Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

‘Air Cuba’ wins dunk contest again

UH Men's Basketball Green vs White Scrimmage

To no one’s surprise, Aaron Valdes won the slam-dunk contest at the University of Hawai’i basketball team’s Green & White Scrimmage event on Saturday night at the Stan Sheriff Center.

It’s not that the other Warriors can’t dunk. Mike Thomas, Garrett Nevels and Isaac Fleming all threw down respectable dunks.

It’s more that the player known as “Air Cuba” has exceptional leaping ability, and it was on full display Saturday night.

“Air Cuba, he did it again,” teammate Isaac Fotu said. “Every practice he just seems to do something … he never ceases to amaze me.”

Valdes threw down three dunks, and all three were impressive. His first dunk featured a high bounce pass and a 360-degree slam; his second dunk came from a pass off the side of the backboard from point guard Quincy Smith; his third dunk featured a jump over 5-foot-9 teammate Brocke Stepteau.

Valdes, who also won the dunk contest last year, said he thought about not entering it this year, and did not practice any of the dunks.

“I didn’t really want to do it, but my teammates were all telling me (to enter), so I just pulled something out.”

(Aaron Valdes photo courtesy Brandon Flores / www.brandonfloresphotography.com)


  1. Yay, Aaron !

  2. Effortless.
    (Although we know that a lot of work over quite a bit of time went into this.)

    And Garrett Nevels has got some pretty good air too !

    We might see Sammis enter next year !
    Congrats to all the players.

  3. Wahine coach Laura said they don’t want to go to the WNIT again, they’re tired of it.

    Meaning they are aiming for something higher.

  4. UH MBB team has some guys with vert. good hops. Air Cuba of course, must be about a 44 inch plus… seems like he is not even trying , just effort less. Wonder if he could get his head at rim level, I think if he really exploded he would..
    Mike Thomas, if he had 36″+ vert, he would be head near rim. however Thomas has great length, can help block shots.
    Nevels, what an athlete. he has hops.
    Quincy too.
    Fleming, great length.
    Sammis the power hop.
    Fotu,. the Fear the Fro Tall Black Dunk. Isaac can spin, left, spin right, and go to the rim, and flush.. he has big Dr J hands.

    Even Bobbitt if healthy can dunk.
    Jovanovich, must be working on leg strength, good one handed jams.
    Jankovich, long and lengthy, he can dunk with ease..

    One thing to get up there..however too bad a great 40 ” dunk on someone with 3 guys hanging on to you, wasn’t worth 4 points. The three ball, 3 point shot the dunk neutralizer, however the dunk, the crowd energizer.

    Hey great comments, from All Of the WI regular post contributors.. Thanks to Dayton, WI, the Schmidt Ohana, private and other donors for this great site.
    And to Gib and UH MBB team for keeping several thousand, state, Mainland and around the globe, very excited for start of Basketball Season, the Men. Hope Women have great year. too.

    Fly Aaron, Airon,Air Cuba!

  5. What’s the difference between athletic and non-athletic? Aaron Valdes 40 inch verticle is definitely athletic. Non-athletic: yours truly cannot clear 6 inch in his prime. That’s why I watch basketball and not play.

  6. Air Cuba is A Natural — And Crowd-Pleaser!

    Valdés ‘Ohana hhas Much to Be Proud of here
    Great Family, Great Son, Soon-to-be-FAN Favorite @ The Stan Sheriff Center
    and Probably On-the-Road as well…

    Coach Gib ‘Projected’ that ‘Airon and MT would likely be Challenging for Starting Positions –
    For me, that’s Great News, ‘cos it likely also means:
    Worst Case – Much or Extensive Playing Time
    I Like The Crowd Getting All Pumped Up

    Winning the Dunk Contest and Summer League MOP AND KING of the Beach
    Are Testament to How Hard Aaron Works
    In a World of Unrealized “Potentials”
    Aaron is a Flying Example of Hard Work Making The MOST of Natural Abilities and Talent

    Tear Up the Big West, Aaron
    ROCK the Stan Sheriff Center
    i Expect the Nightly TV Sports will often Feature the Highlights of Aaron and This Team

    Besides the High Jump and Fine Form displayed in AV WINNING
    There are Likely Gonna be a Few Other Flushing Highlighters…
    I’m Watching for..Mike Thomas, Stefan Jankovic, Both Isaacs …Sammis

    BESIDES Winning (A Lot) Hawai’i & WI.com Fans may be Discovering New & Local Levels of
    Big-Time Basketball Watchability

    Go ‘Bows!

  7. BM reports 6-10 Rakocevic is Planning to Select his University during the Late Signing Period
    and that Hawai’i’s Post-Season Success may be a Key Factor…

    SO…Let’s GO Have LOTS of Big-Time Post-Season Success!

    AND They’ll Keep On Comin’…


    i think SIX Inches is Better than Average (Americans < 4 inches)…

    HIGH Gravity Planet…?

  8. They used to say Larry Bird couldn’t jump high, so i looked up his vertical leap, it was 28 “. But he was 6′ 9 “. Magic, 30 ” ,6′ 9″; Shaquille, 32″, even with all his weight.

    Spud Webb, 46 ” ( 5′ 7 “); M Jordan, 44” ; Dr J , 41 “. Kobe, 38 “; Lebron, D Wade, 40″ +.
    Nate Robinson, 40 + (5′ 9”) ; David Thompson, 44 to 48 “, (6′ 4″).

    Looked like the only other white player on the list was Rex Chapman,39”. The article was written in 2009.

  9. Nate Robinson, mid to high 40 “.

  10. Awesome AIR CUBA, amazing. The Valdes Ohana will be really proud, can’t wait to catch up with them in December.

    Really looking forward to some great dunks this season.

