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The Shambargo

February 4th, 2014

That's what I'm calling it until the media embargo on Keith Shamburger is lifted — the Shambargo.

Keith Shamburger

Keith Shamburger

Things in Hawaii basketball land took a bizarre twist last week with talk of some team issues following the 92-83 home loss to Long Beach State, and the first-half benching of Shamburger, then the reigning Big West Player of the Week, against Cal State Northridge on Saturday.

After Monday's practice, UH coach Gib Arnold said Shamburger was not talking to the media until an unspecified time, at the player's request.

He seems to be back in the team's fold now, judging by body language at practices since and his Twitter activity. I'm pretty sure he'll open up eventually, but now is apparently not the time.

I'll keep requesting him.

UH was pretty shorthanded in Tuesday's team practice, as Christian Standhardinger missed it entirely with an illness, while Aaron Valdes and Negus Webster-Chan watched from the sidelines for similar reasons. Newcomer Stefan Jankovic was also out. And Niko Filipovich (knee) is done for the year, making for a pretty thin scout team in preparation for UC Santa Barbara on Thursday.


If you missed today's story about redshirt freshman center Caleb Dressler deciding to opt out of UH in favor of a Division II school or a junior college, here it is (subscriber content, sorry).

Caleb Dressler

Caleb Dressler

It's no big surprise. Dressler was going to be hard-pressed for playing time next season even if he came back totally healthy (and that was far from a given) coming off his back surgery for a bulging disc.

It's just a shame he wasn't able to get even the most basic garbage time in a blowout game before his UH career came to an end. Best wishes for Dressler wherever he lands — likely somewhere in the Pacific Northwest closer to his native Vancouver, Wash.


If anyone's curious about the whereabouts of UH assistant coach Brandyn Akana — he was not on the UH bench for the last four games, two home and two away — he's  been doing some international recruiting, this according to Arnold. He's supposed to be back for games within the next two weeks, although he was seen around campus on Monday.


Gameday: Long Beach State + more

January 30th, 2014

Coming off a remarkable 2-0 road trip, one should expect a pretty good turnout at the Stan Sheriff Center for tonight's Hawaii basketball game against three-time defending champion Long Beach State.

Isaac Fotu

Isaac Fotu

UH (14-5, 3-2 Big West) was down forward Isaac Fotu in Wednesday's practice for general fatigue, apparently, but coach Gib Arnold said he'd be available for today's game. The 'Bows dodged a bullet with Fotu's hand injury in December (no games were missed) and his importance to the team can't really be overstated.

The 'Bows will try to stop 49ers guard Mike Caffey, first and foremost. Caffey has run the LBSU offense the last two and a half years, basically, and leads The Beach in a number of categories. Guard Tyler Lamb, the UCLA transfer, has been hot and cold since gaining eligibility in December, but when he's been on LBSU has been formidable.

Keep your eye on bench production now that the team is back home. Arnold will probably want to get those guys some work coming off a trip in which production from reserves was next to zero.


This week has been the first real work as a Rainbow Warrior for Stefan Jankovic, the Missouri transfer. He's showcased a bit of his shooting ability and has blocked a few shots with his 6-10 frame in practices. His conditioning isn't quite there yet, as he was shelved for a few months while looking for a new home.

Stefan Jankovic

Stefan Jankovic

Niko Filipovich

Niko Filipovich

"I'm going in every day trying to make the team better," Jankovic said this week. "I won't be eligible (until December) obviously, I can't go in game time, but practice is my game right now.  I'll embrace that and make the most out of it."

He's alongside his ex-MU buddy, Negus Webster-Chan, on the scout team.

"It definitely helps," Jankovic said. "Looking over on the wing, I'll see Negus ... it's cool. It reminds me of back in Missouri, playing with him in high school and this and that. It's definitely cool."

The timing of Jankovic's addition to the scout team has been  important, because freshman Niko Filipovich, the redshirting point guard, is likely done for the season's practices after injuring his left knee prior to the team's road trip last week. Filipovich has watched practices from the sidelines this week while wrapped up in a long boot sleeve on his left leg.

It's a tough break for Filipovich, who's been in and out of the practice lineup all season. He's a fiery competitor and could contribute next season.


One reason today's crowd should be a good one is the return of Jamie Smith, the former video coordinator who boosted student attendance last year with his themed game night ideas. His new title is performance analyst, but his duties are essentially the same — except he won't be leading cheers from within the student section as he did as a fan late last season.

But the themed nights are back, starting with "Rainbow Warrior Paint Night" tonight. Students are encouraged to show up when the gates are opened at 6 p.m. A prize will be awarded to the best-painted student.

Saturday night against Cal State Northridge will be "Pajama Party Night." There's a funny Aaron Valdes video to promote it, with Valdes dunking in a tiger pajama suit. I believe it will be shown at the game tonight.

