Full health remains elusive for the Hawaii men’s basketball team throughout this 2014-15 preseason. Yet another previously active player, point guard Quincy Smith, was in spectator mode at Monday’s practice with back soreness.
However, this time the Rainbow Warriors managed to get a body back on the floor in a one-for-one swap.
Swingman Negus Webster-Chan was effective in his return to the court coming off some bruised ribs. UH coach Gib Arnold was looking to push the tempo, and that fit the 6-foot-7 Webster-Chan’s versatile skill-set just fine.
He sank some 3s, made some nice passes and pushed the ball himself in transition. He said he felt “great” afterward.
“It felt great to get back out there with my team,” Webster-Chan said. “I don’t like being on the sidelines, so it was a great feeling to be back on the court with them.”
He missed the team’s intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday, the same one in which Smith went out hurt on a hard fall.
“It’s frustrating ’cause it’s always one of us or something, being out,” Webster-Chan said. “And for me to get out too, I didn’t feel like it was good for our team (in order) to get better, because a lot of guys had to go play the 4 (in recent practices). … It was just bad. We all need to be out there, healthy. So everybody’s just trying to stay healthy right now, everybody’s doing rehab a lot.”
Before he went out with his ribs ailment, Webster-Chan was playing out of position at power forward. But with forwards Isaac Fotu and Stefan Jankovic back in the lineup, he was able to play at his natural position, the 3.
“It was love, it was love. It felt like love,” Webster-Chan said, smiling. “I don’t really play the 4, Coach needed me there so I just had to do what he asked.”
Arnold said: “It was real good to have Negus back out there. I thought he did a real nice job. We need him for us to be the best we can be. He’s going to be one of our main guys this year, so we really need him healthy and we need him out there in the lineup. You know, we missed him and he does a lot of really good things out there. He’s gotta get back in a little better shape, but when he gets back obviously he’ll be huge for us.”
He bulked up considerably in the offseason and said he was at 210 pounds. Webster-Chan’s goal is to get down to 205 for some added speed and bounce by the time of the Nov. 14 season opener.
As for Smith, Arnold said he was “day to day” after Monday’s session. Smith is contending for the starting point guard job, so any time he misses feels compounded.
“Hopefully we’ll have him in as early as (Tuesday),” Arnold said. “We’ll let him make that decision on how he feels. Nothing was permanently hurt, he’s just bruised up.”
Brandon Jawato (head) and Sammis Reyes (toe) were doing some running on the side, and didn’t look very far off from a return to the court.
Monday wasn’t a particularly enjoyable practice for anyone, save perhaps the newly returned Webster-Chan. In watching film of Saturday’s scrimmage, Arnold felt the team was just “going through the motions.” Thus, the UH coaches exhorted the players to push the tempo this time, and plenty of turnovers resulted from the uptick in pace. Turnovers have always been one of Arnold’s pet peeves, and he was quick to let his point guards know his displeasure when they coughed it up.
Roderick Bobbitt and Niko Filipovich had the primary ballhandling duties. Isaac Fleming played mostly off the ball.
“Today was just to push it, to get it out, to play at a higher tempo, at a higher speed and get used to it,” Arnold said. “And so, we did a lot of things that got us really uncomfortable, really tired. The whole game plan was, they were going to get frustrated. I wanted them to get tired, get frustrated, and play through it. And so I really thought it was a tough practice, maybe our toughest one. But we got better today, definitely.”
It made for a pretty volatile practice. Some players’ frustration was obvious and boiled over at times.
“I need my point guards to be just mental warriors, be able to play at that fast pace, get tired and still not turn it over and get us into the offense,” Arnold said. “You know, we need to create an environment to where they feel that pressure every day like they would in a real game. And because we’ve banged up so much, we haven’t been able to go up and down and we haven’t been able to create that same game-like pressure, and it’s hurt us. And so now that we’re getting guys healthy again, we’re going to start doing a lot more of that. I want to put pressure on ’em, as coach I’m going to put pressure on ’em, ’cause in the game it’s going to be twice as much.”
That approach was just fine with Webster-Chan.
“I mean, I’ve been coached by a lot of coaches that (pauses) play basketball like that,” the swingman said. “They want us to get frustrated, they want us to be ready. ‘Cause in games you’re gonna get frustrated and you’re just gonna have to push through. So I thought it was good for us today to get that from Coach and I think we got better mentally, too.”
Arnold and the Rainbows rolled on with their fifth event in their “Give Back Hawaii” campaign on Monday morning, this time at Kainalu Elementary in Kailua.
Besides the coach, players Mike Thomas, Stefan Jovanovic and Filipovich participated in this one, promoting reading.
“I had a blast this morning,” Filipovich said in a UH release. “The staff and students at Kainalu Elementary were a lot of fun and I look forward to seeing them at our game.”
In the same release, Thomas said: “I really valued my experience at Kainalu this morning. The students here were great.”
According to the team, 100 Kainalu students who lead the way in the school’s “Reading Log Challenge” will receive free admission to UH’s home game vs. Southern University on Dec. 29.
Arnold’s son, Ace, is a third grader at Kainalu.
Here were some courtesy shots by photographer Jordan Fong at the event.