By Brian McInnis
Well, if you haven't heard by now, Hawaii point guard Keith Shamburger is picking up his ball and going home.
If you drew up a list of likely candidates to leave early right after the conclusion of the 2013-14 season, Shamburger wouldn't have been near the top; his starting job seemed relatively secure. But now UH heads into the fall requiring a new starting ballhandler for the fourth straight year.
Less than two weeks ago, Shamburger was hyping up some pretty eye-opening (and still unconfirmed) names on the 2014-15 Rainbow Warriors schedule. Now, he'll wrap up his career at a to-be-named school, likely on the West Coast.
Both teammates I spoke to on Tuesday reacted with surprise. You can read their comments in Wednesday's Star-Advertiser.
So, is Shamburger leaving because of the impending signing of Indian Hills guard Roderick Bobbitt? It would be simplistic to peg it on either end of the spectrum — that it is the whole cause, or completely unrelated and more to do with his relationship with the coaching staff. The truth likely lies somewhere in between.
There were several blow-ups between Shamburger and teammates/coaches during the season, both public (think his first-half benching during the Cal State Northridge game on Feb. 1) and private (locker room angst after the win over Oregon State in the Diamond Head Classic, among other games).
At the time, there wasn't believed to be any lasting damage done, as there were several emotional personalities on last year's team — the head coach included). Well, in retrospect, maybe that wasn't the case.
Some were critical of Shamburger's shooting struggles (34.9 percent from the field, 30.8 percent on 3-pointers). But you also have to give him credit as the team's best free-throw shooter (83.2 percent); he helped put a few games away at the line. His ball distribution was generally solid (5.4 assists per game), and UH fans will always have the Hawaii-UC Irvine Sham-battle, which led to a Big West player of the week honor for him.
In one oft-rehashed postgame radio interview, Shamburger himself recognized his own shooting troubles and resolved to come back a much better with plenty of time put in the gym this offseason. He had moments of refreshing self-awareness like that that often made him one of the team's better interviews, his self-imposed media embargo (Shambargo) after the Northridge game notwithstanding.
UH fans should lament the lack of continuity at point guard going into next season — it was the team's first chance in a while to have the clear-cut starter at the position back for another tour of duty. It'll be up to Quincy Smith, Bobbitt, Isaac Fleming or another newcomer to take command.
Personally, I'll miss the Sham puns.