Suddenly, the physicality in the paint elevated a few notches.
The reason? Super Smash Bros. style, Sammis Reyes waded into the fray.
The 6-foot-6 freshman forward participated in a full Hawaii practice for the first time on Tuesday, as he was cleared to play fullcourt because he’s made adequate progress healing up from a fractured pinkie toe.
At last, he was going toe-to-toe with the other UH big men. And he more than held his own, despite giving up a few inches to those around him. He’s not the tallest guy, but he’s built to dish out and absorb contact in the paint — as other Rainbow Warriors discovered when they bounced off his chiseled physique.
“(It felt) good. Really good. Happy to be back,” said Reyes, who broke the toe competing in the “King of the Beach” competition in late September. “I still feel I can do a lot more. I gotta work on my shot a little bit. It feels stiff. But with some time, I’ll be fine.”
Reyes made his return on the faster end of a four-week-plus recovery projection. He was able to get up and down the floor pretty smoothly, and said he felt only minor soreness in the toe.
“Slammis” wasn’t quite yet at the point of throwing down dunks on seemingly every possession, like in a video montage of his days at North Broward Prep Academy in Florida. But his performance in his sudden appearance on the floor was pretty impressive, all in all.
“(Athletic trainer Jay Goo) helped me out a lot. He’s the reason why I’m back so early, so I gotta thank him for that,” the Chilean said. “(He had me do) a whole bunch of stuff. I’ve been icing my toe every single day, two to three times a day. Doing a little cardio on the bike. That helped me.”
The Rainbow Warriors seemed to feed off his energy, fostering a much more upbeat practice than Monday’s grind.
“It was great to see him back,” UH coach Gib Arnold said. “He gave I thought a great effort for a guy who’s been sitting out for a long time. I’m sure he’s a little bit out of shape, a little bit out of basketball shape. It was sure fun to see him in there. I thought the whole team responded to him coming and playing really hard. And we just saw a little bit of what he can do. Tomorrow he’ll be a little bit better, and the next day, once he gets back into shape, he’s a phenomenal athlete and we’ll really get to see what Sammis can bring us.”
Reyes was the first to acknowledge he didn’t know the complete batch of offensive sets UH has worked on thus far. He said he’d get in the film room with the UH coaches to get up to speed.
Shooting guard Brandon Jawato was also back to fullcourt strength on Tuesday. The only player who was out was point guard Quincy Smith, who missed his second straight practice with a sore back.
Did you think UH’s “point zone” defense went the way of Davis Rozitis when the 7-foot Latvian expended his eligibility in Manoa after last season?
If you did … wrong.
The Rainbows practiced the unorthodox formation on Tuesday, trying out a few big men at the “point” of the defense at the top of the key where Rozitis used to patrol when he came in off the bench.
Stefan Jankovic, Stefan Jovanovic and Mike Thomas each got a turn being the “point man” in both the fullcourt version of the defense and the standard halfcourt version.
“I do (want to keep it going),” Arnold said. “It’s a different zone. It’s a specialty zone, but I really like it. It’s something that’s been really good for us in the past. … I think I’ve got three or four guys who can play it at a high level. It’s something we’ve been thinking (about) over the week, something a little different and we put it out there. I was really pleased. Three or four guys, they look pretty darn good in it.”
UH will do an intrasquad scrimmage officiated by referees again this Saturday. It’s a good bet the players will be asked to incorporate that defense at some point during that session.