By Brian McInnis
The Hawaii men's basketball team got some recognition to kick off its gameday preparation for Norfolk State on Monday.
Senior guard Brandon Spearman was named the Big West Conference player of the week for his efforts in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic. UH won the last two games of the tournament over Saint Mary's and Oregon State to take the event's consolation championship (fifth place) for the third time in four years.
It was the captain's first career weekly honor.
Spearman averaged 14.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in three DHC games and was really the face of the tournament for UH. He took all-tournament team honors and posted his first career double-double, 14 points and 10 rebounds, against OSU.
He shot 53.6 percent from the field in the tourney and 54.5 percent on 3-pointers, something he's really shown improvement on after getting up plenty of shots this summer.
It was the second Big West PoW honor for a UH player this season; Christian Standhardinger won it on the first week of nonconference play.
So it's now on to Norfolk State for the 'Bows. This is an opponent that needs to be respected, despite coming from arguably the worst conference in Division I basketball, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC, or mee-ack). Norfolk State has been the class of that league the last two years, reaching the NCAA (and stunning 2-seeded Missouri as the 15 seed) then following up with an NIT appearance in 2012-13.
Seven of NSU's top eight players are seniors.
Watch how UH responds to the considerable backcourt size of the Spartans (6-5 and 6-6). The last time UH faced such a lineup was (ironically) against Missouri, though you can figure on a talent gap from the Tigers to the Spartans.
NSU also has a rim protector in Brandon Goode, so the going could be tough for Standhardinger and Isaac Fotu inside if they can't get Goode in foul trouble.
UH has a real chance to get to conference play as an 11-win team, but they have to play to their potential this week for that to transpire.
Freshman wing Aaron Valdes played through some pain in the DHC, in the form of a medial tear in his right (shooting) elbow.
Barring anything flaring up, he should be OK to keep playing with the injury which occurred early off the bench against Boise State. He was big against Saint Mary's, though, supplying 10 first-half points.
"It was hard at first, but I really wanted to play those two games (SMC and OSU) 'cause I know (vs.) Boise State I could have helped the team, at least a little bit," Valdes said. "But we played good those last two games so it helped. It did hurt. It was sore a little bit, but you gotta play through the pain."
Valdes was asked if the pain or wrapping affects his shot.
"I like to think it kind of helps me a little bit; if I'm shooting it right then it should hurt. My shot's been falling a little bit more.
"Throwing long, I can't do that right now," he added. "So I won't be playing water polo for a while. ... Not too bad yet (when I dunk), but I haven't done anything crazy yet. I guess we'll test it in the games if I have a breakaway or something."
For what it's worth, he had a great putback dunk in practice on Saturday.