"I think every night, I go to bed thinking about different themes we could do," Smith said. "Really, there's a lot that require maybe a bit more planning than we have at this late stage, so I'll be saving some of those for next year."

Rebuilding the student momentum Smith helped create last season might not be an instant success, but his goal is to get it back to what it was for some of the bigger nights last season (Star Wars Night, Senior Night) by the end of the remaining seven home games. Other upcoming nights include Aloha Shirt Night and Superhero Night.

"I've looked at the student attendance numbers (this season)," Smith said. "They are down significantly from last year, but they are still higher than they were the year prior. I don't expect to have 675 students like we did for senior night last year on Thursday, but if I hope the men's basketball team and the Manoa Maniacs keep working at it, we can get back to that kind of figure by the end of this season."

Smith is on board at least through September. As a UH casual hire, he'll have to re-up annually, but he said he wants to be here at least the next few years.


Meanwhile, the Rainbow Wahine will look to keep their four-game winning streak going at LBSU today. Shawna Kuehu may be questionable for the game at The Pyramid with an illness, but the team expects to have freshman point guard Briana Harris back from her ankle injury, which is potentially a big addition if the Wahine can keep their chemistry intact. Harris has been out for the entirety of Big West play thus far.




Gameday: UC Irvine

January 25th, 2014

Hawaii spoiled Cal State Fullerton's homecoming night last season. Can the Rainbow Warriors do the same at league leader UC Irvine today?

It will be a tall task. Irvine (13-7, 4-0 Big West) ranks among the national leaders in blocked shots, rebounding, assists and defensive field-goal percentage. UH (13-5, 2-2), however, has put up an average of 95 points in its last two games, including a breakthrough 90-73 road win at UC Davis on Thursday.

Tonight's ESPN3-streamed game (5 p.m. HST) at the 5,000-seat Bren Events Center is a sellout. A festive atmosphere is expected. In its biggest road crowd of the season, in Kansas City vs. Missouri, UH performed reasonably well before falling to the Tigers, who've gone in and out of the AP Top 25 this season.

Christian Standhardinger

Christian Standhardinger

Keith Shamburger

Keith Shamburger

Davis Rozitis

Davis Rozitis

Senior forward Christian Standhardinger has been on a serious roll of late, and he stuffed just about every aspect of the stat sheet at Davis (22 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, five steals, two blocks) for his third straight double-double. It will be interesting to see how he and Isaac Fotu go at a huge Irvine front line anchored by 7-foot-6 Mamadou Ndiaye, the tallest player in the country.

UH coach Gib Arnold said he was actually most concerned about UCI's senior guard Chris McNealy, the balanced team's leading scorer at over 12 points per game.

The good news for UH: it will have 7-foot center Davis Rozitis back from academic ineligibility for this one. Rozitis was to meet the team this morning after flying out from Honolulu on Friday night.

And point guard Keith Shamburger missed Friday's practice while attending his aunt's funeral. Condolences to him. We'll see how he responds emotionally today; he comes from a close family. But he was certainly feeling it in the Davis win (14 points), particularly on his pull-up 3 to go into halftime.

Standhardinger surpassed 1,000 career college points in the Davis win (he was at 999 going in) when you include his season and a half at Nebraska. He still needs 165 more to join the UH 1K club. If he maintains his 18.4 scoring average, he'll accomplish the feat in roughly nine more games.

And Shamburger is nearing the career 1,000-point mark as well, including his two seasons at San Jose State. He needs 34 more points to get there.


Meanwhile, the Rainbow Wahine basketball team (9-7, 3-1) takes a three-game Big West winning streak into today's 5 p.m. home game against the women's Anteaters. If UH can seize this one, it'll have great momentum going into four straight road games over the next two weeks.

Unfortunately, the men's/women's games happen simultaneously today, but I'll do what I can to monitor both games at once on Twitter while at the Sheriff Center.

The gates hath opened

January 20th, 2014

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.

Davis Rozitis

Davis Rozitis

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.)


Stefan Jankovic

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.

Closing up shop

January 15th, 2014

In a somewhat expected move, Hawaii coach Gib Arnold said after team practice today that the remaining UH practices this week would be closed to media and the public.

Tuesday's session in Gym 1, the team's first coming off its 0-2 Big West road trip was also closed.

Arnold has closed UH practices in the past three years when his teams have hit difficult stretches of losses, as well as during one preseason while new players got accustomed to things.

However, not including gameday walkthroughs, the only previous practice to be closed this season was on Thanksgiving.

UH (11-5 overall) trailed wire-to-wire in a 77-65 defeat at Cal Poly last Thursday, then was unable to muster the go-ahead basket in the final minute of a 79-78 loss at Cal State Northridge on Saturday.

