Aaron Valdes is accumulating quite the collection of peripheral awards during his time as a Hawaii Rainbow Warrior.
The third-year sophomore swingman claimed Gib Arnold‘s 2014 “King of the Beach” preseason conditioning title on Saturday morning at Queen’s Beach, outdoing runner-up Sammis Reyes and third-place Garrett Nevels.
Per usual, the competition was a dozen-plus events of Arnold’s choosing. They tested primarily endurance and teamwork.
Previously during his time in the islands, the springy Valdes won the 2013 Manoa College Summer League MVP award and took UH’s dunk contest to kick off last season.
The KotB title was up for grabs with two-time champion Christian Standhardinger having exhausted his eligibility. Would Valdes have won if Standhardinger, the uber-competitor, were still around? It’s hard to say, but Valdes went all out at the finish — he got a “rebound” of a weighted ball and tossed it over an elevated goal bar for some points to cap off the morning. He banged his head on the bar (used for Sunset on the Beach showings) for his trouble as other ‘Bows tried to deny his heave.
He shrugged that off.
“It feels great,” Valdes said. “I wasn’t even sure if I would get top three but coming here I told myself I was going to try hard, try to win it this year. … I think I was just more prepared. I feel stronger this year than other years previously. There’s a lot of good competition this year still too, even without Christian. A lot of guys were aggressive out there, wanting to win too.”
Valdes received the perpetual koa bowl trophy given to the King of the Beach winner, and will have his name added next to Standhardinger, Bill Amis and Hauns Brereton. The winner may hang it above his locker for the full season.
Arnold thought it would have been a good battle between Standhardinger and Valdes.
“It helps that (Valdes) is in his third year,” Arnold said. “There’s some veteran moves that go along with winning that, especially with picking partners and teams. But he’s a great athlete, so it’s natural that he would be one of the top competitors. He has a great competitive spirit, too. I thought he really competed. So, put those together and he was tough to beat today.”
Guards Quincy Smith, Dyrbe Enos and Isaac Fleming were among the other high finishers.
Not all the ‘Bows were able to participate. Returning all-conference forward Isaac Fotu sat out with a back ailment, the severity of which is not yet known in this space. Missouri transfer Stefan Jankovic also observed the KotB events with an unknown issue. And Reyes, the solidly built freshman forward, suffered what he thought was a broken toe on his right foot during one of the dozen-plus events. He hobbled off to the side to watch the completion of the festivities. New combo guard Roderick Bobbitt, however, is cleared to go coming off a severely broken arm injury in the spring.
Fourth-year junior Brandon Jawato, who has rehabbed from ankle surgery all offseason, was not present for this one.
UH will have its first full practice next Saturday morning, Arnold said, instead of Friday, Oct. 3 (when teams can start up nationally). The ‘Bows will then put on their Green & White scrimmage (and dunk contest) Saturday evening after UH volleyball.