“Water polo All-American” joins Hawaii hoops team

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Nobody really knows what to expect from Hawaii basketball this season. The Warriors are joining the suddenly loaded Big West while still struggling to build a contender under third-year head coach Gib Arnold. The team has a solid inside presence, with senior center Vander Joaquim suiting up beside Nebraska transfer Christian Standhardinger, but the rest of the untested lineup is very much in doubt.

One last-minute addition to the team should draw attention. Two-sport star Aaron Valdes filed his paperwork to join the Hawaii program this week, getting in just under the wire for this season. Usually when we think of a two-sport star, we’re conditioned to imagine a basketball/football or basketball/baseball hybrid, maybe even hoops/track and field. To my knowledge, Valdes is the first DI player to be lured onto the hardcourt from the swimming pool.

He comes from a water polo family,” Arnold told the Honolulu Star-Adversiter. “His brothers played, and his dad was a coach. As he grew older he began spending more and more time on the court rather than in the pool. Even though he was a water polo All-American, he fell in love with basketball.”

Valdes is 6’5″, and his time in the pool will likely give him an early edge in conditioning. He’s already impressed his new teammates with his bounce, showing off a 38-inch vertical and a nose for the ball in early workouts.

“I like to drive and dunk, get open, get my teammates open and facilitate a lot,” Valdes told Warrior Insider. “I just like the team concept.”

If Arnold is able to make the Warriors a contender alongside current and future Big West members like SDSU, Boise State and The Beach, it will be in part because of his ability to find and develop overlooked players like Valdes. Check out Valdes’ version of a mixtape.

(photo: Warrior Insider)

Big South moving 2016 conference tournament

Cliff Ellis
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The Big South is moving its 2016 men’s basketball tournament out of Coastal Carolina and a new site will be figured out by November. According to a release from the conference the Big South is using a league bylaw that stipulates that members leaving with less than two years of notice are not eligible to host championships. Coastal Carolina announced this summer that it would be leaving for the Sun Belt as of July 2016, so the Big South wants to find a new location that benefits teams staying in the league.

The Big South men’s and women’s conference tournaments are now also going to be split into two unique events, with the men’s championships being held Thursday-Sunday, March 3-6. The women’s event comes the next week from March 10-13. Bids for both events will come into the league and a new location will be selected in the next few months.

It will be interesting to see if the site of the conference tournament is moved to a campus site or placed at a neutral venue. That type of thing could alter how the NCAA tournament autobid gets played out. With Coastal Carolina coming off of back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, this obviously changes their approach to the postseason now that they have to leave their city.

Virginia Tech could redshirt sophomore guard

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Virginia Tech is trying to decide what to do with injury sophomore guard Ahmed Hill, who had surgery this summer to deal with a tear in his patella tendon in his left knee.

The 6-foot-5 Hill has still not been released to work out with the team, but he is about a week to 10 days ahead of schedule in his rehab. But the injury is still nagging enough that Hill might not be healthy enough to really contritbute this season. Head coach Buzz Williams is deciding soon whether he wants to redshirt Hill or not.

Hill started a team-high 30 games for the Hokies last season, averaging 8.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.

“I don’t have a decision on (Hill),” Williams said to reporters on Monday. “I will make the final decision. I’ll let (him) and his mom be a part of it, but I want to make a decision using the wisdom of doing this for a long period of time. If you let a kid make the decision, they always want to play.

“Right now, I don’t feel comfortable that I would want to play him. It’s just too early to be able to have much more of an answer than that.”

It’s still a rebuilding year for Virginia Tech, but they do get Maryland transfer Seth Allen, who is a talented guard who can score. The Hokies were hoping to have Hill and Allen as complimentary perimeter scorers, but now the plans might have to be altered. Williams went on to say that he would like to make a decision on Hill’s status by Halloween.