Banking banquet awards

Hawaii's 2015-16 hoops hardware was on display at the team's postseason awards banquet Thursday.
Hawaii’s 2015-16 hoops hardware was on display at the team’s postseason awards banquet Thursday.

A special season called for a grander-than-usual postseason celebration.

With that in mind, UH showed two full highlight videos to the 300-plus in attendance at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Coral Ballroom on Thursday night. Coach Eran Ganot also introduced two new awards, the Bob Nash Hustle Award and the Riley Wallace Leadership Award, to go with the program’s traditionally named awards, the Art Woolaway Most Outstanding Player Award and the Ah Chew Goo Most Inspirational Award.

Some alumni came back, some for the first time in several years, including Phil Martin, Narijus Puida, Lance Takaki and Eric Ambrozich.

“I think it was a special night,” Ganot said. “And those guys deserved it, consistent with a special season. Just to see the outpouring of support, the amount of people that were here, the amount of people who stayed for the whole duration, who came early. We’re all on the same team. It’s all about celebration, which with the dynamics of what’s been going on has been tough to do at times. Today was a night we could just reflect with this special group until they have their day when they’re brought back here down the road and honored. And also to say thanks to so many people who inspired this group to reach new heights.”

Unfortunately, the team’s “Big Three” of Stefan Jankovic, Roderick Bobbitt and Aaron Valdes couldn’t be there — they were away on the mainland — which did take away a little something.

The night also seemed to function as a goodbye for this particular team, considering the majority are moving on next season for various reasons.

Here were the full awards.

Community Service Award: Niko Filipovich
Filipovich was lauded for consistently volunteering for whatever community endeavors the team launched, and taking initiative for more on his own. In particular, his role with the late fan T.J. Fernandez. He had a way of connecting with anybody he encountered.

Scholar Athlete Award: Sai Tummala
Everyone knew where this one was going. Tummala continued his immaculate marks as a student in conflict resolution with a 4.0 GPA at UH, keeping with what he’d done as a pre-med student at Arizona State. He’s been accepted to full med school at Creighton. He flew out for an application interview during the busy basketball season — and made it back on a red-eye flight in time for a game.

Most Improved Award: Quincy Smith
Smith went from a reserve to a starter in every game this season. He was never known as a good shooter, but by the end of the season he become one you at least had to respect out there. He worked hard at all aspects of his game (yes, including free throws). Smith gradually grew in confidence with his shot, capped off with his career-best game against his childhood favorite team, California, in the NCAA Tournament.

Ah Chew Goo Most Inspirational Award: Hawaii 5-O
This represents the most players bestowed this honor in any given year. Sheriff Drammeh, Filipovich, Jack Purchase, Jakob Cornelissen, Brocke Stepteau and Dyrbe Enos gave everybody something to watch with their antics at the end of the UH bench all season. They went up on stage, and at some urging from the crowd, did one last “Superman” with Stepteau hoisted horizontally by the rest, arms and legs outstretched.

Bob Nash Hustle Award: Mike Thomas
Thomas could be a dervish on the defensive end, flying around (sometimes wildly, sometimes in control) for rebounds and to provide help cover. With his mobility on the front line, he was UH’s most versatile guy on D, capable of covering 2s through 5s. UH has a lot to replace for next season, but having Thomas back as, well, “The Rock,” could be critical.

Riley Wallace Leadership Award: Quincy Smith
Smith provided plenty of intangibles, his leadership one of the chief ones. The co-captain gritted his way through injury late in the year, and grew in confidence with his overall presence and voice on the team. He’ll be missed. Thomas surely was in the running for this as well. During his speech, Smith thanked the coaches for the job they did this season, noting he and his teammates could be a little “wild.”

Art Woolaway Most Outsanding Player: Stefan Jankovic and Roderick Bobbitt
This marks the first time since 2007-08 that two players were given UH’s top individual honor (Riley Luettgerodt, Bobby Nash). It’s happened a few times in program history. UH’s two Big West first-team players could’ve excelled a lot of places with their skill sets, and will go down as two of the best in program history despite their relatively brief UH careers (one and a half seasons for Jankovic and two for Bobbitt). Both were strong-willed players and personalities with the potential to make some money somewhere in the pro ranks. Saying neither will be easily replaced is a vast understatement.

