By Brian McInnis
Hawaii is about an hour away from its toughest test of the young season. Today's matchup against Missouri (a team receiving AP Top 25 votes) in Kansas City, Mo., has the potential to be the most difficult game of the entire season.
The 2 p.m. (local time) game is being televised on Fox Sports Midwest (not available in most formats here, unless you have satellite coverage). But it is being livestreamed on ESPN3.com, so that will be your most likely access. And it's on 1500-AM, not 1420 this time.
The game will be won or lost in the backcourt, depending if UH's guards can contain the Tigers' athletic options at the 1, 2, and 3 spots. Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson leads the way for MU with 22.5 points per game through the Tigers' first two contests, both blowout wins.
Rainbow Warriors point guard Keith Shamburger, listed at a generous 6-2, talked up the challenge this week. He, Garrett Nevels, Quincy Smith — and possibly Brandon Spearman, a game-time decision — will be tasked with slowing down the Tigers in transition.
"It's going to be hard for them to stay in front of us, too," Shamburger said. "We got quick guards. We have a lot of guards who can shoot, score in different kind of ways. So it's going to be tough for them to guard us, too. It's going to be tough for us to guard them because they're bigger. It's just going to come down to who got the bigger heart. You see guys out there in the league like Nate Robinson and Ty Lawson and a whole bunch of other guys. They all, the difference about the short guards, is their heart. And the chip they have on their shoulder. It doesn't matter about the height. It matters about who wants it more."
Speaking of Shamburger, he offered up his explanation in what happened in the New Mexico State loss, when he was ejected with his second technical foul with nearly eight minutes still to play.
"It really sucks to know I couldn't be out there with the guys," he said. "Just to go through what I went through. I just gotta learn and live with that. There's nothing I can do about it now. I just know it won't happen again. It as tough for me, just seeing the guys go out there and know that I couldn't do nothing and it was real tough for me.
"I guess you could say it was quick with the whistle, but wouldn't think it would happen like that. You see a lot of players talking trash in college basketball. I mean, I really don't see how you can get a tech by just talking trash. I could see it if we were both out there ready to fight or elbows were swung or something, but none of that was happening. He did it so quick it was just, the first one I got it because (Daniel Mullings and I) were both talking. The second one, I don't know where the second one came from to be honest with you.
"The dude (a NMSU player) walked by me and said something and the ref thought it was me who said something. That's how that went down. And then when he gave me the tech we tried to tell him it was somebody else. He looked like he wanted to take it back but he couldn't take it back. He gave me a tech already, so there's nothing we can do at that point."
UH hasn't put out anything official yet, but it received national letter of intent paperwork from Massanutten (Va.) Military Academy guard Isaac Fleming.
Fleming had a signing ceremony at his school. Stay posted for Gib Arnold's comments on the young man, I'm sure he'll want to tout his first addition to the 2014-15 class when he's able to.
It sometimes takes the UH compliance department a few days to get through the paperwork before it gives the green light for coaches to talk about recruits — this being one of those situations.
There's a slight possibility UH will add another player during this early signing period, but Fleming might be it until the spring.
Look for the 'Bows to add at least one big man, their largest area of need right now. Davis Rozitis and Christian Standhardinger depart after this season — and who knows if a pro team will make a successful run at Isaac Fotu this time. Stefan Jovanovic and Caleb Dressler are the only other true bigs on the roster set to return.
Guard-wise, you have to like what UH has coming back at present. It loses Spearman but should have both Shamburger and Nevels back, plus Smith, and Niko Filipovich coming off what looks like a redshirt season. And having Dyrbe Enos around is always a positive.
Adding Fleming to that mix, you'd think, would be all the better.
The Hawaii women's basketball team was impressive in its home opener last night, a 77-66 win over Washington State and two former Konawaena stars in Lia Galdeira and Dawnyelle Awa.
UH freshman point guard Briana Harris did a little bit of everything, including two sweet passes to Kamilah Jackson where she broke down the defense at the top of the key, pulled up for a shot, and hit Jackson for a layup from midair. Good stuff.
If the Wahine can get past Ole Miss at 2:30 today, they'll likely set up a showdown with West Virginia for the Bank of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine Classic title on Sunday.