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Warriors shift into “Conference Mode”

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About halfway through this rebuilding University of Hawai’i men’s basketball season, many things have been revealed but more questions still remain.

But ready or not, the Big West season is upon the Warriors, who officially shifted into “Conference Mode” starting with a late afternoon practice last Saturday at the Stan Sheriff Center.

UH (6-7) opens league play on the road this week, at Cal State Fullerton on Thursday and UC Irvine on Saturday.

Warriors coach Eran Ganot acknowledges learning a lot about his inexperienced team during the various tournaments and non-league games since the Nov. 11 opener vs. Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, but says the Big West season can be a different animal.

“Although there’s some great games in non-conference, the intensity goes up a lot (in league play), the physicality …,” Ganot said. “It’s what you live for. It’s a great challenge, you gotta embrace it. There’s more travel, the quick turnarounds with the Thursday-Saturday games.

“It’s a great challenge, something we all should be very much looking forward to.”

One Warrior in particular who is looking forward to this road trip is freshman guard Leland Green, a 2016 graduate of Redondo Union High School — roughly an hour’s drive from Fullerton and Irvine.

“My mom was going to come down (to Hawai’i), but I told her not to come because I was going to be out there soon — save money,” Green said. “I’m definitely excited to go back home and see friends and family.”

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Green said the fact that the Big West road trips are all in California is a big reason he chose to sign with UH.

“That was definitely in my decision – me being able to go home and see my family three or four times (a year),” Green said. “I’m pretty excited for that, and my family and friends are pretty excited, too.”

Ganot said the Warriors appreciated the support they received on the Big West road last season.

“Noticeable for us, too, when we were on the road, we had a pretty strong Hawai’i contingency — whether it was just Hawai’i fans or family of our guys,” Ganot said. “It’s a big difference (from the Western Athletic Conference). I’m someone who’s been an assistant here when we were in the WAC, and all those trips were two flights and a bus ride and not really near where some of our recruiting targets were.

“But now you got the move to the Big West … (it) made travel about as good as it could be, where we’ve got one flight, one straight shot, in an area where we’ll recruit hard with the proximity being on the West Coast. It’s also nice to sell to those recruits that your families get to see you a lot.”

Green said he will try seek a balance between family time and focusing on game preparation.

“I talked to Mike (Thomas) a little bit, since he’s been on the team for about four years, to see how he kind of balanced things,” Green said. “I’ll just try to do my best with that. Definitely it’s big test for us. We just need to stick together as a group, and go out there and play as hard as we can.”

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Senior wing Noah Allen, who played three years at UCLA before transferring to UH last summer, said he’s also looking forward to the road trip but not necessarily because it’s in Southern California.

“I’m just happy to get to play, I think it’ll be a good experience for us,” Allen said. “It comes down to execution, because there’s not going to be any surprises. The coaching staffs, they work really hard to prepare the teams, so everybody knows everybody’s plays and it just comes down to execution, and who wants it more.”

For the Warriors, one advantage to this year’s conference schedule is that the opening road trip happens during Winter Break, and is followed by a five-game homestand through Jan. 28.

“It’s always nice during the year when you can hone in on basketball, the balance is important — these guys are student-athletes,” Ganot said. “We’re really pleased with the way they performed in the classroom — they finished up strong academically, with final exams. That’s a lot that’s being thrown at them, whether they’re newcomers or older guys that are new to this school. So this (winter break) has been the first time where we can really focus and clean up some things on the floor.

“We’re not going to miss class, at least the first week we’re on the road. And then when classes start, we’ll be here, so it’ll be good to get off to a good start academically with the next semester.”

The Warriors were scheduled to practice Monday and Tuesday, then leave on an afternoon flight arriving in Los Angeles late Tuesday night.

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Here is a capsule look at the other eight Big West teams

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• CAL POLY

Current record: 5-9

Head Coach: Joe Callero (105-128, 8th season at CP)

Players to watch: Kyle Toth (6-2, Sr., G) is averaging 11.3 points and 2.7 rebounds per game, and leads the team with 37 3-pointers and a .468 percentage from 3-point range. He is the only player on the active roster averaging double-figure points. Victor Joseph (6-0, Jr., G) is averaging 9.9 points per game as the first guard off the bench, and is second on the team with 24 3-pointers. Luke Meikle (6-9, Jr., F) is averaging 9.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Ridge Shipley (6-0, Sr., G) is averaging 8.4 points and 3.0 assists per game.

