With eight letter-winners from last year’s 16-16 team departing, Hawai’i was destined to undergo an adjustment period of sorts in their return to the Big West.
The player expected to lead the way is senior center Vander Joaquim, who averaged 14.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game last season.
But the first team All-WAC performer won’t be able to help the Warriors when practice begins in two weeks, as the school announced that he’s out for the next 4-6 weeks with a torn MCL in his right knee.
“It’s something you just deal with,” head coach Gib Arnold said to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “It’s being part of a team, guys working hard. You’ve got big bodies down there. It’s unfortunate, you never want it to happen.”
Hawai’i lost three starters from last season: guards Zane Johnson (14.0 ppg) and Jeremiah Ostrowski (4.1 ppg, 7.0 apg) and forward Joston Thomas (13.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg), not to mention key contributors Shaquille Stokes and Trevor Wiseman.
Transfers Christian Standhardinger (Nebraska) and Jace Tavita (Utah) are eligible, and will be joined by seven newcomers (not counting San Jose State transfer Keith Shamburger, who has to sit out this season) led by juniors Ozren Pavlovic and Brandon Spearman.
Joaquim, whose possession percentage (22.7%) ranked third on the team according to Ken Pomeroy’s stats, will be even more of a factor for the Warriors given his experience and skill level.
But the injury makes things difficult for Joaquim (rust factor) as well as his teammates, who lose valuable on-court practice time with a player who should be considered for preseason All-Big West honors.
In regards to games played for Hawai’i, 6-6 senior Hauns Brereton (7.7 ppg, 19.6 mpg) and junior 7-footer David Rozitis (3.1 ppg, 9.4 mpg) are the Warriors’ most experienced front court players with Joaquim out.