The drama on the court was over quickly Sunday. Truthfully, it never was there to begin with against punchless Mississippi Valley State, which rates No. 350 of 353 Division I teams on KenPom.com.
But the off-court drama? It lingered into the Manoa night, courtesy of one Sheriff Drammeh.
UH coach Eran Ganot said before the game that the senior guard is suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules.
After UH (6-4) dispatched MVSU (2-11) with ease, 76-51, the most pressing question was the status of the Swedish enigma.
Ganot did not elaborate much in the postgame press conference.
“I’ll just leave it as it is now,” he said. “Obviously when you shift gears from a game, revisit, and go from there. I’ll give you the word when we get to it. But out of respect to him, as we always do with our guys, we haven’t had many of those situations. And I think we do a good job of making sure we don’t. But we do right now, and we’ll handle it.”
In response to a follow-up question, Ganot confirmed Drammeh is still on the team.
“Currently,” he said.
So the question remains: Does Drammeh, one of only two players remaining who were active on the 2015-16 NCAA Tournament team (Brocke Stepteau is the other), come back in the fold, and when? Or is he done, with his Manoa legacy a disappointing finish to a meaningful start?
He was a key energy player on an experienced team as a true freshman — we’ll all remember the charges he took on Cal’s Jaylen Brown in the NCAA first round — and while he would never be confused for a star the last two years, he was better than the poor (31.6 percent) shooting this year would indicate.
Drammeh, the team’s best perimeter defender for much of his career, recently slipped on that end, too. The notorious charge-taker was benched for the entire second half in last week’s narrow win over Division II Hawaii Hilo. He was not at practices this week leading into the MVSU game. He was not seen in the arena Sunday, which probably isn’t a good sign; you can be suspended for games and still be on your team’s bench.
In Ganot’s four-year UH tenure, there have been two players who’ve left the program at midseason: Isaac Fleming (late in 2015-16) and Jaaron Stallworth (early in 2017-18).
If the ‘Bows were bothered by Drammeh’s absence against MVSU, they didn’t show it. There were smiles aplenty as Drew Buggs went behind his back to Zigmars Raimo for a first-half layup, and in the final minutes as Leland Green stuck a four-point play and Justin Hemsley nearly added one of his own, getting all but the free throw to go.
Eddie Stansberry was competent stepping into the starting lineup for Drammeh, supplying 11 points on 4-for-10 shooting.
Afterward, Buggs (13 points Sunday on 6-for-7 shooting) and Raimo (12 points, eight rebounds) felt good about the state of their team heading into the Diamond Head Classic.
“I think our team is just ready to get out there and compete again on the national stage, and show what we can do and (that) we can compete. We got some things to work on, but as you can see we’re making a stride in the right direction in this game in terms of our defensive effort, and rebounding too as well.”
Said Raimo, “I know all the guys are all really excited about Diamond Head. I know it’s Christmas time, but a lot of parents, a lot of families are coming to see their kids playing. It’s just a great time for us, for team, for program to play on Christmas. Enjoy the game. I know every single guy is really excited to play that and enjoy Christmas altogether.”