Team notes: The Mustangs are 4-0 at home, and 1-0 away, with the only road victory coming at Northern Illinois (68-64) on November 23. Cal Poly enters conference play with a five-game losing streak (all on the road, including at Cal and at Washington). The Mustangs have already lost two starters for the season. junior forward Josh Martin suffered a season-ending foot injury in late-November. He started the first five games of this season and averaged 10.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Sophomore point guard Jaylen Shead, who started the first nine games of the season, opted for a mid-year transfer out of Cal Poly just two weeks ago.

• CAL STATE FULLERTON

Current record: 6-7

Head Coach: Dedrique Taylor (36-69, 4th season at CSUF)

Players to watch: Tre’ Coggins (6-3, Sr., G) is averaging 20.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, and has made 41 3-pointers in 12 games played this season. He leads the Big West in scoring average and 3-pointers per game. Khalil Ahmad (6-4, So., G) is averaging 16.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per game since becoming eligible on December 22. He missed the first 11 games of this season due to academic reasons. Lionheart Leslie (5-10, Sr., G) is averaging 11.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Jackson Rowe (6-7, Fr., F) is averaging 10.0 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, and leads the team with a .597 field goal percentage.

Team notes: The Titans are 6-1 at home and 0-6 away. The only home loss was against Omaha (83-73) on November 30. Among their road losses are at Washington and at UNLV. Among their D-I home victories are Portland, Portland State and Pacific. The Titans are the top rebounding team in non-conference games, averaging 39.8 per game. Fullerton has finished in last place in the Big West in each of the last two seasons with a combined record of 4-28 in that span. Fullerton is averaging just 585 fans per home game this season.

• CSUN

Current record: 4-9

Head Coach: Reggie Theus (40-71, 4th season at CSUN)

Players to watch: Kendall Smith (6-3, Jr., G) is averaging 15.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, and also lead the Big West with 4.5 assists per game. He is the younger brother of former Hawai’i guard Quincy Smith. Tavrion Dawson (6-8, Jr., F) is averaging 14.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game and has a .584 field goal percentage. Darin Johnson (6-5, Jr., G) is averaging 13.2 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, and leads the team with 22 3-pointers and a .571 percentage from 3-point range. Aaron Parks (6-3, Sr., G) is averaging 11.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. Rakim Lubin (6-8, So., F) is averaging 9.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, and has a .568 field goal percentage.

Team notes: The Matadors are 4-2 at home and 0-7 away. Among the away losses are at UCLA, at Stanford, at St. John’s and at Boise State. In non-conference games, CSUN leads Big West teams in scoring offense (79.2 per game), but also leads the Big West in points allowed (85.3 per game). CSUN finished 5-11 in Big West games last season, but was ineligible for the conference tournament. It is eligible to participate in the post-season this year. The Matadors’ roster has seven transfers from other D-I programs, including Kendall Smith (UNLV), Lubin (UConn), and Johnson (Washington).

• LONG BEACH STATE

Current record: 5-11

Head Coach: Dan Monson (160-151, 10th season at LBSU)

Players to watch: Evan Payne (6-2, Jr. G) is averaging 14.5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, and leads the team with 29 3-pointers and a .397 percentage from 3-point range. He is in his first season at Long Beach after transferring from Loyola Marymount. Gabe Levin (6-7, Jr., F) is averaging 12.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. He is the only player to start in all 16 games for the 49ers. Junior point guard Justin Bibbins (5-8, Jr., G) is averaging 10.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. He also leads the team with 24 steals. He sat out the last game with an ankle injury.

Team notes: The 49ers are 4-0 at home, and 1-11 in away games. They have played one of the toughest schedules in the nation, including road losses at Wichita State, North Carolina, Louisville, UCLA, Washington, Kansas and Texas. Between November 13 and December 3, Long Beach played nine consecutive away games and went 0-9 in those games. The 49ers were the preseason pick to win the Big West. Long Beach has finished in the top four of the Big West in each of the past eight years, including third place last season. Former UH assistant coach Senque Carey is in his first season as an assistant under Monson.

• UC DAVIS

Current record: 8-7

Head Coach: Jim Les (72-98, 6th season at UCD)

Players to watch: Chima Moneke (6-6, Jr., F) is averaging 14.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, and has a .560 field goal percentage. He has four double-doubles this season, and leads the Big West in rebounding. He is originally from Australia, but played at a junior college in Nebraska his first two seasons. Brynton Lemar (6-4, Sr., G) is averaging 14.2 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, and leads the team with 30 3-pointers. Siler Schneider (6-3, So., G) is averaging 10.2 points and 3.1 rebounds per game as the first guard off the bench. Darius Graham (5-10, Sr., G) is averaging 7.4 points and 3.6 assists per game.

