Hawaii seems intent on keeping its corps of walk-ons well-stocked heading into the 2014-15 season, while upping its local flair at the same time.
'Iolani shooting guard Zach Buscher said he's agreed to join UH in the fall as a walk-on, which will mark the first time under Gib Arnold that there will be two local players on the Rainbow Warriors' roster (Dyrbe Enos is the other). Correction: It will be the first time under Arnold to begin a season. UH had Pi‘i Minns and midseason addition Miah Ostrowski in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
The 6-foot-3 Buscher was an all-tournament team selection for the state champion Raiders, and was the No. 3 player on the Star-Advertiser's 2013-14 Fab 15 list.
He'll be the first 'Iolani alum on the team since Bobby Nash in the mid-2000s. The last time there were two local Rainbow Warriors on a roster (for a full season) was in 2009-10 with Beau Albrechtson of Kaimuki High and Rykin Enos of Kamehameha under former UH coach Bob Nash.
"It means a lot. It's a great opportunity for me to make my dream come true," Buscher said. "I've been going to UH games as a ballboy for years. I always dreamt of playing for UH."
Until roughly the last month, he wasn't sure what level of college ball he'd get a chance to play at.
"I started getting serious about looking at colleges and where I wanted to go," Buscher said. "I always wanted to play for them (UH) and didn't know if it would be possible, but talked to Coach Gib, had a couple meetings with the coaching staff and them. Then, made the decision. ... I definitely wanted to play in college. That was a goal of mine, whether it be D-I, D-II or D-III."
He seemed to realize that there's a hefty down payment of work and time involved before respect is earned at the next level.
"One of the biggest things is attitude, having the right mind-set and working hard," he said. "Because it's going to be at a whole 'nother level from high school. Physically it's going to take some time to get used to. But having the right attitude is going to be huge. There's other ways to help the team ... defense. Defensive is huge; I take pride in my defense."
Seeing another local product like Enos succeed with semi-regular playing time this past season was a major confidence boost for him. Buscher has some familiarity with Enos from ILH games three years ago, when Enos was the state player of the year as a senior and Buscher was a sophomore. They also crossed paths in practices between separate Hawaii Raiders club teams.
"Seeing Dyrbe play (at UH) is great," Buscher said. "It's encouraging seeing him (on the floor). I know him pretty well."
'Iolani coach Dean Shimamoto said Buscher averaged about 11 points per game and shot just under 80 percent at the free-throw line as a senior, while also drawing defensive assignments on opponents' best perimeter players.
"I think that's kinda a testament to the type of player he is and why he may be successful at the Division I level," Shimamoto said. "Defense is about heart and desire, and intelligence. And I think he's capable of bringing that defensively to the next level, but his athleticism's got to catch up. I think if he does that he can contribute both defensively and offensively."
Shimamoto played him at the 2 but said Buscher should be able to play the point at the next level if he is asked to do so.
"He has a long frame, a good understanding of basketball and a great work ethic," his coach said. "You never know how that's all going to turn out. Right now, coming out of high school athletically, I don't think he's a Division I athlete yet. But if you put the work in you can be and I think he's capable of doing that."
Buscher will play in the upcoming College Summer League in Manoa/Maryknoll Gym, so that will be a good opportunity to watch him go against next-level talent.
It's not a direct one-for-one swap with Buscher by any means, but current UH walk-on guard Jack Hackman confirmed Wednesday that he's leaving the program in pursuit of a scholarship situation affording him more playing time. In fact, he was taking a visit to Division II Sonoma State at the time of a phone call on Wednesday.
The scout teamer with the sweet stroke saw action in four games for UH, scoring three total points. He finishes his 'Bows career a perfect 100 percent on 3-pointers — he was 1-for-1, with his score coming against Hawaii Hilo.
"You know, just one of the biggest things, just somewhere I could play more right away," Hackman said. "I think I could have played at UH, just a little further down the road. I would have taken a lot of hard work. I'm not afraid of the work or anything, but I mean ... you only get four years of eligibility and I wanted to spend that time out on the floor where I felt like I was a good contributor to the team.
"But I want everybody in Hawaii and everybody to know that I absolutely loved my experience in Hawaii and wouldn't trade anything. I had a great time and it's something I'll never forget."
Hackman, of Portland, Ore., is leaning toward a West Coast situation. He's also been in discussion with Dominican (if it sounds familiar, that's because it's in the PacWest Conference) and Rollins College in Florida.
He's the third 'Bow from 2013-14 confirmed to be leaving the program early, after Caleb Dressler (Central Washington) and Keith Shamburger (Missouri). However, as a non-scholarship player, he does not affect APR.
Hackman is an intelligent, team-oriented guy who showed he could knock down shots in practices. Best of luck to him with a probable expanded opportunity at his next school.
My colleague Cindy Luis notified me today that ex-UH forward Christian Standhardinger is appearing on a local boxing card this Saturday, May 31 at Palolo District Park Gym, against an opponent to be determined, in an apparent tune-up to his professional (hoops) career.
Admission is $12 for the show, which starts at 6:30 p.m. and features boxers from Oahu and Maui. Standhardinger, who trained in boxing last summer back in Europe, is fighting in the semi main event against an opponent to be determined.
That fight alone could be worth the price of admission. Standhardinger brings entertainment value no matter what he's doing, and you can bet he'll give his foe an earful at the very least.
The main card is Gaylord Balasi of Kalihi vs. Rocky Vigil of Colorado.
Look for a story in Friday's newspaper about UH director of operations Chris McMillian's next destination.