"First day back, we usually work on ourselves, what we gotta work on to get better at," Arnold said. "We'll spend the next three days on (UC) Riverside (Saturday's opponent). It was about UH and about us getting better. You learn a lot on the road. Saw some weaknesses of some things. Tried to emphasize that and get a little bit better."

Due to there being no outside eyes inside the practice, Arnold was asked what specific things the team tried to address Tuesday.

"I thought there was parts of one of our presses that we did that wasn't as efficient, and so we worked a lot on one of our presses," he said. "One press was really good, especially against CSUN near the end of the game. Worked on that, (and) I thought our transition basketball wasn't as aggressive offensively as I'd like to see. So we did a lot (of that) too. A lot of getting up and down, a lot of running and playing at a higher pace, both offensively and defensively."

In final minute of the Northridge loss while trailing by a point, UH had a missed front end of a 1-and-1 free throw by Brandon Spearman, a missed layup by Keith Shamburger and an errant 16-foot jump shot by Christian Standhardinger at the buzzer.

"One of those go in, obviously it's a great road trip," Arnold said. "But that's part of the road, and part of the learning curve. I thought we got better from Thursday to Saturday. So you're always looking for that improvement. I'm hoping this Saturday we're even better than we were last week."


UH newcomer Stefan Jankovic, the ex-Missouri forward, was at Tuesday's practice, though he wasn't suited up in a practice uniform and isn't yet on the Rainbow Warriors' roster. He's enrolling at Manoa this semester (this is the first week of spring classes) and is expected to be eligible to play in December.

Arnold said Tuesday he could not comment on Jankovic.

Mental block

January 10th, 2014

A mental block. That's gotta be it, right? How else to explain Hawaii's ongoing futility against Cal Poly, a team with inferior resources, facilities — and a case could be made — talent?

UH's 77-65 loss in San Luis Obispo on Thursday made it five straight since 2010 that the Mustangs have taken over the 'Bows (albeit one that probably should have gone to UH, a controversial one-point loss in the BracketBusters return game in November of 2010).

What's your take on UH's ongoing struggles against Cal Poly? It makes for an interesting discussion, at the very least. I spoke to the Cal Poly beat writer, Joshua D. Scroggin, on Friday and media on the Poly side of things are just as puzzled at the one-sided nature of the series.

The 'Bows have almost exactly a month to come up with a better game plan for when the Mustangs play at the Stan Sheriff Center on Feb. 8.

The Mustangs had lost four straight but came out on fire in the latest edition, knocking down their first four 3-pointers and six of their first nine from deep. Meanwhile, UH went most of the game unable to buy a trey (4-for-19).

That will have to change if UH has any designs on a split of this road trip by winning at Cal State Northridge (9-7, 1-0) on Saturday. The Matadors, under new coach Reggie Theus, play closer to UH's ideal pace. CSUN has a trio of talented scorers in Stephan Hicks, Stephen Maxwell and Josh Greene. Greene burned UH for 37 in the Matadors' season finale last year, in a game they had little to play for as they were out of contention for the Big West tournament.

Keith Shamburger

Keith Shamburger

UH can't afford another scoreless game from point guard Keith Shamburger, who is likely still not 100 percent while playing through a hip flexor. If that means more minutes for Quincy Smith (seven points, seven assists at Poly), it might not be a terrible thing in the short term.

It was the first time in 78 career college games that Shamburger went scoreless (0-3 FG, 0-1 FT), including 63 contests at San Jose State.

Look for more on Theus, the former New Mexico State and Sacramento Kings coach, in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.




That's a wrap

January 4th, 2014

Isaac Fotu put his "brick hands" behind him at precisely the right moment.

The Hawaii sophomore was a man among boys in the second half of Friday night's 77-73 thriller over Omaha. Fotu scored 22 of his season-high 26 points in the period, going 8-for-11 for the game and 10-for-12 from the line.

Isaac Fotu

Isaac Fotu

It didn't take a hoops genius to figure out he was far more comfortable at the line without the thick protective wrapping on his formerly fractured right hand.

UH went to him consistently to open the second half as he scored the team's first seven points in the period. The Mavericks would still go ahead by nine, but Fotu gradually wore down Omaha's front line and fouled out Mavs big man John Karhoff, the reigning Summit League player of the week, at a crucial moment.

Fotu's big night was all the more important with off shooting games from Keith Shamburger (2-10), Brandon Spearman (2-10) and Christian Standhardinger (4-14). Spearman did have an emphatic alley-oop in the first half and Standhardinger had his third double-double of the season, 10 points and 10 rebounds. Shamburger supplied some key free throws late in playing through a hip flexor.

You can argue whether the technical foul on the Mavs' other big man, Mike Rostampour, in the final minute was justified. That call swung the game.