Team notes: The Aggies are 3-0 at home and 5-4 in away games. They are the only Big West team to finish with a record better than .500 in pre-conference games. UC Davis leads Big West teams in assists with 15.4 per game. UC Davis played in two pre-conference tournaments in November, finishing in fifth place in the Cable Car Classic, and then in sixth place in the Great Alaska Shootout. The Aggies have only played one NCAA-I opponent at home this season, an 83-69 win over Utah Valley. UC Davis is 5-0 when it scored 80 or more points this season.

• UC IRVINE

Current record: 7-9

Head Coach: Russ Turner (125-99, 7th season at UCI)

Players to watch: Luke Nelson (6-3, Sr., G) scored 16 points in 16 minutes of action in his season debut last week. He was sidelined for the first 15 games of this season with a hamstring injury. Nelson was a first-team All-Big West Conference selection last season. Jaron Martin (5-10, Sr., G) is averaging 14.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. He also leads the team with 37 3-pointers. Ioannis Dimakopoulos (7-2, Sr., C) is averaging 10.4 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. He has made 13 3-pointers this season, and has a .433 percentage from 3-point range. Jonathan Galloway (6-10, So., F) is averaging 3.9 points and a team-high 6.4 rebounds per game.

Team notes: The Anteaters are 4-1 at home, and 3-8 in away games. The only home loss was in the season opener against Utah State. Among the road losses are at Cal, at Arizona, at Saint Mary’s, and at New Mexico State. UC Irvine has won 20 or more games in each of the last four seasons, the longest active streak among Big West teams. UC Irvine leads Big West teams in several defensive categories, including opponent field goal percentage (.388) and rebounds allowed (33.1). The Anteaters have six players who are 6 feet 8 and taller.

• UC RIVERSIDE

Current record: 2-9

Head Coach: Dennis Cutts (40-66, 4th season at UCR)

Players to watch: Secean Johnson (6-5, Sr., F) is averaging 11.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. He has sat out the last two games due to an indefinite suspension, and his return has not been announced. Gentrey Thomas (6-4, Sr., G) is averaging 10.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, and leads the team with 14 3-pointers. Chance Murray (6-3, Jr., G) is averaging 10.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Dikymbe Martin (6-1, Fr., G) is averaging 8.5 points and 2.7 assists per game, and has a .500 percentage (12 for 24) from 3-point range.

Team notes: The Highlanders are 2-2 at home, and 0-7 in away games. Their only victories this season are against Grand Canyon and NCAA-II team Fresno Pacific. UCR ranks last among Big West teams in several statistical categories, including points per game (64.4), 3-pointers made (67) and assists (10.2 per game). UCR has never finished with a conference record better than .500 since joining the Big West in the 2001-02 season. Its best season was in 2008-09, when it finished 8-8 in conference and 17-14 overall.

• UC SANTA BARBARA

Current record: 2-10

Head Coach: Bob Williams (309-248, 19th season at UCSB)

Players to watch: Gabe Vincent (6-3, Jr., G) is averaging 16.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game, and leads the team with 36 3-pointers. Jalen Canty (6-8, 271-pound, Jr., F) is averaging 10.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, and has a .551 field goal percentage. He has sat out the last two games, and UCSB is describing his status as “currently ineligible” with no announced return date. Max Heidegger (6-2, Fr., G) is averaging 9.0 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. Eric Childress (6-0, Sr., G) is averaging 7.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. He is second on the team with 21 3-pointers, and leads the team with 17 steals.

Team notes: The Gauchos are 2-3 at home, and 0-7 in away games. Among their road losses at SMU, at USC and at UCLA. Their only wins this season are against Sonoma State and CSU Bakersfield. Two key post players – Jalen Canty and Ami Lakoju – were recently declared ineligible with an undetermined return. UCSB has displayed woeful shooting this season – .371 overall field goal percentage, .287 3-point percentage, and .612 free throw percentage. The UCSB roster lists seven freshmen and six sophomores, three juniors and one senior.

2 Comments

  1. Oh man, UH actually get chance to do good again in this conference. Long Beach, Irvine and Davis look like the toughest teams and they actually not that tough. I say UH should be just as good or better than the rest of the teams listed.

    Lets Go Bows!

  2. Buggs to redshirt this season per Ganot on Curran show. 12 to travel on road trip.

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