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Warriors ready to dance in Spokane

SPOKANE, Wash. — For this University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team that has been up, over and around a long mountain range of adversity, it has always been as much about the journey as the destination.

Those two worlds have now climactically connected, as the Rainbow Warriors’ long, tumultuous but inspiring journey has brought them to the Promised Land, now identified as Spokane, Wash. — site of Friday’s 8 a.m. (Hawai’i Time) NCAA Tournament first-round game against California.

The University of Hawaii men's basketball team meets their fans at a pep rally at The Wave Island Sports Grill, Spokane, WA on March 17, 2016. Photo: Brandon Flores.

The game will be televised live nationally on TBS, and the UH players are determined to keep the journey going.

“We didn’t come here just to come,” said senior point guard Roderick Bobbitt. “We came here to win games. That’s the focus for us.”

Hawai’i (27-5) is the No. 13 seed in the South Region, while Cal (23-10) is seeded No. 4.

But the Golden Bears are well aware that the Rainbow Warriors’ story and makeup go far beyond records and statistics.

“(They’re a) talented team, with some experience,” Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said. “Talking about change, they probably went through some level of adversity with coaching changes and (other) stuff they dealt with. So they will be ready, they have seen a lot.”

In the past 17 months alone, most of the UH players have worked under three different head coaches with varying styles/personalities/philosophy, watched three key teammates (Isaac Fotu, Negus Webster-Chan and Isaac Fleming) leave the program prematurely, and weathered the storm of an NCAA investigation and eventual punishment including a 2017 postseason ban.

That’s on top of other usual obstacles like injuries, team chemistry and tough conference scheduling.

Through it all, the Rainbow Warriors endured and overcame, and eventually journeyed to this coveted destination.

“I think it’s great, I think we earned it,” junior forward Stefan Jankovic said. “We’ve been through a lot as a team, obviously, and the core group of guys, especially, all the different coaches and all the adversity. So we’re just excited, and I think we have earned it, and I think we’re going to perform well.”

The University of Hawaii men's basketball team meets their fans at a pep rally at The Wave Island Sports Grill, Spokane, WA on March 17, 2016. Photo: Brandon Flores.

With two sudden developments this week, how Cal will perform has almost become a bigger question. The Golden Bears are regarded as talented but youthful and showed flashes of brilliance this season, but on Monday assistant coach Yann Hufnagle was fired after allegations of sexual harassment against a female reporter surfaced.

The on Wednesday, starting point guard Tyrone Wallace, a senior who was averaging a team-leading 15.3 points and 4.4 assists per game, suffered a broken bone in his right hand after a freak accident at practice. Wallace has been declared as unavailable for Friday’s game and will be replaced by backup Sam Singer (3.5 ppg).

“Sam will start the game for us, and then with (freshman) Jaylen (Brown), also (sophomore) Brandon (Chauca),” Martin said of his plan. “So I think all three of those guys will be at that position. But Sam will start the game at the point. … We won games with (Wallace injured and) Sam at our point. I’m not worried at all. Sam will do a great job at the point guard position and whoever backs him up will do well as well.”

Hawai’i coach Eran Ganot cautioned against thinking Cal is any less a challenge without Wallace.

“This is a team that is far from one-dimensional and they’re very talented,” Ganot said. “This is a team that’s very well coached, they defend, they rebound, they share the ball … they’ve played without Wallace before, a five-game stretch where they performed (well).”

Ganot said total preparation — “not just X’s and O’s” — has been key the Rainbow Warriors’ success this season.

“I think that’s one of the things we have done a pretty good job of, is always preparing our guys,” Ganot said. “It’s situations, it’s environment, we always want to do a good job before we get to anything of what’s coming and here’s things to expect. … But this team, this is an experienced team. This is a battle-tested team, tournament-tested team, been on the road in neutral sites and have performed.”

Ganot and the UH players had equal praise for their fans, who showed up in force during last week’s Big West Tournament in Anaheim, Calif., and are expected to make their presence felt in Spokane Veteran’s Memorial Arena on Friday.

“I think we have some pretty amazing fans to make that trip from Hawai’i, because that flight ain’t easy,” Bobbitt said. “And especially coming up here (to Spokane), I know it’s not easy, add a couple hours to it. That support we got in the Big West Tournament, I didn’t, honestly, expect that. But it was phenomenal and it felt like we were in our arena. So to have them travel here (too), that’s huge.”

The University of Hawaii men's basketball team meets their fans at a pep rally at The Wave Island Sports Grill, Spokane, WA on March 17, 2016. Photo: Brandon Flores.

About 50 or 60 UH fans, plus the Rainbow Warriors’ band and cheerleaders, greeted the team loudly and warmly at The Wave Island Sports Grill and Sushi Bar restaurant in downtown Spokane as it arrived for dinner Thursday night.

Earlier in the day, junior wing Aaron Valdes said the fans’ journey has paralleled the players’, and then the players were greeted and cheered during a 40-minute workout on the Arena floor.

“It’s just great for us,” Valdes said. “It’s like they’re on the team with us. So when we win, it’s not just for us, it’s for them, too.”

The Rainbow Warriors will have arrived at their destination Friday, making their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 14 years. But will the journey continue?

Said Jankovic: “All of the stuff we have done already … this would be another great addition.”

