Rainbow Warrior basketball: Seniors left wanting

Hawaii seniors Jack Purchase, Brocke Stepteau, and Sheriff Drammeh huddled prior to senior night festivities after the loss to Cal State Northridge. / Photo by Jamm Aquino, Star-Advertiser

Jack Purchase came out like a ball of fire. Brocke Stepteau couldn’t miss. And Sheriff Drammeh, hampered by an injury, sucked it up and tried to provide the kind of intangible play he was known for throughout his Hawaii basketball career.

And yet, the three Hawaii basketball seniors were unable to will their team to victory on senior night against Cal State Northridge, a young team on the rise as the Rainbow Warriors fall back to the pack.

Terrell Gomez (32 points) and Lamine Diane (25) were too potent of a 1-2 combo to counter on this night. Now UH (16-12, 7-7 Big West) must rediscover its defense, among other things, entirely on the mainland. It plays at UC Davis and at Cal State Fullerton the coming week preceding the Big West tournament.

If the Rainbows find a way to snap out of their current funk, they can remain in the 4-5 bracket matchup against a team like Davis or CSUN. If not, well, sixth or seventh are distinct possibilities, and a much less favorable draw looms against, say, UC Santa Barbara.

UH certainly had its opportunities Saturday night with a supportive crowd and point guard Drew Buggs (11 points, six rebounds, eight assists) in action despite suffering an ankle injury a week ago. You can credit team athletic trainer Jay Goo, who was himself honored as part of senior night, for getting Buggs ready to go so quickly. Goo, a fixture around the athletic department for decades, is retiring this summer and got a deserved standing ovation during the ceremonies.

Seniors Brocke Stepteau, Sheriff Drammeh and Jack Purchase posed with athletic trainer Jayson Goo during senior night festivities. / Photo by Jamm Aquino, Star-Advertiser

After Purchase poured in 20 first-half points on 6-for-8 3-point shooting — making it look like Trevor Ruffin’s single-game record of 10 was in jeopardy — CSUN finally did a better job of running Purchase off the line and kept him scoreless in the second half. But others stepped up and the Rainbows claimed a 52-46 lead with 12:32 to play.

It was short lived. Gomez in particular surged late, pumping in 16 points in the final 8:29.

“During that stretch I thought we could’ve maybe separated, we had a couple turnovers that we threw out of bounds,” UH coach Eran Ganot said. “Obviously Gomez got loose on us quite a bit. Credit them. I really appreciate our guys as always. I’ve done a lousy job with this group, because I think we should be better and hopefully we’ll finish it (better).”

Stepteau finished with 10 points on 3-for-3 shooting from the field and 4-for-4 from the line and had six rebounds and four assists, but also five turnovers.

Drammeh, who was hampered by a leg injury the last week or two, played 18 minutes off the bench and had three points and three rebounds. Unfortunately for the fans who’ve gotten used to his expressive and usually joyful antics, they were not on display on this night.

On a personal note, it was a touch surreal to watch these three players bid adieu to the home fans. My late father, who would follow the program pretty closely and passed in the summer of 2017, would exchange messages with me pretty frequently about UH hoops. The 2016-17 team was the last that he got to watch, and Purchase, Stepteau and Drammeh were all key players on that team. He’d want to know what they were up to and how they planned to respond from a debilitating loss, much like the one Saturday night.

I’m pretty sure the answer now is the same as it would be then: by getting back to work.

Here’s highlights of the three seniors and their thoughts on the night.

Jack Purchase hit six 3s, all in the first half, extending his program record for career triples to 194. / Photo by Jamm Aquino, Star-Advertiser


Purchase: “Gotta get back to practice. It all starts at practice. We gotta get in, gotta get in the lab, we gotta work on our defense, obviously. Eighty-four points is too much for a team in the Big West. So we gotta work on our defense. I feel like the offense is moving pretty well, we’re getting whatever shot we want. But yeah, we just gotta get back on the defensive end. … (The ceremony tonight) was amazing. It’s amazing. No one does it as good as Hawaii. It’s incredible the love that you feel here in this state. It’s a second home for me the rest of my life now, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to come here and play.”

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Brocke Stepteau was his usual efficient self shooting the ball on senior night. / Photo by Jamm Aquino, Star-Advertiser

Stepteau: “It’s tough. Obviously we all wanted to win in our last game here. We came up on the losing end, but (Ganot) told us right after the game, ‘flush it right now, we’ll get back to work later.’ But tonight he wanted to celebrate us and take our mind off the loss, and just celebrate this moment, our last time all together on our home floor. I think we did a good job of that. This is a special place and I’m so appreciative of being part of it.”

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Sheriff Drammeh was hampered by a leg injury on senior night but managed to play 18 minutes off the bench. / Photo by Jamm Aquino, Star-Advertiser

Drammeh: “It’s emotional. You can’t help but to cry. Having all these fans out here, all these kids, we can’t help but be thankful for everybody that’s out here and just excited for what we got next. … The biggest thing to turn this around? We gotta get some toughness. Like we all gotta get really, really tough. That’s what I feel is the biggest thing. If we’re able to get tough, when the conference tournament starts, we really have the position to be the championship team. But what we’re really lacking right now is toughness, as you could see in some stretches when we were getting outrebounded.”

