Hawaii men’s basketball: 100th season Best-Team Bracket, Round of 16, Day 1

Aaron Valdes jammed home a dunk against Cal in the NCAA Tournament on March 18, 2016, as Roderick Bobbitt looked on in the foreground. / Star-Advertiser file photo by Erik Smith

Welcome to the opening round of Hawaii Warrior World’s version of March Madness.

You, the fans, will decide the winner of the Hawaii basketball 100th Season Best-Team Bracket over the coming weeks, as you’ll have the opportunity to pick between two of the greatest teams to suit up in Green and White every day there would’ve been an actual NCAA Tournament game, starting today.

You’ll find the corresponding Twitter polls embedded below, or you can go directly to the Hawaii Warrior World Twitter page. Thursday’s polls will go up at 6 a.m. (HST) and will be open for 48 hours (including when Friday’s two matchups are posted).

For Day 1, we start off with two matchups featuring teams spanning decades apart — a theme that will be repeated over the coming days. In this case, the contestants are separated by 20 or more years.

The top 16 Hawaii basketball teams of all-time among 100 seasons played to date.

The first pairing features the top overall seed — the “Improbabows” 2015-16 squad — against a worthy inclusion, the No. 16-seeded 1988-89 group that posted one of the best turnarounds in UH history to make the NIT. The other matchup features squads led by two of the best guards in program history, All-American Tom Henderson’s 1973-74 group and the Trevor Ruffin-led NCAA Tournament team of 1993-94.


1. 2015-16 (28-6, NCAA second round)

Hawaii forward Michael Thomas, left, Stefan Jankovic, center, and Stefan Jovanovic (15) celebrated the Big West title-clinching 67-65 win at UC Davis on March 3, 2016. / Star-Advertiser file photo by Tony Avelar

Coach Eran Ganot’s first team achieved what no UH basketball squad had previously or has since: It won a game in the NCAA Tournament, Hawaii’s first in five tries. The 13-seeded Rainbow Warriors — who’d dealt with adversity all season in being tagged with future NCAA sanctions (mostly later rescinded) from Gib Arnold’s past coaching regime — turned the tables and beat reeling California, a No. 4 seed, 77-66. Against the Bears from Berkeley, UH’s East Bay backcourt mates, Quincy Smith and Roderick Bobbitt, stood out. Smith led UH with 19 points and career steals leader Bobbitt scored 17 with seven rebounds. UH held its own against No. 5 Maryland in the round of 32 in Spokane, Wash., before falling 73-60 two days later. … Front-courters Stefan Jankovic and Aaron Valdes were dynamic, versatile and explosive, and Jankovic, a Missouri transfer, earned Big West Player of the Year honors. Mike Thomas, Stefan Jovanovic, Sai Tummala and Sheriff Drammeh were among the team’s reliable role players. Mercurial Isaac Fleming was a sparkplug before leaving the team late in the season. And the “Hawaii 5-0” bench mob kept things lively all year as this group went on to win its first (and only to date) Big West regular-season and tournament championships, and set the program single-season wins record.
Roster: Bobbitt, Zach Buscher, Jakob Cornelissen, Drammeh, Dyrbe Enos, Niko Filipovich, Fleming, Jankovic, Jovanovic, Smith, Brocke Stepteau, Thomas, Tummala, Valdes.


16. 1988-89 (17-13, NIT first round)

Reggie Cross threw down a jam on BYU on Feb. 11, 1989. / Star-Advertiser file

Terry Houston and Troy Bowe had to step up in the absence of Chris Gaines in a double-OT win over Air Force to start WAC play on Jan. 5, 1989. / Star-Advertiser file

It was a one-season U-turn to rival when June Jones took a winless football team to a share of the WAC championship a decade later. Fiery Riley Wallace turned a rag-tag crew including guys on loan from football and volleyball that went 4-25 his first year as head coach into an NIT bid-winner the second. … Reggie Cross was the fire; every time he grabbed one of his 8.1 rebounds per game he seemed intent on popping the ball with his powerful paws (he was also team-high with 18.6 points). Chris Gaines was the ice; one of the finest four-year players in the program history was a smooth guard who averaged 16.6 points and was money from the free throw line — but sat out after the semester break, 11 games into the season, for being academically ineligible. David Hallums, Troy Bowe and Phil Lott stepped up in lieu of Gaines as a dependable backcourt rotation. Steady Terry Houston and shutdown defender Vincent Smalls manned the forward spots. … … They lost 73-57 to Cal in the NIT. But that was easy to take after beating BYU all three times they’d met — especially since that was one more win than against the entire WAC in 1987-88.
Roster: Cliff Beaubrun, Arlen Bento, Billy Bolds, Bowe, Cross, John Gabriel, Gaines, Hallums, Houston, Joe Hudson, Jim Lactaoen, Lott, Wendall Navalta, Tim Shepherd, Vincent Smalls, Kalani Whittaker, James Wilson.



