By Brian McInnis
To quote Ron Burgundy, "That escalated quickly. That really got out of hand fast!"
While no tridents were lobbed or hand grenades thrown, Tuesday night's College Summer League action briefly became closer to Will Ferrell in Anchorman's street melee scene than Will Ferrell playing hoops in Semi-Pro. Chippy play in the second half of Solar Universe's 97-84 win over Wealth Strategy Partners ramped up steadily, until a frustrated Julian Sensley got into it with UH senior guard Brandon Spearman with a minute or so left.
It was actually UH newcomer Negus Webster-Chan who was exchanging physical play and some elbows with Sensley on both ends and jawing at the proud (and pro) UH veteran some, especially after one deep 3-pointer. Webster-Chan had an otherwise great summer debut, scoring 25 points and affecting the game with rebounds and assists as well.
Anyway, some shoving ensued between Sensley and Spearman, and at least one swing (whiffed) was thrown by the latter. UH alum Zane Johnson (playing his first summer league game, in which he netted 33 points for Solar, the best of the night) applied a pretty impressive full-body tackle on the much bigger Sensley to get him to the floor and calm him down, and things settled down from there. I heard Sensley and Spearman shook hands later (didn't see it for myself). But the officials called the game over to be safe.
It was a packed house of a few hundred people crammed into the Manoa Park gym, so this didn't happen in a vacuum. It made for a pretty bizarre scene between UH players past and present, and that was just the first game of the night.
Said Webster-Chan: "It was a good experience. It's fun to be out here, finally. ... (The caliber of the league) was pretty good. They got Julian Sensley on the other team, a big guy who can dribble it. He was really big, he has a lot of pounds on him. I didn't know he could handle the ball like that and shoot it. It was good competition. I like the competitiveness."
On the flaring of tempers, he added, "It was all love. People got frustrated. I would get frustrated if I was losing too but I don't think I would take it that far."
Spearman wasn't talkative afterward, and Sensley departed before I could speak to him. Should be interesting the next time these teams meet up on Aug. 1.
Spearman scored 17 and Dyrbe Enos 14 for Solar. Sensley had 13 for WSP.
UH freshman walk-on point guard Niko Filipovich had some bright moments in limited minutes off the bench for Solar. His passing instincts seem sharp and at 6-feet (being generous) and 160 pounds, he was not afraid to mix it up for rebounds. He finished with just two points and a few assists, but he showed he should get more run from coach Artie Wilson in the next game.
"It's been good (since I got in) getting in shape, trying to work out these individual work outs with Coach (Arnold) and stuff," Filipovich said. "You know, (the league) is a really great experience, good players, and really intense. When Dyrbe told me it gets intense, you know ... that was my first day here, and it got very intense."
He indicated he was strongly weighing redshirting this year. UH has two other point guards in Keith Shamburger and Quincy Smith, so playing time could be sparse.
"We'll see as the year goes on how far I go and how far I progress and see if I can play this year," Filipovich said. "If not, I'm only 17 (18 in October) and I'm going to redshirt. I'm just taking one day at a time, seeing how it goes. I'm not in any rush."
The second game, between winless Grantco Pacific and Clark Hatch Fitness, was interesting too, but for other reasons. It was close pretty much the entire way, and the game was decided on an Aaron Valdes putback of a teammate's missed free throw in the final seconds.
Grantco pulled it out, 102-101, for its first win.
"It was fun. Really competitive, more competitive than the league back home," said the UH redshirt freshman Valdes, who scored 10. "I just backdoored to make it look like I was going to go for a rebound. He tried to go for a rebound straight up, so I just went in and got it."
The bouncy Valdes, who had a late start officially joining the team last year, said he focused on his shot back home in California while training with Filipovich and Stefan Jovanovic.
UH big man Caleb Dressler led six players in double-figure scoring for Grantco with 18 points. He ran the floor much better than what he showed last summer (and last week).
Third-year sophomore Brandon Jawato made a surprise appearance in the gym. He wasn't expected to be here, as he was going to play in Indonesia, but that fell through and he was able to latch on with Clark Hatch minutes after arriving. He kept launching shots and finished with 15 points.
Many fans were eager to see Shamburger, last year's redshirting transfer point guard from San Jose State.
"My first time back playing 5-on-5 ball. I've just been working out this summer," said Shamburger, who scored 11. "It felt kind of weird at the beginning but as the game picked up I started to get a good feeling again. It was a good game, came to the last possessions. ... Aaron, you gotta box a guy out like that. You can't let him get inside. He gonna tip that in every time."
But who knows if Shamburger and Jawato will return for more summer games. Playing time may have been an issue with his new team; Shamburger shot off this tweet after the game:
me and Jawatto more than likely wont be playing in the league anymore.
— Keith Shamburger (@HoopndKicks) July 10, 2013
Freshman wing Michael Thomas was present on the Clark Hatch bench, but unfortunately could not play. I was told there was a medical waiver he needed to sign off on first. He should be in action next Tuesday.
Brandon Matano scored a game-high 30 points for Clark Hatch, while summer veteran Leon Ballard added 22.
Isaac Fotu isn't here yet, but he said he hopes to have his visa issue resolved and be in by Thursday. Next games are on Saturday between National Fire Protection (3-1) and Grantco (1-3) at 6 p.m. and Central Medical Clinic (4-0) and Solar Universe (3-1) at 7:30. Fotu, Jovanovic, Smith and Michael Harper should be making their 2013 summer debuts.
I'm going to be gone on an East Coast trip until the 22nd, so apologies in advance on the lack of summer league and other updates until I get back.