Couple of other notes …

>> No award for Valdes, a little surprising given his overall importance this season, nor for the LMU-bound Stefan Jovanovic, who was a valuable rotation player. But it’s tough to honor everyone every year.
>> Isaac Fleming had his share of highlights in the video package, including his entire four-steals-in-a-row sequence against Northern Iowa. Just a crazy sequence to watch in retrospect.

Here’s some photos from the night.

Thanks for everything, NCAA!
Thanks for everything, NCAA!
Eran Ganot recapped the season.
Eran Ganot recapped the season.
One of a few standing Os given to the team.
One of a few standing Os given to the team.
Quincy Smith spoke after receiving the Most Improved and Riley Wallace Leadership awards.
Quincy Smith spoke after receiving the Most Improved and Riley Wallace Leadership awards.
"Hawaii 5-O" performed one more "Superman" on the dais.
“Hawaii 5-O” performed one more “Superman” on the dais.
"Hawaii 5-O" accepted its Ah Chew Goo Most Inspirational award.
“Hawaii 5-O” accepted its Ah Chew Goo Most Inspirational award.
Sai Tummala received the Scholar Athlete Award.
Sai Tummala received the Scholar Athlete Award.
Niko Filipovich spoke after getting the Community Service Award.
Niko Filipovich spoke after getting the Community Service Award.


  1. Annoddah Dave May 6, 2016 3:48 pm

    BMc: They forgot to call Jason Carter to be recognized. He sat on the same table as Phil Martin. JC had hops and speed like Q in his day.

  2. sllb May 6, 2016 5:02 pm

    Heard there were a few recruits in attendance. I guess those names will leak out eventually.

  3. chawan_cut May 6, 2016 6:17 pm

    Annodah Dave,
    I thought I saw him in the audience too. Maybe he got there late and Eran didn’t notice him.
    Good to see you too.

  4. cappie the dog May 6, 2016 9:21 pm

    I check Isaac Fleming’s Twitter page on occasion, hoping for news about his next destination. He still displays the Hawaii logo. It makes me wonder if he regrets his decision to leave a 22-4 team in the lurch. On one of his posts, I get the sense that he’s aiming to attend the University of Delaware. Elena Delle-Donne U.

  5. On May 7, 2016 3:24 pm

    Check out Japan high school basketball:

  6. pochoboy May 8, 2016 6:39 pm

    Noway Fleming having 2nd thoughts leaving UH, lol. For whatever reasons there was not much love there and of course it’s all my opinion. But if you watched games you know, you can read the attitudes

  7. cappie the dog May 10, 2016 6:33 am

    Oh, sure. When Fleming was here, he was a team cancer. But I get the sense that he’s having problems hooking up with another team. If you’re the school Fleming is recruiting, the head coach has to wonder how a player can abandon his teammates in the middle of a regular season conference champion chase. Yes, at games, I was watching the bench, in particular, Fleming, and his body language. I saw pouting.

    All I’m saying is that I don’t think Isaac thought it through; he made a decision in the heat of the moment. If he could do it all again, although he wouldn’t admit it, I think he realizes now that remaining in Hawaii was his best option. Out of high school, I believe he chose UH over Virginia Tech. But I think the window in which a high major would take him on has closed. I think he could play on a low-end high major like a Rutgers or a Boston College, and I still hope that happens for him. It would be kind of sad if he left Hawaii for a mid- to low-mid major.

    Finishing drives to the basket on a regular basis is not something you saw often out of Hawaii players. Fleming did. He made so many key plays, late, in Big West road games. He played a huge role in Hawaii’s success this season. Unfortunately, ego was his undoing. Fleming probably thought he should be starting.

    I keep checking his Twitter account. I hope somebody takes a chance on him. I still root for the guy.

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