The Hawaii basketball team has gone without surnames on the back of its jerseys for the first three years under Gib Arnold.
Well, that’s changing in Year 4.
Arnold confirmed after Monday’s team practice that his players would have that honor above their numbers on their jerseys.
“It’s the right time. It’s the right group of guys,” he said.
You can take that as a vote of confidence in the character of this group.
In Monday’s practice, two of the more athletic Rainbow Warriors got to showcase their stuff.
Redshirt freshman Aaron Valdes got things started with an alley-oop slam over 7-foot senior Davis Rozitis. Then, later in practice, true freshman Mike Thomas returned the favor with a thunderous one-hander over a contesting Valdes.
“It’s good to have my lift back,” Thomas said. “A little sore because it’s different (with everyday practices). (Aaron) dunked on Davis earlier. I got it back for my teammate.”
“Mike definitely got me good,” Valdes said with a laugh. “I’m not going to lie, he got me really good. … I gotta contest it. Any way not to give points up.”
Both Valdes and Thomas are in contention for minutes in the ‘Bows’ bench rotation.
“I think I still gotta catch my stride,” Thomas said. “I still gotta work a lot, a lot more. But definitely getting my confidence. … I want to play this year.”
The 6-5 Valdes, the College Summer League MVP, has dabbled a bit at forward among the team’s secondary rotation guys.
“I still need a lot of adjusting to get to,” Valdes said. “So hopefully by the time season comes around, the first couple games, I’ll be ready.”
He went on to offer a fairly in depth evaluation of his plusses and minuses right now. He gets going emotionally with big plays like his dunk, but needs to find other ways to do that when a jam doesn’t present itself.
“I feel like for me, I still need to hit my open shots and just get more comfortable with the ball, ’cause right now I seem a little timid out there,” Valdes said. “Gotta make moves. Just gotta not be afraid to make mistakes. … I’m realizing it when I’m out there. My dad’s helping me a lot too, he’s always been my coach. … I just need to do whatever I can to make myself better, getting in the gym late and working with the guys too.”
Arnold’s trip to Louisville to sit in on Rick Pitino’s practices has been pushed back by a day. Arnold leaves on Wednesday, so the team will practice again Tuesday. He’ll still be back for the Green & White Scrimmage (plus dunk contest) on Saturday.