Hawaii men’s basketball: Winning culture on display as UH, Stansberry top UC Davis in 100th season celebration game

Hawaii guard Eddie Stansberry was mobbed by teammates and fans after his game-winning 3-pointer against UC Davis. / Photo by Jamm Aquino, Star-Advertiser

With the celebration of a basketball program’s 100 years of history, there naturally comes a celebration of moments. On Saturday night, the 2020 Hawaii men’s basketball team created its own moment, one that could resonate throughout the next 100 years of Hawaii basketball history.

The Rainbow Warriors (13-6, 4-1 Big West Conference) needed every second of the conference tilt against the UC Davis Aggies (8-13, 2-3), never giving up down the stretch. The ‘Bows fought back from a nine-point deficit in the final four minutes of the game, before senior forward Eddie Stansberry’s clutch 3-pointer with just 3.3 seconds left on the clock gave Hawaii the lead for good in a 76-75 thriller.

Following the game, head coach Eran Ganot attributed the late game effort and never-say-quit attitude of the team to a culture established by its players.

“We’ve been through a lot,” Ganot said. “It’s incredible. You could write a book. It’s another year we’ve had to go through a lot. But this group keeps sticking together, with the faith and conviction that there’ll be some breakthroughs. You’re talking about, on the court, off the court, in the classroom. Our program runs at a first-class rate all the way around. We compete in every area. We know one way; we’re achievers. We’ve got intelligent, special young men that will be great husbands, great fathers, great leaders. That’s the essence of a culture. People drive it, and the young guys follow suit. We’ve got a great young group.”

Members of the fabled Fabulous Five (Bob Nash, John Penebacker, Al Davis, Dwight Holiday, Jerome Freeman), who were in attendance and honored at halftime — among all-time winningest coach Riley Wallace and six decades of players present for Hawaii basketball — agreed with Ganot’s sentiment.

Said former UH head coach and Fab Five member Nash about the current outlook of the team, “We’re the only Division I, high-profile basketball team in the state. We don’t have a pro team. So our fans rally around what happens at the University of Hawaii. When University of Hawaii basketball is clicking on all cylinders and winning, this whole community gets energized. I think the fans are energized when they see what’s possible. Just a lot of thanks for (coach) Ganot for recognizing the past.

“You have a coach that thinks about the culture, and not so much about the individual play on the floor or individual seasons, but as a collective whole, looking at the past and bringing it to the future. I think Eran Ganot has started something, like the UCLA’s of the basketball world, all the storied history there. Ganot is showing Hawaii that we have a past as well, and the future looks bright if people continue to support the program.”

“It’s a community-based program. Everybody gets behind it. I think that begins with the culture. I think they have an outstanding coach that gets the best out of his players,” Penebacker added.

Davis, however, kept it real, believing that the program still has plenty of room to grow.

“They do the best they can. I think what they need to do is get into the inner-cities, and bring some players in; some mean guys. Like some of the cities we came from. I’m from Chicago, Dwight is from San Francisco, Jerome’s from Chicago, Bob’s from Connecticut, John’s from Cincinnati. Those are all hotbeds for basketball. You get down there and get some players up in here, I think that will boost the program quite a bit,” Davis said.

One member of the 2020 squad appears to adhere to Davis’s standards at least. Stansberry, who hails from Holiday’s San Francisco, proved instrumental in ensuring the 100th season celebration went smoothly, ending in a Hawaii victory. Stansberry’s game-winning 3-pointer came as part of a 23-point performance. He was joined by senior forward Zigmars Raimo, who chipped in with 14 points. Freshman guard Justin Webster, who made his first career start in place of an injured Samuta Avea, finished with nine points, including a pair of 3s in the opening frame. Junior guard Drew Buggs had 11 assists in the matchup.

Anyway, “mean guys” or not, it’s clear that something special is materializing in the way Hawaii fans have responded to the players on the team.

“Our fans can identify with these guys, because they’re here for more than a year or two. They watch them grow. It’s a special group. I think things are coming together, we’ve just got to keep going and build off it,” Ganot said. “I’m so thankful for our fanbase. I’ve always been very appreciative of the Hawaii crowd. It’s a factor. I know our guys appreciate it, and we need more of it. When you combine a special team with a special support system, you can do special things.”

The Rainbow Warriors have a chance to do something special this year. The win over the Aggies keeps the ‘Bows in a first-place tie in the Big West Conference with UC Irvine, which took down Cal Poly earlier in the day. Hawaii will return to the Stan Sheriff Center in a week’s time to take on Cal State Northridge as conference play continues.


  1. H-Man January 26, 2020 5:23 pm

    Jonathan Chen, a new blog host? Welcome.

    I was not one of the faithful. I stopped watching with less than two minutes, never thinking the Bows had a chance.

  2. Warrior Lifer January 27, 2020 10:31 am

    Awesome game for Hawaii, and on an incredibly historic celebration day no less. Any information on the extent of Avea and Da Silva’s injuries (how long they might be out for)? Helps that Hawaii only has 1 game each last week and this week so it gives them more time to rest. Hopefully they can come back against CSUN on Saturday. I think Da Silva could matchup well against Lamine Diane cause he’s the most athletic and long big we have.

  3. HawaiiMongoose January 27, 2020 12:46 pm

    Nice write-up Jonathan.

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