    Runbows, just read up the previous article and you asked about Dan and Ella at national Champ. Out of 30 schools, Dan’s team came 3rd and Ella’s came 6th. Ella was picked in the tournament team. Dan still have 3 years playing at top level, and also at Breakers Academy programme.


  11. Wow! Very impressive Mr. Air Cuba!

    I have to say those were some legitimate dunks that could win at any school in the country.

    Do any of you old timers recall any former UH players with this kind of dunking talent? AC Carter, Erin Galloway, Phil Lott, Andre Morgan? I don’t know if any of them did these kind of fancy dunks like Valdes.

  12. Chuck: yes Andre Morgan, Justice Sueing, Phil Lott, Vincent Smalls, AC, Troy Ostler, some guys with 35″-40″ and Erin Helicopter Galloway, he played with the Harlem Globetrotters, they posted his vert at near 50″!! Erin said his vert. actually about 44″, and very explosive..

    From Andre Morgan time, he did the between the legs, One time tried to dunk TWO Basketballs at once, one in the left hand one in the right.. Too Bad about Dre… what could have been, he is probably about 51 years old now.

    Yes, saw Phil Lott with the bounce ball off the court and dunk.. That leap over guys, like Nate Robinson, or Brocke Stepteau, by Airon, Air Cuba and even Blake Griffin leaping over that car, those are a bit risky, NOTICE how Aaron, move Brocke in close to basket by few inches, So Aaron KNEW absolutely he would not clip Brocke and both could get hurt.. Maybe, Gib, and Senque, Benjy , etc, get TWO or THREE Athletes with those verts that can play BB, would be awesome.

    However, a lot of teams, that made the NCAA tournament and even won in the past did not have great leapers, good shooters, Smart BB IQ, aggressive rebounders, took care of the ball, and just knew how to win. That is how NC State beat, Houston? Phi Slamma Jamma, they just had the two great guards, shot well, and the miracle Lob/miss and put back dunk to win for NCAA crown.

    Know in 1975 at the Aloha Classic, the college 4 team all star showcase at the HIC.. David Skywalker Thompson, jumped right over, UH’s 6’9″ Jimmie Baker, and grabbed rebound and dunked. David and Dr J, had that duel in ABA all star dunk contest in 1976… classic.

    Should be
    GREAT fun this year… Dunks, layups, lobs, and ones, great FT shooting hopefully, trifectas, by 15 out of 16 guys on this year’s roster.

    Go Warriors, Go Bows!

  13. Tonganator:

    Thankyou for update on Daniel and Ella. Imagine Daniel is growing taller each day! We WI fans, cheering on your other children too, great athletes all!

    Hope to see them on the NZ junior national teams , too. Or the NZ club BB teams.

    Shout out to NZ..Tonganator, the farthest distance, unless Stefan Jovanovich’s , and Jankovich’s, and Niko’s relatives view posts from Serbia! Or Sammis’ relatives from Chile!

    Wow, Tonganator, UH MBB still going very strong, and Ready To Rock the SSC and the B..W…C..!!

    Go The Mighty Warriors!

  14. If I was Rakocevic I would sign early cause he might not get that opportunity to sign later. Too many prospects will clog the waiting list. UH MBB will be on the radar soon. Better invest now when no one wants it.

  15. agreed, Gib and UH MBB team, just that feeling, something special… and they are doing it the right way… as One Family, One Goal, On Dream being fulfilled.

    Senque Carey now knows the challenge of getting the Athletic Bigs and smalls from Cali to East coast, North to South USA , and internationally.. selling Point? The beauty of playing in Hawaii, a mixed cosmopolitan group of Aloha people. The Fab Five loved it, and some are still here, living in paradise. And the modern group, even Spearman, love for Hawaii, brings him back.

    Think that GMoney’s scholie , The saved one from last year, and possibly another, so maybe 3, to offer.. think athletes are awaiting, the post season results and in season happenings before making decision..
    Really like to see, who are the other offers, Overseas, guys that are mature, and great students, used to being away from home, or the 3 or 4 star athletes, that finally, say NO to the P5 conferences, and say….we Want To Be Part of Something Special at UH… a annual run at NCAA tournament, and top 25 rankings.. plus, NBA, early entries, or overseas big contract early and finally and most importantly like Jawato, Spearman, Shamburger, Tavita, Brereton, Johnson, Miah, Davis Rozitis, Christian Standhardinger.. earn their College degrees.

    servante …..looks like a Potentially very , very good year for MBB hoops.. poised to make run at BWC regular and BWC tourney titles.. This Team, The are a Band of Brothers!

    Go Bows! Go The Mighty Rainbow Warriors! Imua!

  16. Galloway was explosive. I remember the time he made a great block on either a player from Indiana or Kansas when they had the great run with Alika and AC. It’s been a while and getting older but I believe it was on Paul Pierce of Kansas and everyone in the arena erupted as the ball was already high up in it’s trajectory but Galloway soared to block it. I think the game was televised too.

  17. BigFan
    That block was against Eric Chenowith from Kansas in that historic game.

  18. Big Fan

    Mahalo for the memories of that ’97/’98 season. I believe Galloway put that shot in the stands from that undefeated Kansas team on their 7’0″ center, Eric Chinowith.

    Here’s another great memory from our opening game that year against Bobby Knight’s Indiana team:


  19. I was there Backbeat!!!!

    I think I’m still hoarse from that game.

  20. Thanks for the link Backbeat and thanks warriorhaw for the correction. Along with the Fabulous 5, that group gave me the most satisfaction. What a backcourt duo that was.

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