The zebras arrive

Noah Allen attempted a 3 as Zach Buscher closed out during a fullcourt, officiated scrimmage on Tuesday night.
Noah Allen attempted a 3 as Zach Buscher closed out during a fullcourt, officiated scrimmage on Tuesday night.

Gibson Johnson planted himself just outside of the restricted area and waited.

Larry Lewis Jr. attacked the rim, but the guard’s dribble-drive carried him straight into Johnson’s body. The three impartial observers on the court promptly blew their whistles. Offensive foul.

As they’ve been encouraged to do by the UH coaches on such plays, Johnson’s teammates in Tuesday’s late-night officiated scrimmage made a lot of noise and helped him up.

“A charge is a big play. Not only is it a turnover, it’s kind of a momentum changer,” the junior forward out of Salt Lake Community College said. “It’s kind of like a dunk, just on the defensive end. It gets a foul for them, it’s a huge play, huge momentum shift. If you can get a charge to get your team going, you can turn the game around.”

That was a highlight of UH’s fullcourt competition in the Stan Sheriff Center to end their fourth preseason practice.

As is becoming the norm under Eran Ganot, officials were brought in within the first week’s worth of practices.

“It was a big point of emphasis last year. Probably brought (the refs) in more than years before,” Ganot said. “I think we’ll continue to do that. Last year was so important because of the huge changes in the rules. This year it’s so important because so many new guys. They need to get accustomed to officiating; we (the coaches) can only officiate so well.

“They get all the details. Screening situations. Post play. Particularly for our freshmen as well, getting used to that. I think that can only help us.”

Things have gradually been cleaned up since a first practice that could’ve been generously described as “ragged.”

The team’s few returnees have helped set the tone, even those who didn’t see much time last year like Brocke Stepteau and Zach Buscher.

Before the scrimmage, the ‘Iolani product Buscher had several drives to the basket for buckets in halfcourt drills, getting teammate Darryl Matthews to shout, “Yeah, Bush!” from the sideline.

“Yeah I think we all were (dialed in),” Buscher said. “The whole team probably had our best practice yet. Everyone was locked in, just trying to be aggressive and make plays.”

It’s an interesting time at practice, with no clear pecking order and a starting five (and reserve roles) up for grabs.

Buscher, a redshirt sophomore, sees it as part of his duty to help the newcomers along even as he’s going for some playing time.

“For sure, we all have,” he said. “I mean, me, Sheriff (Drammeh), Brocke, Jack (Purchase) and Mike (Thomas) are the only guys here from last year. So we all got different roles from last year. We’re trying to make sure everyone feels they’re at home and everyone knows what they’re doing, help them as much as we can to learn the system.”

Ganot noted Buscher has put on about 20 pounds from the start of his UH career and has improved steadily.

“Guys play well when they’re comfortable,” Ganot said. “They’re not comfortable yet. Zach’s helped us.”

Johnson, whose teammates call him “Gib” for short (given recent UH history, interesting, I know) has looked like the team’s best offensive threat around the basket. If he can provide the occasional defensive play (see above), he could cement those for frontcourt minutes.

“It’s a very detail-oriented team,” Johnson said. “We get better every day, I think that’s a telltale sign of a great team, (one) that improves every day. We’re not going to be at our best at the start, we don’t expect to be at our best, but we’re going to give our best effort, always working hard enough to get to our potential.

“Hopefully we keep getting better every day until that last buzzer sounds.”


  1. Mike Maxwell October 6, 2016 8:43 am

    Good luck Natasha!!

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