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A Rainbow Warrior reunion

There is an elite short list of former University of Hawai’i basketball players who can speak of experiences at the NCAA Tournament.

Several of them got together recently at an informal reunion of players from the 1999-2003 seasons. The last time a UH basketball team earned its way to the “Big Dance” was during back-to-back appearances in the 2001 and 2002 NCAA Tournaments.

Members from those teams who attended the reunion were Mindaugas Burneika, Todd Fields, Ryne Holliday, Phil Martin and Nerijus Puida. Players from previous years attending the reunion included Johnny White and Geremy Robinson.

“We just came from a really good era,” said Martin, a four-year starting forward for the Warriors. “We had a great team, a great bond. We had people from all over the world – I think we had about seven nations involved – and we accomplished great things.”

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Martin and dynamic teammate Carl English were from Canada; Burneika and Puida came from Lithuania; leading scorer Predrag Savovic was from Montenegro; there were also players from Serbia, South Africa, Israel, France, Nigeria, and seven different states within the U.S. (California, Hawai’i, Illinois, New York, Texas, Utah and Washington).

“I talk to Savovic and I talk to Carl English and they say this was the best team that they played on, and they’re still playing basketball,” Puida said. “To win you have to have chemistry on and off the court. If you don’t have chemistry off the court, you’re not going to win the game. Something clicks in the season or before the season. Our team was special.”

Looking around the room at his former teammates, Puida added: “This is the best proof of it. We have eight or nine guys here after 15 years who want to meet and talk the stories … just remember the good days. That’s what makes the team special.”

Puida, who was a senior captain on the 2000-01 team, added that the UH teams of his era would often plan preseason outings and team meals. “We went to the movies together, we had parties together … it takes you to the next level and you communicate better on the court,” he said. “You have to like each other. If you don’t, you’re not going to go far.”

Current UH head coach Eran Ganot attended the reunion, and he made sure to take note of some of the stories shared by the former Warriors.

“It takes this stuff,” said Fields, pointing to teammates at the reunion. “It takes a bunch of people that care about each other and love each other that work well together. At the same time, a little bit of luck needs to come in there … I really believe we all came from different places and we jelled here because we had no choice to.”

Puida’s advice to the current team: “Play for each other. It’s not about stats, it’s not about who scores the most points. You have to stick to together and try to win it all for each other.”

Ganot said he is encouraging all former UH players to contact the UH basketball office at 956-6501 so that a list of alumni players can be created for future events.

13 Comments

  1. Team not thin guys
    Strong bruddahs, rebounders, assists, good percentage shooter, and got key breaks to make 2 ncaa dances in a row..
    Plus confidence, good students and people

    No wonder might be 15 years since last ncaa invite

    I AM SAVO..
    What happened to Bob Nash?
    Hurt by same power UH political hijinks

  2. See…. Nerijus Puida, he did follow Benjy and the Bows last year.. said they showed a lot of character, lot of talent, was a shame, they came so close, to getting that NCAA invite.. Nice high class gesture, Nerijus.. thankyou.. last year team, under those circumstances.. unlike what Savo/ English teams went through.. however they WERE WARRIORS.. true Rainbows !

    And WHAT is the Deal with THE OFFICE? Nerijus wants to get closer to program, help out, or maybe talk to them,.. encourage.. And must Be that UH admin again.. don’t want outsiders. getting involved with Eran’s team.. and Dayton, you say Eran taking notes..

    Eran, should acknowledge, All MBB teams past and the athletes. from early days.. till last year Benjy and the Bows..maybe Eran wants too.. However UP to The Office..
    Still don’t know if UH admin and counsel know what the heck they are doing..
    puts a Pall over a very good team and program, the past 5 years..

  3. And HOW COME ERAN never interviewed on video camera by Dayton? Gag order from the UH office? yep.. must be..
    Family, Ohana.. they had it last year.. tough dudes.. tough love.. they were tough and rough team.. almost got to the Big Dance..

  4. Uhf1, these players that you love were on Riley’s teams. Eran is connected to Riley, though he came later to the program.
    Dayton did have an on camera interview with Eran on August 27.

  5. Wow, great memories of those years. I remember these guys could all shoot and that’s how they took us to the Dance!

    Maybe Nerijus can be the new assistant coach? He sounds like he got good ideas and he was always a hard worker.

  6. Yes, what a wonderful idea!

    Mr. Puida please apply right away (perfect timing).

    And Mrs. Puida can be a volunteer coach, too.

    Both of you will boost the WBB EURO recruiting.

  7. Puida, a senior wing player, started every game for the Rainbows since transferring — with wife and Wahine basketball player Dainora Puida — two years ago. He is the first basketball player to earn the men’s honor since Jarinn Akana in 1994, and only the second overall.

    Puida earned WAC All-Academic honors both years and was a District 7 Academic All-American this season. He holds a 3.8 GPA in international business and marketing and plans to graduate next May.

    Not bad for a guy who knew “zero English” four years ago

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Just a little FYI:

    Right after posted my last comment –
    my memory pops up on me, steer me to think that Mrs. Puida was a WBB player for the same period…

    A search on Wahine BB history provided the above quote!

  8. Neva mine the guys, whos the cutie in da front ! if you smellllll…..what the Rock…..is Cookin!!

  9. Any news on the recruits that visited this past weekend? I know that two PGs were offered.

  10. SG Darryl McDowell-White,6-0, has removed UH from his list. PF Isiaha Mike, 6-7, 200 commits to Duquesne, per verbal commits. JC SF Alize Johnson, 6-7, JC, commits to Missouri State.

    They were listed as having offers from UH.

  11. Bryce Canda released from his letter of intent by UH, per verbal commits, 9-21-15.

  12. Offers to PG 6-2 Drew Buggs and PG 6-0 Matt Owies, Australia, as noted by Kamiloa.

  13. Hey servante .. islandman, jjay, Derek, Baller4life, warriorhaw, n2joy, Tonganator, Bigdaddy, clyde..

    Dayton has probably the most user and Fan Friendly site for All things MBB, due respect to Laura, love that gal,, however how UH MBB does.. that is the engine that drives BB interest at UH and in the state.. hope BOTH WBB and MBB finally make it to NCAA dance in March after years of hiatus. status.

    Sorry, I cannot remember All the fine posts.. comments. and bloggers.. you all are great. we battle, diverse opinions.. and We Want best for UH .. UH had to be pono. and the pride of Hawaii.. hope they can still have NCAA DI athletics in 5 years and more..
    And UH MBB can return to glory run… I guess the best run was the Fab Five 2 year NIT/ NCAA, The Riley years.. back to back NIT’s and NCAA runs..And the AC days 2 years great NIT appearances..

    Gotta get back to real world… soon.. turn to the Really Good Book, examine it, study it, and apply what it says.. soon.. conditions quite challenging, however There IS A WAY out.. to a better new world..

    Uhfanzonly1… Yes, wait until NCAA dance with WBB and MBB.. if any comments.. however. will let Eran new era, and beyond.. get on that glory train..

    Mahalo Plenty Dayton and The Schmidt Ohana.. Wow.. going on 6 years. of comments and posts. quite the ride.. and thanks for letting us post..

    go Warriors and Go Bows..
    Pau.. nuff said.
    Aloha…Tonganator say hello to the family too !!

    🙂

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