Not surprisingly, Hawaii sophomore Aaron Valdes defended his dunk contest title in the Rainbow Warriors’ Green & White scrimmage night festivities at the Stan Sheriff Center on Saturday.
It was the way he dominated the scrimmage itself that might have opened some eyes. Sophomore Mike Thomas was equally as impressive in that 12-minute session, stepping out confidently to hit a couple of 3-pointers.
Valdes scored 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting and grabbed four rebounds while being a general disruptive force, and Thomas scored a scrimmage high 14 points with another four boards, leading the Green team over the White, 37-24.
Roughly 1,500 people stayed after UH volleyball’s sweep of UC Irvine to see the free show. They had to wait about an hour and a half between events, so UH coach Gib Arnold gave kudos to those who stuck around.
“I don’t look at it as basketball, I look at it as a time to get together and enjoy each other’s company,” Arnold said. “So I was pleased nobody got hurt, that’s probably my No. 1 thing. I was pleased the guys had fun and it seemed like all the fans had fun too.”
Asked who impressed him during the primary scrimmage period, Arnold named Thomas and Valdes.
“Big preseason. We’re ready to go,” the freshly clean-shaven Thomas said, after sporting hair at practice Saturday morning. “Coach did a really good job of resting us at the right places, right times and everything, while pushing us really hard when it comes to conditioning and weightlifting. I think we’ll be ready for this year.”
Dinged up playersIsaac Fotu, Stefan Jankovic, Sammis Reyes and Brandon Jawato stayed out of the scrimmage, although they helped out in other areas. Jankovic and Fotu teamed up to win a bigs-vs.-guards shooting competition over Brocke Stepteau and Garrett Nevels.
The springy, 6-foot-5 Valdes handily outdid dunk competitors Nevels, Isaac Fleming and Thomas. His dunks included an off-the-side-of-the-backboard pass from Quincy Smith to a 360 jam (a repeat of the one Keith Shamburger threw him to win last year), and a stuff while leaping over the 5-foot-9 freshman Stepteau.
“It was all last second. I didn’t really prepare for any dunks this year. But I pulled something out at the end, so it was good. … I was joking around with (Stepteau) earlier, telling him I was going to jump over him. … But I had to see how my legs felt after practice. And, after doing it off the side of the backboard, I just told Brocke, ‘let’s do it.’ So it was fun.”
During the evening, Arnold announced his team captains as the junior forward Fotu, the junior point guard Smith and senior guard Nevels.
“Just to get out there and play 5-on-5 on the Stan Sheriff court, it was real fun,” Smith said. “I thought about (entering the dunk contest) but you know, I’m getting up there in age. I’m a veteran now, and I’m just an assistant. I threw the lob to Aaron to (help) win, so … we won.”
At least one of the newcomers, Reyes, had a good time.
“I thought it was a great environment,” Reyes said. “I really liked the vibe, the enthusiasm. Everyone played hard and had some fun.”
UH plays an exhibition against Hawaii Pacific on Nov. 6 and opens the regular season against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 14.