It is officially OK to start having 7-for-7 flashbacks again.
Hawaii guard Brandon Jawato, a fourth-year junior, is not far removed from a return to full action from his offseason foot and ankle rehab, judging by his progress in Wednesday’s practice.
Jawato — he of the record-setting 7-for-7 3-point night against UC Riverside as a redshirt freshman — got in just about everything except for fullcourt contact drills.
“It felt good,” the shooting guard said. “I’m new to a lot of things, so I gotta learn a lot. But I felt great being out there. I can’t wait to get back on the floor and can’t wait to be able to play full contact.”
Last season was close to a totally lost one for the El Segundo, Calif., native. He appeared sparingly in 14 games, and never really looked like himself when he was out there. He was playing in discomfort; cartilage in an ankle had basically eroded completely away, so bones in the joint were grinding on each other.
“I mean, through life you’re always going to face ups and downs,” he said. “And of course last year was just a down moment in my life. I’m just ready to step it up and give it all that I got.”
He underwent ankle surgery upon the season’s completion and a full offseason of rehab awaited him. It involved plenty of running, cutting and jumping under the supervision of athletic trainer Jay Goo. As he progressed, he’d do drills like defensive slides.
“I mean, I faced a lot of challenges (this offseason), but I feel like you just gotta put in the work and if you put in the work then it’s going to show on the court,” Jawato said. “So, I’ve just been doing as much as I could do every day and hopefully I can get back on the court as soon as possible.”
Jawato did not participate in the team’s Green & White scrimmage festivities last weekend, although he was close to a return. It sounds like he could be in on everything by this Saturday.
His shot was pretty smooth during some dribbling and shooting drills. He was moving fluidly. All in all, he’s resembling the guy who led UH in 3-pointers made (43) and 3-point percentage (.413) two years ago.
“Ahh, it was just good to see him out there,” UH coach Gib Arnold said. “Shoot, I didn’t recognize him at first. It’s been a while. It’s good to see, he came off and knocked down a shot. You know, he looked good. He looked like he was bouncy and had some nice rhythm. It was great to see him out there. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a healthy Brandon Jawato. A healthy Brandon Jawato’s a heck of a basketball player. So he’ll really help us.”
There actually wasn’t supposed to be a full practice on Wednesday, until a late change of plans. Arnold had previously said he was going to give the team until Friday to rest up and get injured players healthy. They were to do workouts on their own in the meantime.
So much for that. But the coach lauded his team’s energy and effort during the three-hour session.
“It’s full-bore now,” Arnold said. “We’re going to keep it going. We thought about waiting all the way until Friday to start, but I felt like those guys who were banged up, they could do just enough to where, you know, we could go. I didn’t want to take a full week off. Personally … I couldn’t do it. I just had to get going. I just couldn’t sit there. I told the guys, ‘Hey, I told you Friday, but I’m a liar. We’re going Wednesday. Let’s go.’ And they all wanted to do the same thing; they were tired of waiting.”
Defense is going to be the emphasis of these first few weeks, and the recurring theme of Wednesday’s practice was positioning during transition defense. Arnold and his assistants stayed on the guards to coordinate their retreats so that one player stops the ball at the top, near midcourt, while another drops all the way back to the hole, near the basket until help arrives.
After a fair amount of running, Arnold had his players shoot pressure free throws at the end of practice. Legs were tired, and there were plenty of shots clanging off the front iron, forcing the team to run the length of the court (which then led to a tougher shot for the next guy). The effect seemed to snowball.
“It’s good to start getting those guys into starting to feeling that it’s going to hurt sometimes, but you gotta keep going through it,” Arnold said. “You’re going to get fatigued sometimes, but you’re going to keep playing through it. We saw a little bit of that today, but for the most part I thought the preseason conditioning went pretty well because they were in good shape.”
Big men Isaac Fotu, Stefan Jankovic and Sammis Reyes were limited to varying degrees during the practice.
Of the three, Jankovic (shin splints) got in the most work with some halfcourt action. Fotu (back) was in some stuff at the beginning of practice, but then was relegated to some shooting and off-court exercises. Reyes did off-court exercises only.
Swingmen Aaron Valdes and Negus Webster-Chan played power forward for most of the practice as a consequence. That will probably hold for the next practice or two.
“I had two guys in particular completely out of position, and (center Stefan Jovanovic) never got a rest,” Arnold said. “So we gotta be careful. It’s an interesting thing. It’s pretty normal to have three or four guys injured, but it’s not normal to have all three in the same position. So, and the bigs, we need to have them back so guys aren’t, again, playing out of position doesn’t do us as much good.”
Sophomore forward Mike Thomas had some emphatic flushes during the practice. He was finishing well around the basket in general, including through contact. It’s starting to look more and more like he’ll have something to say about the team’s fortunes this year.