(Photos courtesy Brandon Flores / www.brandonfloresphotography.com)

CLICK HERE to view more photos from the pep rally

CLICK HERE to view video of the official press conference (note that the UH players and Eran Ganot appear in the first 29 minutes of the video)

HAWAI’I VS. NO. 23 CAL
What:
NCAA Tournament First Round
Where: Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, Spokane, Washington
When: Friday, March 18, 8:00 a.m. (Hawai’i time)
TV: Live on TBS (Oceanic channels 551 and 1551 in Hawai’i)
Internet video: Live streaming on www.ncaa.com/march-madness-live/watch
Radio: Live on ESPN 1420 AM
Internet audio:Live on www.espn1420am.com

25 Comments

  1. Just win bows!!!!
    Ready for tomorrow! See everyone at the game!

  2. Wes or Dayton, I’m curious if Jack or Jakob are being flown out to Spokane?

  3. Arizona, Colorado, and USC all lost today. Only Utah saved the Pac 12. What will Friday bring? This is not the Big West so everybody in the NCAA tournament are either a champion, a ranked team, have a terrific record, or are highly rated in their conference. So, UH will have to play at a higher level and be very efficient. Ganot has learned very well. Will Cal. be more dangerous like a wounded dog, or are they already devastated. Talent wise we are overmatched, so what gives Hawaii a chance is teamwork and doing the little things. I won’t make a prediction, but I am excited to see what happens. Let’s pray!

  4. Derek,

    Our guys go much stronger in non-conference games against very good teams on big stages.

  5. No jack or jakob

  6. Wes made it there, too. Ahhh, WarriorInsider coverage at its finest. Great videos. Again, mahalo to the Schmidts.

    Tipoff in about 10 hours. Breakfast and basketball. Ought to be fun.

  7. Love the videos and the interviews with the players. Ganot speaks really well, he was great at the press conference.
    That was a great read, Bernie, thanks!

    Rod said his dad was “trying to get up here.” Sure hope you make it, Mr. Bobbitt.

    I loved Rod especially in the press conference and he said “we came here to win games”…plural…gameS. I love that attitude!

    The hardest thing about playing early will be how hard it will be to fall asleep tonight. But I guess that goes for both teams.

    Go Bows!! Guess the next posts will be after the game. Go TEAM, you’ve earned it!

  8. I believe Jack is not allowed to travel with the team due to redshirt rules. However that would not apply to Jakob. Why would they leave one eligible player behind? I heard that he has flown out on his own accord to watch the team from the crowd, assuming he could get a ticket. Seems pretty unfair to me, so much for one big happy family when one player is deliberately left out of the whole end of season celebrations. I doubt he will return next year now, not exactly the way we should be treating a freshman living thousands of miles from home

  9. wt….jakob and jack not there! team, trainers, band, cheersquad and coaches families all there and not two players. UH that is poor form – show some integrity! Go boys you deserve it, all of you even those who are not there!!!!!

  10. just looked on footage and cant see Jakob or Jack Basketball Austrlia site says he is there so maybe he is! Surely Ganot would not leave him home especially with Issac no longer with the team!

  11. OAKLAND, sure hope you make it up here. You are welcome to stay at the home I rented.
    GoBows

  12. Awesome experience for the players and fans! Excited for todays game! The Bows look ready!

    Wish Artie and Kanoa were commentating!

    Lets go Bows!!!!!!!

  13. Ok guys let it all hang out today.
    Go Warriors!!!

  14. Ok, so I can’t sleep. Been up for hours so I wrote a mama rap for the team:

    (Chant of Q Q Q continues in background throughout song)

    Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q
    Bobbitt, he da man lead us on the floor
    AV he be leapin” 10 feet off the floor
    Janks inside or out in the hoop it’s a feast
    Big Mike, say it again, Big Mike, he da BEAST!
    Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q
    Doc Sai off the bench makes the net go swoosh
    Drammeh draws the foul when he falls on his tush
    Big Stef throws a block party, in your face
    And Hawaii 5-0 lights up the place
    I say Q Q Q Q
    Who da Q Q Q Q?
    Quincy he da man we call Mr. Hustle
    He’s not the tallest, but he got the muscle
    With this TEAM the whole state’s in a love affair
    And these men with Coach Ganot are gonna slay da Bears!

    Go Bows!!!

  15. These videos are awesome. Go Bows, Bring it today.

  16. Sitting with Jack and jakob!! They came up on their own, as fans!!! What great teammates!!

  17. Unless there’s some reason, some NCAA rule that doesn’t allow Hawaii to pay for Jack and Jakob to be with the team, shame on the UH administration! If AP is there, shame shame shame. If I were a UH administrator who was invited to make the trip, I would give up my ticket to have these boys go.

  18. If the coaches are hoping to create an Australian pipeline, this is certainly not the way to do it. Leaving Jack and Jakob out of such an important event would ring alarm bells for any potential recruits that all may not be what it seems. What difference would it make to have extras on the bench?

  19. UH is better team. Cal key guys out and one major foul trouble. Cal no better than Irvine. Warriors will pull away by double digits. Warrior team so smart will run their offense to perfection. Game Over. UH wims by 10 or more. Hawaii is moving on. I think they have chance to win south. They are hot and Team First. Go Bows!!

  20. Warriors elite eight? They have everything going. Plus no fear. What is it? Maybe last time ncaa for a year.Go Bows!!

  21. JUST WIN ‘BOWS!

    UN-Like ANY Other!

  22. 77 – 66
    It’s not the end. It’s just the beginning.

    Go BOW !!!! Whooo Hooo !

  23. Warriors. Been watching all games
    They can beat all teams in field. Can warriors get to final four? My included in final bracket. Just on team most hot and smart. Warriors this year’s Wichita St. or Butler. They have 3 wins to go. Then on to Houston.Quincy leading team again. Key. He is unsung MVP for entire season. Favorite player of past 3 warrior head coaches. His legacy being part of about 75 to 77 wins.
    Go Bows!!

  24. We can beat Maryland tomorrow. We came close to beating Oklahoma early in the season but couldn’t finish. We’ve gotten better since then – we’re more mature and we know how to close out games.

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