And they’re off.
The Hawaii men’s basketball team tipped off full practices for the 2014-15 season on Saturday morning in UH’s auxiliary Gym 2. The team’s Green & White scrimmage event for fans is still to come tonight at roughly 10 p.m., after UH volleyball at the Stan Sheriff Center.
As UH coach Gib Arnold forecast, the morning session was a less-than-full-speed affair with big men Isaac Fotu, Stefan Jankovic and Sammis Reyes each working their way back to full strength from various ailments. Guard Brandon Jawato is also not cleared yet, although his return to action could happen in the coming days.
The morning started with players broken into position groups (guards, swingmen, bigs) for some specific work, progressed to some halfcourt motion action without defense and was capped off by players rotating to various drill stations throughout the gym.
Among the new participants were guards Roderick Bobbitt, Isaac Fleming, Brocke Stepteau and Zach Buscher. The bigs were short-staffed, with Stefan Jovanovic, Mike Thomas and makeshift forward Aaron Valdes the only ones getting consistent work. Fotu (back) and Jankovic (shin splints) were part-time participants, and exercised on the side when they couldn’t get in. Reyes, with his busted toe on his right foot, didn’t get in on anything on-court.
The over-arching story, of course, is the team pressing on with practice with an unfinished NCAA investigation hanging over the program.
That didn’t appear to be a concern on Day 1. Spirits seemed high.
“We’re just concentrating on on-court stuff right now,” Fotu said post-practice. “But off the court we’re all friends and we all hang out with each other. We don’t let any other distractions get in the way. I think the guys who’ve been here longest teach that to the young guys coming in. Teach them to try to stay away from bad influences. But they already know. There’s no bad guys on our team. So, we’re all good, and whatever all the other stuff going on, we don’t pay attention to that. It’ll happen when it happens. So, we’re good.”
Said shooting guard Garrett Nevels, the team’s lone senior: “Just play basketball. We’re here to play basketball. That’s all we can do. Go to class, play basketball. Nothing more.”
Arnold was asked how he’s helped the team focus through the pressure of outside factors.
“There’s no pressure on these guys at all. None,” he said. “They’re just here to play basketball and that’s exactly how they’re doing. Go to school, play basketball. They’ve responded great. They do a great job in the classroom. They’ve done a great job on the basketball court. They’re doing everything we’ve asked them to do.”
UH has regularly hosted visiting recruits during the weekend of its Midnight Madness/Ohana Hoopfest/Green & White scrimmage, and this year is no different.
Class of 2015’er Gligorije Rakocevic is in town. He is a 6-10, 250ish-pound center who’s received interest from several West Coast schools.
Rakocevic attends Cantwell-Sacred Heart of Mary High School in Montebello, Calif. He is originally from Montenegro, just to the southwest of Serbia in Europe.
Among Big West schools, Verbalcommits.com says UC Davis and Cal State Northridge are interested. There’s also some Pac-12 and West Coast Conference teams named, though it’s unknown how recent that information is.
There’s a highlight video at that link.
Here’s some more shots of Saturday’s morning session.