Well, we’ve had a couple of days to digest Hawaii’s 69-65 season-ending loss to Air Force in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.
Here’s the short list of things the game could be remembered most for:
A) Air Force bombing 15 3s in 31 attempts without its best player
B) 12th man Michael Harper helping spark a 19-0 first-half run that put UH up three at halftime
C) Vander Joaquim ending his career by storming out of the Stan Sheriff Center with most of the second half still to play
D) OK, nothing is topping C
It was one of the strangest situations you’ll hear about at a college basketball game, though it wasn’t immediately known that when Joaquim disappeared through a tunnel, he intended to leave for good. Since Wednesday night, Joaquim’s been getting skewered for quitting on his team on message boards, Twitter, comments sections, you name it.
Our Ferd Lewis opined on the matter in his column here (subscription required).
UPDATE: Vander sent me a message on the matter, though he didn’t address his walk-out specifically.
“I felt really disappointed. It’s been a frustrating season. Before I made my decision in coming back it was because I had a better expectation going into this season,” he wrote.
He then alluded to his low playing time in the Air Force loss (seven minutes by the time he left), among other games this season, but said he had an overall positive experience in the islands.
“Overall I’m happy to play for the University of Hawaii and this chapter is close(d). … I’m looking forward to my next chapter.”
Unfortunately for the program, to have Joaquim’s episode take place in his final game means that’s the lasting image people will have. In a way, his stunning exit was a fitting, frustrating end to an underwhelming senior season that saw him get injured in the preseason — an MCL tear robbed him of explosiveness — and basically concluded with a humbling tag, Big West honorable mention. Wednesday night, while shocking to everyone on press row as word spread what happened, wasn’t totally out of place in a senior year that was a pretty big step back from his All-WAC junior campaign.
Joaquim 2011-12: 14.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg, .560 FG%, .633 FT%, 58 blk, 21 stl, 33 AST, 65 TO
Joaquim 2012-13: 13.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg, .480 FG%, .764 FT%, 31 blk, 12 stl, 28 AST, 75 TO
Joaquim could very well go on to have a solid professional career, but what he did certainly won’t look good to pro scouts. UPDATED: He was not ready to name his agent yet, but confirmed hiring one is in the works.
He improved his free-throw shooting in particular, and got to exhibit his 3-point touch this season. Yet his frustration with his coaches and teammates was visible in several games, home and away, and he became the face of the team’s struggles late in the season.
Joaquim had some memorable moments this year, like the running 3-pointer he hit against Northern Arizona at halftime of the BracketBusters game and his play late in the loss to Illinois. He peaked in a 29-point, 15-rebound game against Ole Miss, another NCAA Tournament team, in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.
Unfortunately for UH, he regressed from there, hitting 20 points only one more time — the aforementioned BracketBusters game. Big West play was generally a struggle for him against quicker, double-teaming guard-oriented teams.
Will you remember Joaquim for the breadth of his work at Hawaii, or its confounding conclusion?