A season’s worth of events happened over the last three weeks to the Hawaii men’s basketball team. Starting Friday, however, the 2014-15 college basketball season gets going for real. And the games come fast and furious.
Some necessary late schedule maneuvering left the Rainbow Warriors in the unenviable position of having to play eight games in 13 days spanning from Honolulu to Southwest Florida. That’s a challenge.
But Friday’s season opener vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the 50th Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic should provide a manageable first test for acting head coach Benjy Taylor and his very new-look squad.
Like UH, UAPB is facing some form of sanctions from the NCAA. In the case of the Golden Lions, though, they have some idea of what is coming — a postseason ban and five years of probation is on the table, among other sanctions.
While UH fans are still in the dark about what fallout awaits their team, those who went to last week’s exhibition vs. Hawaii Pacific have some idea of the product on the court this season. It might not be recognizable or pretty at times with four starters gone and given the recent transition from Gib Arnold to Taylor. There’s a new handful of schemes and sets. But Garrett Nevels is still a capable shot-maker and UH showed the ability to defend effectively against a less athletic squad in HPU, forcing 13 steals. Taylor told his team this week that he wants them to aim for 15 on any given night. That’s where this team’s identity might begin to take shape.
Unlike the exhibition, Negus Webster-Chan (bruised rib) and Quincy Smith (bruised back) will both be in action, possibly both off the bench. They should make a noticeable difference in overall quality of play, as Taylor can go a little deeper into a rotation.
Yes, Isaac Fotu is long gone. But the team got a pleasant surprise Thursday in the return of post banger Sammis Reyes. Reyes is very unlikely to play Friday, even in a reserve role, but he could suit up and be available later in the round-robin tournament.
My best guess at UH’s starting lineup: Roderick Bobbitt, Nevels, Aaron Valdes, Mike Thomas and Stefan Jovanovic. However, Taylor might elect to go small at the outset with a front line of Valdes, Webster-Chan and Thomas.
If you’re looking for a little extra hoops to whet your appetite for the season, Cal State Bakersfield and High Point tip off at 5 p.m.
Jamie Smith’s themed nights are under way. The team had a campout Thursday night to celebrate the start of the season, and Friday’s game is “Warrior Paint Night” — the best-painted student wins a GoPro.