A smaller-than-usual Hawaii basketball postseason banquet still managed to produce some memorable moments on Wednesday night at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Coral Ballroom.
There was a silent auction, a recent staple at the UH preseason and postseason hoops fundraisers. There was pretty much the entire 2017-18 team in house, minus departed center Ido Flaisher, who still found a way to dominate the team’s season highlight video (perhaps the biggest upset of the night).
And there was, for the first time under coach Eran Ganot, a procession of players introducing each other one by one, instead of the coach(es) dominating the mic. That led to some pretty humorous moments, with Zach Buscher roasting Sheriff Drammeh a bit after a relatively tame introduction of Buscher by the Swede.
There was Ganot naming his team’s response to its late five-game Big West swoon as his proudest moment of the up-and-down year.
But what there wasn’t, was a robust crowd. It felt like half of the showing of the NCAA Tournament season of 2015-16, Ganot’s first year. UH went to a smaller pocket of the Coral Ballroom than usual, reflecting the crowd of 248. What to make of this? For one thing, banquet seats don’t come cheap anymore, at $150 each, and there are now, as mentioned above, both preseason and postseason events for fans to commit time and money to. For another, it could be attributed to the level of interest based on recent results — it was another middle-of-the-pack Big West season for UH (17-13 overall, 8-8 BWC), one that saw some disappointing crowds at the Stan Sheriff Center as well. And who knows, perhaps the recent San Diego headlines (dismissed by Ganot) affected it as well.
Anyway, onto the awards!
Unsurprisingly, senior co-captain Mike Thomas hauled in the prime awards after finishing as the program’s all-time winningest player (87). He took the Art Woolaway Most Outstanding Player and Riley Wallace Leadership awards.
Mike Thomas receives his Most Outstanding Player and leadership awards: “I’m grateful for this and to represent the University of Hawaii.” pic.twitter.com/2QjrICGwam
— Brian McInnis (@Brian_McInnis) April 12, 2018
The other named awards went to Drammeh for the Bob Nash Hustle distinction (a repeat) and the selfless Buscher for the Ah Chew Goo Most Inspirational.
Brocke Stepteau was issued Most Improved, Gibson Johnson repeated as the Scholar-Athlete (and made sure to let the crowd know about it) and Zigmars Raimo collected the Community Service award.
Congratulations are also in order for Johnson for a separate reason, as he’s now engaged and soon to be be married.
Other highlights included banquet MC Bobby Curran ribbing Ganot about upgrading the nonconference schedule (something to the effect of, “I hear there’s even schools we’ve heard of coming next season!”) … and UH’s longtime play-by-play man noting that Australian freshman Mate Colina could be considered the best big man ever to pass through the program by the time he’s finished. Make of that one what you will.
No official mention of the Rainbows’ spring commitment, City College of San Francisco guard Eddie Stansberry, at the banquet, but that wasn’t too surprising. (These things are rarely made official on the first day of a signing period.) It sounds like things are ready to go on UH’s end, but Stansberry apparently will be partaking in a signing ceremony Friday at CCSF.