Warriors will make Big West debut this weekend
Ready or not, the Hawai’i basketball team will make its debut in the Big West Conference this weekend.
The Warriors will host Cal State Northridge on Saturday at the Stan Sheriff Center. The game will start around 7:30 p.m., following a UH women’s basketball game at 5 p.m.
The Warriors went 6-5 in their non-conference games in November and December.
“That whole preseason time gets you prepared to go into conference play,” head coach Gib Arnold said. “I think we were able to do that. The one thing we wanted to do was get Vander (Joaquim) back healthy and in shape and get through the preseason without him obviously hurting that knee anymore, and I think we’ve accomplished that.”
Joaquim, a 6-foot-10 senior center, was unable to start the first two games of this season (although he did play limited minutes) due to an injured right knee. He declared himself “100 percent” this week, and his last two games may prove it, as he recorded 52 points and 24 rebounds.
Joaquim leads the team in scoring at 15.8 points per game, and rebounding at 8.1 per game.
“We’re ready,” Joaquim said. “The coaching staff, they did a good job preparing us for the games, and we just can’t wait to go out there.”
Junior forward Christian Standhardinger is right behind Joaquim in both scoring (15.5) and rebounding (7.8). Interestingly, Standhardinger is the only Hawai’i player to start every game this season.
Arnold has mixed the starting lineup and rotation of players throughout the non-conference season. Part of it is because the coaches are trying to find the best matchups for each opponent. But it also has to do with an active roster that features five freshmen.
“We made it an emphasis, especially through the Diamond Head (Classic), to get them more minutes,” Arnold said of his freshmen. “We’re going to need them once we start getting to those Thursday-Saturday games. We’re going to need more depth and we’re going to need their outside shooting.”
As a result, nine of the 12 players on the active roster have started at least one game already this season, and all 12 players have scored points.
“Every guy has got a time this year where I think they played really well,” Arnold said. “Hopefully that’s a confidence builder, where you can always refer back to ‘hey, do you remember when you did this?’ ”
For freshman point guard Manroop Clair, that moment came this week, when he started his first two games of the season and responded with 21 points and six assists while playing an average of 33 minutes in each game. Prior to those two games, he was averaging 1.7 points and around seven minutes per game.
“It was definitely big,” Clair said of his opportunity to watch and learn earlier in the season. “It helped a lot, learning from Jace (Tavita) and Garrett (Jefferson), even Keith (Shamburger). All those guys helped me, and their still helping me.”
Arnold said he will continue to mix the lineups, based mostly on the opposing teams, and now he feels confident that he can call on any of the Warriors at any time.
“That’s the great part about this team,” Clair said. “We have so much depth, we can play anyone at any time.”
Fellow freshman Isaac Fotu added: “I think that’s why we’re going to be so good. Anyone on our team could have a night where they have 20 (points). It will be hard for teams to scout us.”
Then again, the other teams in the Big West appear tough to scout as well, as many of the teams have had up-and-down showings in November and December. Only three of the 10 teams in the conference currently have winning records: Cal State Northridge (9-3), Cal State Fullerton (6-5) and Hawaii (6-5).
Arnold, however, is aware that there are several solid teams in the Big West this season. He noted that Long Beach State is awaiting the addition of three NCAA Division I transfers this week, and that Cal State Fullerton has “the best backcourt” in the conference, and that Pacific and UC Irvine have experienced rosters.
“I think it’s going to be a battle every night,” he said. “I don’t see anybody going in there and blowing anybody away or anything like that. I think we’re going to have to come to play every night.”
Game Information: Hawai’i vs. Cal State Northridge
When: Saturday, December 29, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center (10,300) – Honolulu, HI
Television: Live statewide on OCSports – Channels 16 (SD) and 1016 (HD).
Streaming Video: Live video streaming is available on ocsports.tv.
Radio: ESPN 1420 AM will carry the game live. Neighbor islands can listen live on KNUI on Maui, KHLO in Hilo, KKON in Kona, and KTOH on Kaua’i.
Audio Webcast: Live audio streaming on espn1420am.com
Live Stats: Live in-game stats are available at HawaiiAthletics.com
Ticket Information: $26 (lower); $18 (upper-adult); $16 (upper-sr. citizen); $5 (upper-youth, ages 4-HS); UH Manoa students free with validated ID. Parking $6. Fans with a men’s ticket will be admitted free to the preceding women’s basketball tournament games. Special upper level ticket rates will be also be available on from two hours prior to the start of the women’s basketball game until halftime of the women’s game.
Promotions: Pepsi is the game sponsor and will award a years supply of Pepsi products at halftime.