Kick back, relax and take in one of the best sports days of the year today. Heck, do it again tomorrow, and through the rest of March as the madness unfolds.
When you do, consider this: It’s already been three years since the Hawaii men’s basketball team enjoyed its finest hour on the national stage, upsetting No. 4 seed California in the NCAA Tournament first round in Spokane, Wash.
Roderick Bobbitt, Stefan Jankovic and Aaron Valdes, and a host of valuable role players, carried the day against a reeling Bears team. UH bowed out in respectable fashion against fifth-seeded Maryland in the second round.
It was a signature moment in program history.
But now, after three straight one-and-done appearances in the Big West tournament — and two consecutive, agonizing last-second defeats — it’s clear the Rainbow Warriors need some help in the form of a significant talent infusion.
Coach Eran Ganot and his staff have proven they can bring in All-Big West-level talent. Look at what Noah Allen, an undervalued prospect riding the UCLA bench, did in his one season in Manoa.
But now, with four- and five-year players (including redshirt years) departing like Jack Purchase, Brocke Stepteau and Sheriff Drammeh, UH needs more help like that, and fast.
Consider this another huge juncture for the program.
UH has two scholarships available going into the spring signing period (April 17 to May 15) besides the one going to Kahuku graduate Jessiya Villa coming off a two-year church mission. They must count if the Rainbow Warriors wish to improve upon their 8-8, 8-8 and 9-7 records in the Big West the last three years.
Eddie Stansberry was a solid get out of junior college last spring, supplying upward of 11 points per game while contributing to the team’s single-season record for made 3-pointers. Zigmars Raimo was one of the most improved players in the conference — if not the most improved — and tied for team-high scoring honors with Purchase at 11.5 per game.
As it stands, those two, and point guard Drew Buggs — an improving playmaker by the year — are the program’s standard bearers going into next season. Wing Samuta Avea stepped into a larger role as a sophomore and strung together some highlights. And there’s the trio of young 7-footers that took turns making appearances this season, with a handful of promising moments.
But if UH wants to get back to the right kind of madness in March, that’s not nearly enough.
These next few weeks could speak volumes about the direction of the program, one way or the other.