8. 1993-94 (18-15, NCAA first round)

Hawaii broke through a 22-year NCAA Tournament drought by upsetting BYU in Salt Lake City on March 12, 1994. / Star-Advertiser file

Trevor Ruffin drained one of his school-record 10 3-pointers against Louisville on Dec. 20, 1993. / Star-Advertiser file photo

The ‘Bows finally got their second NCAA Tournament bid 22 years after the first, thanks in large part to the hot-hand of sharp-shooter Trevor Ruffin. The junior college transfer bombed away for 20.8 points per game, and got inside help from 7-foot-2 Tony Maroney (13.1 ppg, 9.8 rpg, UH single-season blocks record of 103). Future NBA assistant coach Phil Handy was the glue player, a 6-5 forward who pitched in 11.2 and 4.5. … Guard Jarinn Akana, who also ended up on NBA coaching staffs before becoming a player agent, could heat up from long range at times, too, while Kalia McGee (4.1 assists) set the table. … These ‘Bows lost five of their last eight WAC regular-season games, but got hot in the tourney and beat BYU 73-66 in the final in Salt Lake City to earn their dance ticket — a 13 seed and a first-round date with the No. 4 Orangemen. He made seven of 13 from beyond the arc on his way to 24 points, Maroney added 19 and Akana had 18 off the bench. But it wasn’t enough to squeeze the Orange, who won 92-78. This UH team got as far as it did despite being outscored (74.5-72.0) over the course of its 33 games.
CORRECTION: Ruffin did not play at Syracuse to begin his career. The Buffalo., N.Y., native did grow up near there, however.
Roster: Akana, Lonnie Benjamin, Walter Bonner, Handy, Maroney, McGee, John Molle Jr., Aahmad Ricketts, Ruffin, John Spanogle.


9. 1973-74 (19-9, NIT second round)

Tom Henderson helped Hawaii beat Purdue and claim the Rainbow Classic crown on Dec. 29, 1973. / Star-Advertiser file

Melton Werts went up for two against South Alabama early in the 1973-74 season. / Star-Advertiser file

Before he got to UH, Tom Henderson was an Olympian and after he left, an NBA champion. In his two seasons at Manoa he established himself as one of the program’s greatest players ever; he remains UH’s highest NBA Draft pick at No. 7 overall. He averaged 20.3 points and 6.8 assists in his second year at Hawaii. UH won its first 11 games under first-year coach Bruce O’Neil, which remains a program record. Henderson had a lot of help from big man Melton Werts (13.1 ppg, 12.7 rpg), UH’s career rebounding leader (1,098). Artie Wilson, Rod Aldridge and Boyd Batts were among the regular contributors. … Late in the season, the ‘Bows split two meetings with No. 15 Creighton, taking the rematch 61-60, then also split with Memphis State, again winning the rematch, 117-85. They edged Fairfield 66-65 in an NIT first-round game at Madison Square Garden, but Henderson’s New York homecoming ended with an 85-72 second-round loss to Purdue — a team they beat for the Rainbow Classic championship a few months earlier. Although Henderson was gone to the NBA, the future looked bright for UH with incoming freshman Reggie Carter. But that was before the NCAA investigation that led to sanctions of O’Neil’s program and set the program back for more than a decade.
Roster: Aldridge, Batts, Keith Bowman, Daryl Davis, Vern Gibson, Henderson, Steve McGee, Marv Vitatoe, Werts, Skip Williams, Wilson.

Brian McInnis and Dave Reardon assembled the season summaries. Curtis Murayama designed the 100th season bracket.


  1. A-House March 19, 2020 1:07 pm

    only football news I saw was the QB about 3 days ago — beyond that, NADDAH!

    will presume the strength coordinator is working the players

    nothing on when Spring training will begin

  2. A-House March 19, 2020 1:15 pm

    with the 2020 schedule out — interesting UH will play New Mexico twice this season and both will be at Aloha Stadium

    hoping COVID-19 does not curtail or cancel football season

    China says no new case reported on 3/18 2020, but can we believe them? that would be really nice if true!

    rain, rain, rain — ” listen to the rhythm of the falling rain ” ——————-

  3. Matt March 19, 2020 1:57 pm


    Next year’s schedule has Hawaii facing New Mexico State twice, one on the road, and one at home, which is a strange schedule for Matlin to put up because normally, college football has never done something like this before. I don’t know how to approach this because this is an awkward way for our football program to plan the same non-conference opponent twice. It probably could be smoother if another Pac-12 opponent was on the schedule instead of NMSU, and we’d be putting up a tough schedule. Only 2 Pac-12 foes? This is strange to see.

    (And for the record, UNM and NMSU are different, despite being in the same state. Plus too, NMSU is an independent while UNM is a conference foe.)

  4. rage March 20, 2020 8:34 am

    I remember seeing Tony Maroney on campus with his girlfriend that looked like she was 3 feet tall. The size difference was unbelievable.

  5. njacinto March 20, 2020 3:06 pm

    That 1994 team was one of my favorites! Ran the table in the WAC tournament and beat two 20-win teams… first the #1 seed New Mexico (who would make it to the NCAA’s as an at-large) and BYU in the WAC Finals. UH was physical enough (with Tony Maroney, Ricketts, Bonner and John Molle Jr.) to keep up with the WAC big boys and the 3-point shooting of Trevor Ruffin was just unbelievable. That’s your recipe to win the WAC tournament.

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