Hawaii

Russell Turner, Will Davis II

2013-2014 Big West Conference Preview: Long Beach St., UC Irvine among the contenders

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source:
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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

With defending WCC tournament champion Pacific now in the WCC, the conference will have a new representative in the NCAA tournament. Which teams have the best shot of earning that bid? Start with UC Irvine, thanks to the return of guard Alex Young and forwards Will Davis II and Chris McNealy. UC Irvine also adds a transfer in guard Dominique Dunning and 7-5 center Mamadou Ndiaye, the tallest player in college basketball. However head coach Russell Turner does have to account for the graduation of key contributors Adam Folker, Daman Starring and Michael Wilder, so by no means is UC Irvine the clear favorite to win the Big West.

Despite losing four of their top six scorers from a season ago Long Beach State will once again be in the mix, with point guard Mike Caffey leading the way. Head coach Dan Monson added five junior college transfers to the mix, and UCLA transfer Tyler Lamb will be eligible to take the floor in December. UC Davis, Hawai’i, Cal Poly and UCSB should also be contenders this season.

UC Davis head coach Jim Les welcomes back the Big West scoring champion, junior guard Corey Hawkins, and three other starters who helped the Aggies improve their win total by nine games. Hawai’i loses center Vander Joaquim but forwards Isaac Fotu (shared Big West Freshman of the Year honors with Alex Young) and Christian Standhardinger return, and there’s optimism regarding the addition of San Jose State transfer Keith Shamburger.

Cal Poly and UCSB can both claim to have one of the league’s best forwards, with Chris Eversley leading the way for Cal Poly while Alan Williams controls the paint for the Gauchos. Joe Callero’s Mustangs have won 14 straight games at home, and they’ve led the conference in scoring defense in each of the last three seasons. As for Bob Williams’ UCSB squad, Alan Williams returns and sophomores Michael Bryson and Taran Brown will look to take the next step after proving to be valuable pieces as freshmen.

Long Beach State could very well manage to win the Big West for a fourth consecutive season, but the list of challengers may be the strongest they’ve faced during this current run of success.

REALIGNMENT MOVES

In: None
Out: Pacific (WCC)

source:
AP

PRESEASON BIG WEST PLAYER OF THE YEAR: G Corey Hawkins (UC Davis)

Hawkins averaged 20.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per contest in his first season as an Aggie, including a 41-point explosion in a win at Hawai’i. With a year in Jim Les’ system under his belt, look for Hawkins to emerge as the best player in the Big West.

FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW:

  • G Mike Caffey (Long Beach State): With leading scorer James Ennis out of eligibility Caffey (12.0 ppg, 3.8 apg in 2012-13) may be asked to score more this season.
  • F Chris Eversley (Cal Poly): Eversley (15.4, 7.0) posted seven double-doubles last season, including a 30-point, 14-rebound performance in a win over Cal-State Northridge in late-January.
  • F Christian Standhardinger (Hawai’i): In his first season at UH the former Nebraska forward posted averages of 15.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
  • F Alan Williams (UCSB): With averages of 17.1 points and 10.7 rebounds per game last season, an argument can be made that Williams is the Big West’s best returnee.

PREDICTED FINISH
1. UC Irvine
2. Long Beach State
3. UC Davis
4. Hawai’i
5. Cal Poly
6. UC Santa Barbara
7. Cal State Fullerton
8. Cal State Northridge
9. UC Riverside

Hawai’i takes to the water for its offseason workouts (VIDEO)

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With the offseason being what it is, the usual training regimen college basketball players go through has the potential to become stale at some point in the summer. To combat this many programs will switch things up, with the goal not only being to reinvigorate the players but to also force them to adjust to changes on the fly.

Given the school’s location, the Hawai’i men’s basketball program has the ability to take full advantage of the ocean waters during the offseason. According to Dayton Moringa of Warrior Insider the team added canoe paddling on Waikiki Beach to its weekly sessions. After spending the majority of their beach workouts on land, the team took to the sea for some upper-body training and a little competition as well.

Once the players got a feel for paddling in the canoe, they participated in half-mile races against each other. The crew of [Missouri transfer Negus] Webster-Chan, Dyrbe Enos, Niko Filipovich and assistant coach Fisher emerged as the top canoe on this day.

“We went hard,” Webster-Chan said. “Picked the shortest guys, strongest guys on the team. Everybody was talking to us, we were the silent assassins.”

The paddling workout certainly has its physical benefits, but the coaching staff made sure to use the opportunity to also educate the players on the history of the islands they now represent. And with just one native Hawaiian on the current roster (Enos, who hails from O’ahu), such lessons can help strengthen the bond between the team and its fan base.

“I think it’s important when these guys come out here from different places, whether it be Toronto, Canada, or Munich, Germany, that they learn a little bit about the culture and history here of the island,” assistant coach Scott Fisher said. “We thought we could combine both some athletic events with the history and, of course, outrigger canoeing is a big part of what we do here in Hawai’i.”

The Warriors will have to account for the departures of center Vander Joaquim (13.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg), forward Hauns Brereton (10.0, 3.7) and guard Jace Tavita (5.7 apg) as they begin their second season in the Big West, but head coach Gib Arnold does have the pieces needed to once again factor into the league race.

Forwards Isaac Fotu (10.1, 6.2) and Christian Standhardinger (15.8, 7.9) combine to form one of the Big West’s best front court tandems, and guard Brandon Spearman averaged 9.6 points per game last season. Add in San Jose State transfer Keith Shamburger (12.7 ppg, 3.7 apg in two seasons at SJSU) and six other newcomers (Webster-Chan will help them in practice since he has to sit per NCAA transfer rules), and if the chemistry is there the Warriors can at the very least be a contender.

