It’s just about time for the College Summer League semifinals at Maryknoll.
In Game 1 at 6 p.m., defending champion and second-seeded Solar Universe takes on No. 3 Wealth Strategy Partners. Summer league watchers will recall these two teams got into it a bit the first of two times they met. (More on that below. However, the second meeting just a week ago was uneventful, a Wealth Strategy win against shorthanded Solar.)
At full strength, Solar has plenty of players who can fill it up, including UH’s Negus Webster-Chan, Brandon Spearman, Zane Johnson, and Wazzu alum Derrick Low. Wealth Strategy will turn to Julian Sensley, Kawika Lyons, Waly Coulibaly and William Broadus to head up its scoring.
Game 2 at 7:30 pits top-seeded Central Medical Clinic against upstart No. 4 Clark Hatch Fitness. CMC big man Bill Amis has put up big numbers from both the post and perimeter while managing to get his teammates involved, leading to a league-best 7-3 record. Kyle Pape is as deadly a shooter as ever and a host of role players makes CMC an impressive, unselfish bunch to watch. Clark Hatch, meanwhile, came on strong in the second half of the season behind point guard Keith Shamburger, and its Kaunaoa McGee-Scott Kato-Leon Ballard nucleus is powerful.
Again, these games are being televised on Olelo (Oceanic digital Ch. 49) and on Olelo’s YouTube channel.
Spearman thoroughly enjoyed his time in the College Summer League last year, when he helped get Solar Universe to the championship in an overtime thriller.
The UH senior is gunning for a repeat performance, and has increasingly turned to his 3-point shot to make it happen. You may have noticed Spearman bombing away from outside in games over the last few weeks.
“Here in the summer league, I just want to develop my game better,” he said after Solar’s last regular-season contest, a 127-122 overtime loss to Central Medical. “You know, shoot the ball more, work on my jump shot. Work on my Euro game. Just work on a lot of stuff that I need to work on as far as my game go.”
It was a difficult few weeks of the 2012-13 UH season for Spearman, who rehabbed hard to come back from a severe ankle sprain just in time … for the Rainbow Warriors’ season-ending CIT loss to Air Force.
A few months removed, his enthusiasm is unmistakably high.
“I love our (UH) team that we have right now,” Spearman said. “Everybody’s competitive, everybody wants to work on the team. Everybody want to work. Nobody let each other down. Everybody pick each other up. So it’s a different atmosphere this year, and I can feel it. Man, I can’t wait to start the season.”
Part of that has to do with a style of play that, at least in these stages still far removed from the season, could look like a big departure from the inside-out game of the Vander Joaquim-led ‘Bows.
“The way we going to play this year, we’re going to run and gun, put up a lot of shots … play a totally different way from last year,” Spearman said. “Last year we was a halfcourt team, we had Big Vander down there. … Pretty much this year we’re looking for a run-and-gun offense. We got the team to do it. So we definitely going to be shooting a lot, handling the ball a lot. I just can’t wait. It’s gonna be fun.”
Look for more stopping and popping from Spearman tonight.
The well-traveled Sensley has been a summer league staple since his time as a Rainbow Warriors player ended in 2006, and he’ll have another chance to take a team to a title here — in what constitutes his offseason — with Wealth Strategy Partners.
Sensley bounced back from a potentially ugly situation at the summer league nearly a month ago, when he grew incensed at jawing and physical play by UH’s Negus Webster-Chan and others in Wealth Strategy’s 97-84 loss to Solar Universe. Sensley got into it with Spearman briefly before he was tackled and calmed down.
That was a rare sight from the usually easygoing Sensley, who’s carved out a vagabond pro career as versatile as his on-court game. He’s played on just about every continent at one time or another.
He apologized to league director Pat Tanibe and returned after a couple games missed, and is back to his old self with a summer title on the line.
“We’re playing our best basketball. You know, we started off this league kind of slow, a new bunch of guys, a lot of us had never played together,” Sensley said. “At the end of the day, all that matters is what happens at the end of the season. We somehow found a way to jell and put it together. We had different looks every game and been able to adjust.”
Sometimes, anyway. Wealth Strategy took down top-seeded Central Medical on July 29, then proceeded to lose to bottom-seeded Grantco Pacific (albeit with the talents of Llewellyn Smalley) two days later.
“The key thing for us is everybody knowing their roles,” Sensley said. “Kawika‘s a shooter, we’re going to let him shoot. If he has an ounce of daylight, he needs to let it go. We have great on-ball defenders with (Broadus) and Waly and I think as long as everybody sticks to their roles and plays to their strengths, we’re unstoppable.”
Sensley, as is his style, hasn’t nailed down his next team yet. He split the last season in Korea and China.
“I have no idea yet. I’m still a free agent. I tend to sign late so I can avoid training camp; I’m getting a little older so my body’s worn down,” he said. “But I’ll probably head back to Asia somewhere this year. I just might wait on Korea again, or try to get into China again. So right now I’m kind of undecided.”
Right now, the Kailua native’s attention is devoted here. If Sensley’s feeling it tonight, Wealth Strategy could well be on to the title game.
UH sophomore/Central Medical Clinic point guard Quincy Smith has been out of summer league action for the last few games with a bruised big toe, but he said he’d try to give it a go for today’s semifinal.
“It’s pretty much healing up now, I’m about 70, 75 percent right now,” said the transfer from the City College of San Francisco after Tuesday’s games. “I would say I’m about a week or two from being back to full strength.”
“I started practicing this week, just going through some light stuff. … The trainer said it’s not going to be too much worse if I put my weight on it. So I might (give it a go).”
If he is able to play, he’ll be going up against his Rainbow Warriors teammate and his primary competition for the UH starting point guard job in Shamburger.
Smith went for 40-plus in the summer league before he got hurt, putting people on notice he shouldn’t be overlooked.
“I feel like I’ve gotten better since then. I’ve been in the gym, even with my toe, working on my shot,” he said. “That’s the main deficiency in my game. I’ve been in here working on the 3s. … So far so good, we’ll see how it goes in a game. Everybody makes shots in practice.”
Shamburger, meanwhile, talked up the importance of slowing down CMC’s big man Amis if Clark Hatch Fitness is to advance to the finals.
“He had a double-double in the second half of their last game, so you see what he can do,” Shamburger said.