Did you ever play pickup basketball when there was one guy about a head taller than everyone else, and people would repeatedly just take fouls on the guy instead of allowing him to score inside?
That was basically Hawaii practice on Friday.
Sophomore center Stefan Jovanovic has operated as the team’s one true big man in practices because of the team’s injury bug to its front line.
At times, it seemed all five defensive players would take turns hanging off of the 6-foot-11 Serbian. The UH coaches weren’t in a hurry to whistle the play dead, either.
“If you can’t stop me without fouls, then foul me,” Jovanovic said with a laugh. “I’m joking, of course. But no seriously, I don’t mind. I think that’s a good thing for me, to go through contact and go through as many players as you can. Yeah, I mean that’s part of the game and it can happen in the middle of the game.”
It works both ways, though.
“Yeah, they like to foul him, because he fouls quite a bit,” UH coach Gib Arnold said. “So, whenever he catches it, they’re going to make sure he feels it, because he’s not afraid to let them feel it a little bit with a hard foul here and there. He’s a pretty physical player.”
Jovanovic appeared sparingly as a true freshman, going 7-for-13 from the field on the season. There just weren’t many opportunities with playing time behind the front line unit of Christian Standhardinger, Isaac Fotu and Davis Rozitis.
The UH coaches have seen what he can do with a fairly reliable hook shot and mid-range jump shot. But they’ve asked him to prove himself defensively, first and foremost, to see increased court time.
“I’ve been trying to do my best to gain my coaches’ trust in order to play some minutes,” Jovanovic said. “Last year I got freshman minutes. This year I’m trying to get in the rotation and improve myself as much as I can and help the team improve, and go as far as possible.”
The Hawaii basketball team was originally going to practice Saturday morning, but Arnold instead decided to cancel practice so his team could recharge.
UH was down to 11 players by the end of Friday’s three-hour practice. Besides the usuals doing rehab work (Fotu, Stefan Jankovic and Sammis Reyes), Brandon Jawato was back on the sideline and Roderick Bobbitt was observing things with a wrapping around his previously broken arm.
“Jawato’s still a little day to day. We’re hoping to have him by next week,” Arnold said. “The ankle seems to be better; he’s been having headaches, it’s a little different. Roderick just got hit on his broken arm where he’s got that metal plate in there. Sometimes when he gets hit like that he gets hurt. We unexpectedly had extra two guys out, and still got the three bigs who are out. Jankovic can go a little bit, but again, anytime they feel any bit of a tweak or something like that, especially in Janks’ situation and Fotu’s situation, we’re going to put them out. I’d rather have those guys at full bore than playing hard at 65 percent and getting more hurt. So, Janks I think will be able to go a little bit more (soon). He had a little knee swelling and we chose to take him out.”
UH used most of Friday to work on its fundamentals of its fullcourt press.
“I was able to get a team out there that was a pressing team we would have in,” Arnold said. “We were going against four guards, but I guess that’s a good thing if you can press against four guards. Just teaching the concepts of what we’re trying to get out of the press. How we cover different lanes and responsibilities. So there were some mistakes, quite honestly. We made a few errors, but most of them were aggressive mistakes, which I’m OK with.”