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Finally, of the three outgoing seniors, Ganot said: “It’s tough. I usually keep my emotions in check, and you could feel it. I have great love for them. What they’ve done for myself, our family, our program, I think the people in Hawaii, it was really nice to see everybody show them the love that they deserve. And it was a great turnout tonight. I huddled them up after the game, the whole team, because I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind them to enjoy the whole celebration. Because I know how hard that loss was. But I’m glad they could put that away and enjoy and let them shower with that kind of love.

“Each of them have had different stories and journeys, but each of them has been through as much as any student-athlete at UH could be through. Some dark times and some great moments. They’ve been tremendous in a lot of ways. They’re on pace to graduate which I’ll be really proud of. I know their families are. And in a lot of ways, in terms of culture, they’ll push our program forward. I think we gotta finish strong to make sure on the floor we continue to take the steps. Each year we move it forward and right now unfortunately we’re in a funk, the worst funk of our season currently, but I think these guys got a lot of spirit and fight left in them.”

Brocke Stepteau embraced head coach Eran Ganot during senior ceremonies. / Photo by Jamm Aquino, Star-Advertiser

COMMENTS

  1. Hoosier March 3, 2019 8:35 am

    Pressure building on coach Ganot. Being left behind in Big West not a good trend line. Time to step up recruiting and coaching. Great that players graduate but it is still all about the W’s.


  2. Chicken Grease March 3, 2019 8:42 am

    There is seemingly SO much time spend on “Senior night, Senior night” that there is no concentration left for that last home game of the season. Should be “lose the last game? No senior night!”

    Just send CSUN to the NCAAs already, if it means getting Big West noticeability, at least. Because at this rate, don’t expect the Warriors to win the first game in the Big West’s own tourney/championship. All that travel. Just to come right back. Geez.

    Everybody healthy on this team? What’s the problem?

    Portnoy is right on about criticism about this team.

    Ah. On to baseball . . .


  3. Kev-1 March 3, 2019 9:48 am

    Watch put for CSUN the next couple of years. That is a young team with some talent.


  4. Kev-1 March 3, 2019 9:48 am

    *watch out


  5. Hoosier March 3, 2019 11:24 am

    C’mon now. This is the Big West!! Not the ACC or MWC! UH should be at top of league consistently. Facilities and arena top of the league. Need to get it together or ticket sales will be headed south


  6. Matt March 3, 2019 12:13 pm

    2.

    I can see where you’re going with this, but the main issue is that the MBB program isn’t getting any better. We seem to be falling way behind in terms of recruiting, and we’re getting embarrassed by underclassmen in different teams. Against UC Riverside, we got embarrassed by three freshmen in the loss. Against both losses to UCSB, we got embarrassed by Amadou Sow, a freshman. And against CSUN, we get embarrassed by a freshman (Lamine Diane) and a sophomore (Terrell Gomez). It’s just humiliating to see the MBB program go down miserably twice in Ganot’s tenure as head coach to lose on senior night.

    5.

    Yeah…but that’s not easy to recruit a 4 or 5-star recruit, especially when other conferences in the Big East, ACC or SEC could be contending much better. And when you look at possible BWC contenders being added, like UCSD and CSUB, this could be a matter as to how this will work out. Obviously, UCSD is a BWC member because of the MVB program including that in their 6-team roster, but if the Big West adds UCSD and CSUB inside, it could create major implications to the conference scheduling in the fix. It’ll make the Big West look like a cheap version of the Big 12.

    Overall, I just think they might as well just forfeit the BWC championship and focus on the following: Recruiting tough players, especially ones that they feel are good at perimeter shooting, building Colina, Hulland and Carper to be good post players for the team, and finding replacement candidates for Purchase, Stepteau and Drammeh and whoever might leave the team. Especially if they’re going to humiliate themselves to losing to teams in the BOTTOM OF THE CONFERENCE! It pisses me off that they keep doing that, and that’s not going to help them put themselves in a conversation of competing with the top of the conference. Now in a 3-way tie for 4th, they gotta find some separation to keep a chance to put themselves in a good spot in the bracket. Even in non-conference play, I have always asked myself this ‘Is there ever a time Hawaii will ever win the Diamond Head Classic?’ because the fans will be growing impatient from this. It SUCKS!!! Not to mention, this could be the 4th time in 5 seasons where they go 8-8 in conference play, and I HATE seeing that. It’s like they can’t stay steady or be competitive at all. Seriously, we embarrassed ourselves to be the only D1 team to split all conference matches, and it’s so shameful that we represent a team that is inconsistent, much more so like the football program. We have to be better than this next year and hope we can get good recruiting going.


  7. HawaiiMongoose March 4, 2019 6:39 am

    The issue is recruiting. The other Big West teams are bringing in better young talent than UH and the results are starting to show on the floor. I appreciate Coach Ganot’s passion, dedication, basketball knowledge and commitment to UH. The last piece of the puzzle is being able to sell the program to more skilled and athletic young players. I hope he figures it out.


  8. Hoosier March 4, 2019 9:24 am

    Recruiting will tell the tale for UH. Where are the scorers? No go to guys on the floor as of now. Need players who can consistently fill it up. Mongoose is on the money. Hopefully there will be some success in the upcoming recruiting class. Hope so


  9. R March 4, 2019 10:21 pm

    Let’s recruit 3 more seven footers next year


  10. Gib Arnold March 4, 2019 10:22 pm

    Did someone say we need better recruiting?


  11. Hoosier March 5, 2019 4:31 pm

    LOL. Needed as good laugh! Mahalo R & Gib


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