By Brian McInnis
Hawaii may have played Isaac Fotu with a fractured bone in his hand against Montana last week, but that doesn't mean the Rainbow Warriors are taking any chances on their stud forward in the grind of everyday practices.
Fotu has remained out of team sessions since injuring the hand in the blowout New Orleans game, including the first two practices this week, Monday and Tuesday.
UH leaves for Flagstaff, Ariz., on Thursday to settle in before Saturday's BracketBusters return game at Northern Arizona.
"Probably will keep Fotu out for the entire week of practice," UH coach Gib Arnold said. "Give it the best chance to heal. And then we'll practice him on Friday and then wrap it up good on Saturday. He'll be ready to go."
Team trainer Jay Goo molded a plastic cast for Fotu to wear on the hand in the meantime. When wrapped, it resembles a claw.
Fotu was effective close to the basket against Montana on Friday, going 4-for-5 from the field. But he was just 3-for-9 at the foul line, including a miss on the front end of a 1-and-1. Look for him to remain close to the basket while he wears "The Claw" because it's clearly not easy to shoot with that thing. "Brick hands," as Fotu called it after that game.
"It's cumbersome. It's not easy, not comfortable (to play with)," Arnold said. "I'll take a one-handed Isaac Fotu over most two-handed players in the country."
UPDATED: Fotu did a little 1-on-1 with guard Jack Hackman at the end of Tuesday's practice. He went to his left hand more often than not.
"It's feeling good. It's getting better every day," Fotu said. "Feels way better than last week when I first did it. Just keeping off these practices because it's early days in the week. We got four days to prepare for (N.) Arizona so I'll probably be practicing tomorrow (Wednesday)."
The injury happened in the New Orleans game when his ring finger (between middle and pinky) got caught in someone's jersey.
"I felt a click," Fotu said. "It didn't feel like it was broken at the time. Even the doctor said he didn't think it was broken. After it got pretty painful so we went and got x-rays (and revealed it).
On his cast/sleeve, he said, "Most of the day and night I wear it. I just take it off to let my hand breathe. It's with me for a couple of weeks."
And as for going left, if necessary: "I've been working on my left hand a bit more since my injury. I know I need to work on my left hand anyway; teams are going to force me to my left. So I have to finish with my left. I think it's kind of a good thing to force me to my left. So, yeah."
Flagstaff, at 7,000 feet, ranks as one of the highest elevations to play at in Division I.
UH played in some high elevation games in the WAC, most recently including Utah State in Logan (7,000-8,000) as the most extreme example.
"I'll probably tell them like how old Coach (Jerry) Tarkanian did," Arnold said. "Tell them not to worry about it because we're playing indoors. See if they buy it. I don't think we'll even talk much about it. I think we'll just play."