Hawaii calls it quits in Valdes eligibility drama

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Plenty of schools are waiting on eligibility rulings for important players, with UCLA and Shabazz Muhammad at the top of the list. In general, the plan is just to hunker down and wait for the phone to ring, hoping the caller ID shows an Indianapolis area code, and that the voice on the other end of the line has good news.

In Hawaii, that call would likely come at 6 am local time, so Gib Arnold has made certain his sleep won’t be interrupted by Mark Emmert’s investigators this season. He’s been waiting for final word on the eligibility of water polo-stud-turned-basketball-recruit Aaron Valdes. Weary of waiting, Arnold and the school have taken matters into their own hands. They’ll redshirt Valdes this season in hopes that the former La Jolla Waves star athlete will have four full years of eligibility left for the future.

Brian McInnis of the Hawaii hoops-centric blog Court Sense gives the skinny:

Well, the harrowing eligibility tale of Aaron Valdes seems to have met some resolution. UH coachGib Arnold said after practice on Thursday that the freshman wing will redshirt this season, regardless of any possible last-second 180 by the NCAA on his eligibility for the 2012-13 season.

The hope for UH is, after staying in the academic system for a full year, he will be eligible next season without having expended a year of eligibility.

This all might sound disappointing for UH fans, but keep in mind Valdes was a strong redshirt candidate regardless of the NCAA’s call; this just means he still likely will be unable to practice with the team in the meantime.

The fact that he put on a pretty entertaining show in the Ohana Hoopfest dunk contest (a runner-up finish to Garrett Jefferson) probably makes it a little tougher to swallow.

In the comments section to the article, a reader asked a valid question: “Brian, Am I reading your post correctly? Valdez to red-shirt but can not practice with the team?? I’m confused as to why that is.” McInnis replied: “Yes, the plan is to redshirt him academically so his freshman year isn’t burned. At the same time, the NCAA hasn’t cleared him as a member of the team so he’ll have to continue to sit out practices as well as games.  It’s a confusing and strange situation, I’ll admit.”

An amazing natural athlete, Valdes could have been a big help to the Warriors this season, but he needs some time to get his house in order academically. If he can get cleared by the NCAA to start practicing with the team again, he’ll have a chance to get his land-legs under him on the court as well. That’s the best-case scenario, and it was wise of the UH administration to cut bait in the short run.

(photo: La Jolla Prep Athletics)

Standhardinger battling staph infection

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As sports injuries go, there are only a few that really make me cringe.

The first would be the common problem of a “sharp blow to the midsection,” as broadcasters euphemistically refer to a thunk in the junk.

I’m not sure where the completely non-euphemistic staph infection would fall, but it’s way up there. We’ve all been in some grody locker rooms before, and the notion that some of those teeming bacteria can get into a small cut and start a flesh-eating Mardi Gras celebration is, in a word, horrifying. We’ve heard about it quite a bit in football circles, but the newest Big West member is facing the issue as well.

Christian Standhardinger, the former Nebraska forward who transferred to the islands and is looking forward to a return to the court after sitting out a season, may have to wait a little longer, according to the Court Sense blog.

Christian Standhardinger arrived halfway through the session in street clothes and his right elbow taped up thoroughly. The junior forward will miss an estimated two weeks with a staph infection, which will take him up right around the Nov. 9 season opener. In other words, he’s now in the same boat as Vander Joaquim.

Standhardinger’s elbow swelled up pretty good over the weekend since he first noticed an inflamed area on Friday, and he visited a hospital Monday to have it treated.

“This is bad luck. I was here the whole preseason and summer league, and I never missed a practice,” the Nebraska transfer said. “Now I’m out until close to the season (start). A little bit unfortunate. But you just gotta play the cards you (are dealt) as good as possible. Trying to be back as soon as possible.”

He said he will try to learn the team’s implemented schemes in the meantime, and work on his left hand if he is allowed.

With both Joaquim and Standhardinger on the shelf, the Warriors start the season pretty thin up front. They’ve traded in a couple of all-league candidates for unproven players like the slender Ozren Pavlovic and 6’6″ senior Hauns Brereton.

Warriors are producing wins on the cheap

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I had always assumed that the University of Hawaii sports budget was hemorrhaging money. The sheer burden of having to fly over 2,000 miles just to make landfall in California seems like a handicap that would be near impossible to overcome. Then consider that, at times, the Warriors had to trek inland as far as Tulsa in past WAC seasons and the whole thing sounds exhausting and dreadfully expensive.

Nonetheless, according to the Pacific Business Journal, Hawaii’s basketball program spent just $2 million last season, ending with a very respectable 19-13 record.

That doesn’t mean the program’s in the black — revenues were just $1.5 million — but realignment may very well boost that return on investment to at least the break-even mark. As the newest members of the Big West, the Warriors won’t have to schedule any in-conference road trips outside of Cali. Boise State will wreck that geographical footprint a bit, but it seems obvious that the travel budget can be slimmed down a bit even then.

A look at some of the presumptive savings, from a 2010 article in the Long Beach Daily 49er:

Hawaii athletic director Jim Donovan said the school could save “as much as a quarter-million dollars” with the move.

“What we had to look at was the opportunity cost of staying in the WAC as it geographically moved further and further to the Central Time Zone,” Donovan said. “That would have meant additional costs for us, more time away for our student-athletes, which would impact them academically. So, certainly, we’ll have cost savings playing the Big West as compared to the WAC.

“We couldn’t afford not to do it.”

It’s not like the level of competition will suffer much, either. With our No. 11 San Diego Aztecs making the Big West move next season as well. Between the WCC and the Big West, the Pac-12 is going to have some serious competition for the marquee late-night TV slots a year from now.