately this season at Hofstra.

Stokes left to play closer to his ailing grandmother.

Very good news, obviously, for Shaq. Going to be interesting to see his level of production there this season.

Joaquim back in the fray

November 5th, 2012
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Vander Joaquim is back. Or at least getting there.

The Hawaii senior center got in some full contact work during Monday's practice — which, unfortunately, happened to be closed to the media again. No direct observations available.

He also apparently got in some work during an incognito team session on Saturday after a film session breaking down the 75-67 exhibition win over Hawaii Pacific the night before.

Joaquim said he'd be ready to play for the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic, barring any health setbacks. He said he felt "97 percent" healthy.

"I just need 3 more percent," he said, grinning wide.

However, Gib Arnold didn't sound like he was going to take any chances with his prized big man. Check out tomorrow's edition for his take on the matter (as well as Part 1 of our three-part UH basketball season preview). Suffice it to say for now that Joaquim playing vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore is far from a given.

But its a lot closer to reality now than it was at this time last week.

Valdes will redshirt

November 1st, 2012
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Well, the harrowing eligibility tale of Aaron Valdes seems to have met some resolution. UH coach Gib Arnold said after practice on Thursday that the freshman wing will redshirt this season, regardless of any possible last-second 180 by the NCAA on his eligibility for the 2012-13 season.

The hope for UH is, after staying in the academic system for a full year, he will be eligible next season without having expended a year of eligibility.

This all might sound disappointing for UH fans, but keep in mind Valdes was a strong redshirt candidate regardless of the NCAA's call; this just means he still likely will be unable to practice with the team in the meantime.

The fact that he put on a pretty entertaining show in the Ohana Hoopfest dunk contest (a runner-up finish to Garrett Jefferson) probably makes it a little tougher to swallow.

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The season-opening exhibition vs. Hawaii Pacific is nearly upon us, raising the question of who else might be redshirting. Arnold has said anywhere between two and four players may sit out games this year.

However, standard redshirt candidates can play in exhibition games safely without worrying about their redshirt status. Besides Valdes, the most logical candidate at this point for a redshirt is freshman center Caleb Dressler, who's been a scout teamer in the preseason.

It's not a done deal, but should Dressler redshirt, it makes sense. He's playing behind a pretty stacked frontcourt of Vander Joaquim, Christian Standhardinger, Isaac Fotu and Davis Rozitis. Any chance that he doesn't redshirt probably hinges on how much time Joaquim will miss in the early portion of the nonconference schedule. As it is, the Angolan is probably out for the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic. Any more than that, and Dressler's chances of getting in a game go up.