Drew Buggs flipped a layup up and in on a give-and-go sequence moments after he’d found Zigmars Raimo on a nice dime for an inside bucket.
The Hawaii point guard flashed a smile that suggested he was thoroughly enjoying himself near the tail end of yet another grueling practice in the sweaty confines of Gym I.
It was the 10th practice, in fact, which put UH at about one-third of the way through the 2018-19 preseason. Until a handful of years ago, teams wouldn’t have even begun their full practices yet, but things are different now — between increasingly involved offseason workouts, foreign tours, and a drastically expanded preseason, college hoops has become a year-round enterprise for the players.
“That’s one thing I really try to focus on, is just really having fun,” Buggs said afterward. “Not taking the game for granted, because I’ve been in that situation where I couldn’t play and I’ve had to sit out and watch. Just trying to remind myself that I’m very blessed to be playing this game that I love and just to have fun. It gets tough, you’re getting coached hard. This is a very important stretch for us. Coaches are really coaching us hard. The day-to-day grind of school, you can get overwhelmed and you can lose that sight of how blessed you are to have this opportunity. So I just try to have fun as much as I can. Just enjoy it.”
Enjoy it, while helping lead it.
Buggs, while just a third-year sophomore, is among the ‘Bows regularly offering pointers to newcomers like Eddie Stansberry, Owen Hulland, Dawson Carper and Zoar Nedd.
Carper, a 7-foot true freshman from Colorado, already has a nickname bestowed upon him.
“I’m a big supporter. Probably out of everybody, I love calling him ‘Big Sauce,’ ” Buggs said. “I like giving people nicknames. Something catchy, something that sticks. You could tell that he enjoys it. He gets a little smile. Anytime I can make Dawson laugh or smile, it’s a lot of fun.”
Asked about the Sauce nickname (which rhymes with the shortened form of his first name), Carper elaborated thusly:
“Purch (Jack Purchase) and Brocke (Stepteau), it was back in August, they made it up and started calling me Big Sauce. Leland (Green) added the ‘man.’ Like, ‘Big Sauce, man.’ Now all the coaches call me Sauce, Big Sauce. It sort of stuck, I guess.”
“Sauce” is getting some daily seasoning.
“Right now I’m trying to get better on ball screens, stuff like that, and the pace,” Carper said. “Get in a stance, get ready on defense. You can’t be a step behind, otherwise you’re hurting the team. So, thinking ahead. Just being ready for each play. Going hard.”
He’s often matched up with fellow 7-foot freshman Mate Colina, who already has a semester of practice under his belt from the spring. At Rampart High, Carper rarely encountered anyone of his dimensions.
“It helps playing against other post players your size,” he said. “It’s good reps, if you’ve got a big guy guarding you. It’s better both ways, both guys benefiting.”
With co-captain bigs Mike Thomas and Gibson Johnson graduated and gone, the freshman bigs could be called upon to make an impact sooner rather than later this season. Buggs rated the progress of all the newcomers highly.
“They’re doing a great job. A lot’s being thrown at them,” Buggs said. “It can be hard for them, because we have a lot of returners as well. It’s overwhelming seeing over half the guys know it really well and then trying to be at that same spot as everybody else. It takes time, but they all have a good attitude, they all like to work hard, they’re all smart and picking up on it pretty quickly. We have a lot of returners, so we have a lot of people able to help them out.”
The team’s third annual Tipoff Event is on Thursday (Oct. 18) at the Stan Sheriff Center, followed by the Green & White scrimmage (open to the public) on Friday.
Oh, and here’s an updated look at the renovations inside of UH Gym II, which the Rainbow Warrior and Rainbow Wahine basketball teams use as their preferred practice facility when the Stan Sheriff Center is unavailable. As you can see, the work is well underway, and is supposed to be completed in mid-December.