By Brian McInnis
The doors opened up again for Hawaii basketball practice on Monday, coming off Saturday's 100-69 demolition of UC Riverside. Whatever concerns existed about team focus coming off an 0-2 Big West road trip were apparently solved during a week of closed-door practices preceding the UCR game, because the Rainbow Warriors displayed a killer instinct against the woeful and overmatched Highlanders.
However, fifth-year senior center Davis Rozitis missed that game for uncharacteristic academic reasons. The graduate student is a two-time academic all-conference honoree, making it all the more puzzling. Rozitis has some classwork to make up to make himself eligible again, and it's not sounding too likely he'll be available in the immediate future.
UH coach Gib Arnold confirmed Monday that Rozitis will accompany the team Tuesday afternoon for its upcoming road trip to UC Davis and UC Irvine. But it sounded pretty doubtful that Rozitis will be available for either game -- and especially (coincidentally) the Davis game on Thursday.
His possible absence would be magnified in the Irvine game Saturday. The first-place Anteaters (3-0) feature three 7-footers, including 7-foot-6 Mamadou N'diaye.
Look for freshman center Stefan Jovanovic to get a shot at scraping together some good minutes in Rozitis' absence. Jovanovic tied his career-high of six points before fouling out against Riverside.
Rainbow Warriors newcomer Stefan Jankovic, the ex-Missouri forward, has remained in street clothes during practices since arriving in the islands last week. He must attend an NCAA meeting on Tuesday to get cleared to practice -- thus he will sit out one more session on the Lower Campus. That means his first practice action with his new teammates will actually come upon the team's return from this week's trip. (Transfer players are not allowed to travel.)
Arnold was allowed to comment on the addition of the Serbian-born, Canadian-raised Jankovic now that he's enrolled in classes at Manoa.
"Gosh, just thrilled to have him. A 6-7 (sic, 6-10) athlete that can shoot the ball and can move, and can play a lot of different positions, which I really like. And he gets us another really great player out of Toronto (along with Negus Webster-Chan). That's about as far away as you can get, but between Serbia, Los Angeles and Toronto, we're starting to get a few niches in the world. Those are some pretty good places for basketball."
The coach confirmed Jankovic will be able to play in the 2014-15 season, starting in mid-December -- meaning he'll miss probably around 10 games.
"Right after first-semester grades come out," Arnold said. "So which will be right before the Diamond Head (Classic)."
The prospect of old friends Jankovic and Webster-Chan joining forces for their redshirt sophomore seasons here has Arnold excited.
"If you look at them, these guys are two top-100 players in the country at times in their life," Arnold said. "These guys were recruited by everybody in the country. You know, it wasn't a great fit at Missouri for them. That doesn't mean they're bad players, it doesn't mean Missouri's a bad program. All fits are different. Christian Standhardinger's a good example. You know, he played at Nebraska, it wasn't a good fit, but he's found a great fit here. So we're hoping that both (Jankovic) and Negus, we can help them continue to develop, and we can help them fulfill their goals as they obviously help us fulfill ours."
This didn't make it into Sunday's edition of the paper for space reasons, but here was a quote from Riverside interim head coach Dennis Cutts regarding the blowout loss, which came two nights after UCR rallied from 19 points down to win at UC Davis:
"It was kind of a perfect storm," Cutts told the Star-Advertiser's Jason Kaneshiro. "That's a very difficult turnaround against a team that hadn't played all week that was desperately needing a win. So I just thought it was really a difficult environment to put our guys into.
"We were sluggish and a step behind and they were amped up. We were a step behind our normal energy level and activity and they were amped up and it showed throughout the game."
Lastly, Standhardinger fell short of his second Big West player of the week honor of the season. He was nominated after going for 27 points and 11 boards against UCR, but the award went to UC Santa Barbara guard Michael Bryson after he averaged 14 points in UCSB's wins over Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge.
BWC sports information directors do the voting for weekly awards, and are not allowed to vote for players from their institution.