Bottom line, that was a big-time comeback win against a quality opponent. UH heads into Big West play at 11-3, matching its best start since the 2003-04 season.

Gameday: Norfolk State // Spearman wins PoW

December 30th, 2013

The Hawaii men's basketball team got some recognition to kick off its gameday preparation for Norfolk State on Monday.

Brandon Spearman

Brandon Spearman

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.

Aaron Valdes

Aaron Valdes

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.



Gameday: Saint Mary's

December 23rd, 2013

Turnaround time comes at a premium for Hawaii today. The Rainbow Warriors had only about 20 hours to get over their 62-61 loss to Boise State in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic first round on Sunday night, and be ready for today's 6 p.m. (7 p.m. in reality) game against Saint Mary's in the consolation semifinals.

You can bet the Gaels (9-1), featuring assistant coach Eran Ganot, will come out motivated after dropping a game they should have won against South Carolina.

UH's depth took a blow early against the Broncos when freshman wing Aaron Valdes hyperextended an elbow almost immediately after checking in during the first half. He did not return. Valdes was to get an MRI today, UH assistant coach Benjy Taylor said.

Valdes had seen his role reduced in recent games but UH coach Gib Arnold spoke before the tournament about an expanded role for several of his bench players, including Valdes, to keep his rotation fresh as well as build confidence going into Big West Conference play. UH is hoping it's just a bruise of some sort.

The 'Bows will look for a bounce-back game from forward Christian Standhardinger (3-for-9 shooting vs. BSU). He and Isaac Fotu will have their hands full against Gaels big man Brad Waldow, SMC's leading scorer and rebounder.

If UH wins, it's into the consolation championship (fifth-place game) vs. Oregon State. If the 'Bows lose, it'll be their first appearance in the DHC seventh-place game, vs. George Mason. Regardless, it will be an 11 a.m. game on Christmas Day on ESPNU.

Jankovic mulls options

December 20th, 2013

If Stefan Jankovic is to be a Hawaii Rainbow Warrior, it will happen in the next handful of days.

Jankovic, the ex-Missouri Tiger forward, said on Friday after returning from his visit to UH that he plans to decide by the end of December (note: corrected from the end of January) so he can get a jump on enrolling at his next Division I destination. He has a list of "1o or 15" other schools he's considering, he said.

UPDATED: Jankovic has committed to UH as of Saturday afternoon.

Stefan Jankovic

Stefan Jankovic

Jankovic got to visit the Manoa campus and Honolulu on Wednesday and Thursday. He took in a UH practice and got to hang out some with his former Tigers and Ontario youth basketball teammate Negus Webster-Chan.

"It was like a quick visit, but it was nice. I had fun, enjoyed myself. Saw the facilities, followed practice and whatnot," Jankovic said.

The 6-11 Jankovic will have two and a half seasons to play once he sits out this spring semester and the 2014 fall semester. So he'll be a redshirt sophomore by the time he plays in the winter/spring of 2015.

He hadn't seen Webster-Chan since NWC transferred out from Frank Haith's program at the end of last season. Webster-Chan figures to be a big reason why UH could land Jankovic.

"It was cool (hanging out) 'cause we were together for a few years, and obviously he transferred out and I hadn't seen him in a while," Jankovic said. "Probably half a year since I saw him last, maybe even more. So I was able to see him again, hang out and kind of kick it. It was cool, a good time."

Jankovic announced he would be transferring out from Mizzou on Nov. 22, about a week after UH's 92-80 loss to the Tigers in Kansas City. That was Jankovic's last official action — he played all of 12 seconds in that one.

"I mean, I just kind of, it was time to get out," he said. "I didn't really believe in how the coaches were using me and playing me and the minutes I was getting. ... I thought I deserved more, I thought I worked for a lot more. It was a bunch of things. The fact I wasn't getting the minutes I wanted, the minutes I thought I deserved. I wasn't being used the way I liked, I was kind of just  used as a shooter and whatnot. So it was a bunch of things. I played 12 seconds that game (vs. UH). I felt like to kind of continue my basketball career at the next level, wherever that may be, I had to make a move."

He might not have time to visit any other schools by the time he decides, which works in UH's favor.

"I mean, I'm still looking at a couple schools," Jankovic said. "I definitely enjoyed my visit, it was the first school I visited. But we'll see. I'm kind of looking for, obviously, opportunity to come in and start and play, and be a major player and a big role for the team. That's definitely one of the big things I'm looking for. And then after that all the other things, the coaching staff, the relationship I have with them. How I get along with them on the visit, see how the coaches are and stuff. You know, just player development and location a little bit too. You know, Hawaii probably beats everyone in that.

"No. 1, most importantly, is playing time. How I'll be played and how I'll be used."