The Hawaii basketball team called an audible this week and decided to take consecutive days off from practice on Thursday and Friday.
It was a calculated move, as several Rainbow Warriors were forced to spectate practice in recent days due to a laundry list of bumps and bruises.
At various times over the last week, Gibson Johnson, Jack Purchase, Drew Buggs and Zach Buscher were among the walking wounded. No one player appeared to have a severe injury, but it makes sense to be cautious and not wear anyone out over the marathon that is the preseason.
“It’s gone from one guy in, one guy out to three or four at the same time, so it’s obviously had an effect on practice planning,” UH coach Eran Ganot said. “You try to look at things on the positive side, and the positive thing is it’s not something long term. But a lot of nagging things that are short term.
“They gotta take care of their bodies to get back in, and the guys who are in gotta take care of their bodies to stay in. In the meantime, maybe some adjustments to maybe more teaching. It’s an opportunity for some guys to get more reps, particularly the young guys who are out there now. It’s life.”
UH was back to something approximating full strength when it practiced in Gym 2 on Saturday afternoon.
Some of the ‘Bows have taken advantage of the thinner ranks. Among those who’ve played well are sophomore forward Zigmars Raimo and sophomore guard Brandon Thomas, a transfer from Riverside CC.
Raimo, a 6-7, 245-pound bruiser, has improved his offensive skill set to the point where he’s regularly converting buckets in practice drills, halfcourt or fullcourt. That wasn’t exactly the case last year.
“This year I feel more confident, better. I worked a lot on my body, on my shot in the summer,” Raimo said this week.
Ganot said of Raimo: “It’s been coming. … Zigmars has had a great summer, a great fall. He’s in the best shape of his life. He’s strong. His conditioning test, his body, he’s done a good job. And now the experience of being in the system, and having some breakthroughs in practice the confidence has grown with him. You can tell the guys believe in him more. It’s coming together for him right now. He’s gotta keep going, obviously. … He’s really put himself in position to have a good year.”
The coach complimented Raimo on his progress in the middle of a recent practice.
“It means a lot for me, but I’m going to keep working and do my best,” Raimo said.
At one point, Raimo found Thomas for an open 3. The 6-foot-4 Thomas has the release of a true marksman.
“We’re still searching for shooters, and I think Brandon is a great shooter,” Raimo said. “I will definitely look for him. It’s an easy assist for me.”
For a newcomer, Thomas has adjusted ahead of the curve to the Bows’ system, which has put him in the discussion for playing time in a three-guard lineup.
“I think it’s been real good,” he said. “I’m just glad I got to play in junior college last year, because it really helped me see what I was going to get myself into at the next level. I think Coach (Philip) Matthews at Riverside and the staff really got me ready.
“It’s obviously a transition, but I think the demand they have over there is really high, so it’s been helpful. The talent level is much different over here, but I think just the mind-set and being mentally tough from last year really helped me.
Thomas has shown off his marksmanship pretty often. He even canned a four-point play during a scrimmage this week.
“Anytime we get a chance to get up and down, I love it,” he said. “Find a way to do something to help the team.”
It’s been interesting to see Thomas interact with his older brother, senior captain Mike Thomas. If you, a spectator, observed a practice and weren’t armed with the knowledge they were siblings beforehand, you probably wouldn’t pick up on it by watching them.
“I honestly didn’t know what to expect,” the younger Thomas said. “I know he’s a leader, but it’s really cool to see how he can really bring guys together and help them. Him and Gibson, both of them. They’re doing a great job with all of us, the youngsters and everything, just helping us keep getting better. Because we’re not going to know everything automatically. They’re doing a great job being patient as well. And it’s real cool playing with him.”
The time to narrow the 15-player herd into a workable rotation is coming up for Ganot and his assistants.
“Right now we’re in a little roadblock because guys are in and out, but you certainly want to know (the rotation) and still have an open mind,” Ganot said. “So you want to have a rotation pretty clear, you should have a pretty good idea now, and in a couple weeks we’ll be really clear with an open mind that one or two guys could work their way in. That’s the great part about the way we do things; you’ve seen in recent years that guys have worked their way in.”
The annual Green and White scrimmage, open to the public for free admission, was announced for Oct. 22 in the Stan Sheriff Center. The time is still to be determined.
In the meantime, UH will continue to hold intra-squad scrimmages with referees to cap its regular practices.
The UH coaching staff participated in the Men’s March against Violence on Thursday.
— HAWAII BASKETBALL (@HawaiiMBB) October 13, 2017
Tickets for the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic go on sale at 9 a.m. Monday. The tournament again will be played on Dec. 22, 23 and 25.
The eight-team field this year is USC, Miami, Akron, Middle Tennessee, New Mexico State, Davidson, Princeton and Hawaii. All-session tickets for the lower bowl are $110, while upper all-session tickets are $70.
Individual session tickets (for two games) are $30 for the Stan Sheriff Center lower bowl on the first two days of the tournament, while upper level stubs are $18 for adults and $10 for children and senior citizens. Those same prices get you all games (morning and evening) on Christmas Day.
It’s $10 general admission for the early session on the first two days. UH will not play in that time slot those days.