In a sense, the 2017 UH basketball postseason banquet was a pivot from past to future.
First, the 14-16 (8-8 Big West) season of 2016-17 was celebrated for what it was, given the lingering adversity the team dealt with pretty much the whole way. All members of the team — even the outgoing ones — were present. Players were awarded thusly:
>> Art Woolaway Most Outstanding Player: Noah Allen
>> Ah Chew Goo Most Inspirational: Leland Green
>> Bob Nash Hustle: Sheriff Drammeh
>> Most Improved: Brocke Stepteau and Jack Purchase
>> Scholar-athlete: Gibson Johnson
>> Community service: Zach Buscher
Turnout was somewhat down at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Coral Ballroom, as you’d expect, compared to last year’s raucous celebration of a Big West championship and NCAA Tournament season.
“I think the emphasis for me was, understanding how much this group will mean and has meant to this program moving forward,” UH coach Eran Ganot said afterward. “We’ve talked so much about how they handled tough circumstances at a high level, and also how they will set us up for the future in terms of stabilizing the foundation.
“I think you could tell both during the year and tonight how much the people appreciate. I think the people in Hawaii are unbelievable, the fans here. They always appreciate a winner, but they certainly appreciate a team that gives everything they had. Even more so when they’re going through some duress and adversity, and this group has been very special that way.”
Allen — who thanked his UH teammates, staff and fans at the podium for the program’s top individual honor — is heading back to the mainland today to begin readying himself as a pro.
Now comes the look-ahead. Today is the first day of the spring signing period and UH has at least three scholarships to award. There aren’t any announcements expected just yet, though.
The UH staff has been out on the mainland heavily since the season ended, including at Phoenix for the Final Four.
So far, Casper (Wyo.) College big man Colin Russell has tripped to Manoa. Word is he’s taking a visit to UC Davis next.
UH has more visits arranged for the coming weeks. Ganot has said areas of need are up front, at point guard, and overall depth.
“I feel like we’re moving closer,” he said. “I think we’ve had several guys (identified) at the positions we’ve talked about, areas we need to improve on — inside, interior, depth. We’re replacing a guy like Noah Allen at the wing position, do you try to do that with a big three (front line), or go to a three-guard lineup? And adding point guard depth. And you start from there and go from there. We’re adding two guys (scholarship openings) in the meantime. Combining that with we’ve started spring workouts. I know this: our guys have always gotten better. So I think those guys will develop and look forward to adding hopefully the pieces we need to and get work with them in the summer.”
You can expect Ganot’s banquets to fall in mid-April for coming seasons. It’s ideal, as it’s a dead period just before the start of the signing period; the coaches can’t be out recruiting.
“We can maximize the time we’re here and the time when we’re gone,” Ganot said. “We’ve been gone since the season’s ended, and we’ll be out again when we’re allowed out. It’s bringing people on visits, doing home visits. You’ve got the two key April evaluation weekends, which are the last two weekends of April. We’ll be working our tails off and continuing to identify the right pieces to bolster our team.”
Also, guess who showed up?
Ex-Bow Stefan Jankovic was in town, vacationing after completing the D-League season with the Orlando Magic’s affiliate, the Erie BayHawks.
He said he requested a midseason trade from the Miami Heat’s D-League team, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, who were playoff bound and had a set rotation without the injury-plagued Jankovic. With the BayHawks, he was able to put up some numbers — 13.6 points and 6.4 rebounds in nine games.
Janks appearing at the banquet was kind of a mulligan from last year; he’d already set off for pro workouts when the 2016 banquet happened minus the Big 3 of Jankovic, Aaron Valdes and Roderick Bobbitt.
On a side note, it sounds like the long-talked-about foreign tour to Australia/New Zealand is tentatively scheduled for the summer of 2018. It would be the program’s first since the Warriors to Asia tour of 2011.