Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Warriors look for familiar result against familiar foe in season opener

All bluffs should be put aside when the University of Hawai’i basketball team hosts Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the 2017-18 season opener on Friday, November 10.

The Rainbow Warriors and Golden Lions are meeting for the third consecutive year, and sixth time in the last eight years. Hawai’i has won each of the five previous meetings, including 64-44 last year. Both teams return several key players from last season.

“You have to take every team the same, you can’t take any team lightly,” junior forward Jack Purchase said. “We’ve seen them play before, we know how they play a little bit, so it is good for us to start off the season like that. I think Pine Bluff first will be good for us.”

Friday’s season opener is set to start around 7 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center. The game is being promoted as a “Blackout” and fans are encouraged to wear black shirts. It will follow a game between North Dakota and Troy, set to start at 4:30 p.m. Both games are part of the four-team, three-day Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic.

Hawai’i finished 14-16 last season, and 10 players return from that team, including five players with starting experience.

Forwards Gibson Johnson and Jack Purchase started all 30 games last season, and they are joined this season by senior Mike Thomas, who started all 34 game during the championship season of 2015-16. Thomas sat out all of last season as a redshirt due to a wrist injury.

Johnson averaged 11.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game as a junior last season; Purchase averaged 9.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per game, and led the team with 72 3-pointers. Thomas averaged 7.9 points and 5.6 rebounds per game as a junior in 2015-16.

Johnson had 13 points and four rebounds, and Purchase added 11 points and six rebounds in last year’s 20-point win over UAPB.

There are also several experienced backcourt players returning, including juniors Sheriff Drammeh (9.2 points, 2.8 assists per game) and Brocke Stepteau (6.4 points, 3.0 assists per game), and sophomore Leland Green (7.0 points, 3.5 rebounds per game).

“We’ll be faster this year – exciting,” Green said. “Everybody on the team is ready to get out there and play and get some wins.”

What’s more, the Warriors are expected to have a deeper roster to choose from this season. Freshman Drew Buggs redshirted last season, and has been in the mix for point guard duties this preseason. Sophomore guard Brandon Thomas – a JUCO transfer and younger brother of Mike Thomas – is also expected to see game minutes, along with true freshman Samuta Avea out of Kahuku High School. Post players Ido Flaisher and Zigmars Raimo played key reserve roles last season, and should do so again this season.

The Golden Lions are also an experienced team, with 10 returnees from last season’s 7-25 squad. Trent Steen, a 6-8 senior forward, averaged team-highs of 9.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last season. However, he only managed two points and one rebound before fouling out in the loss at Hawai’i last year.

UAPB is predicted to finish eighth (out of 10 teams) in the Southwest Athletic Conference. Hawai’i is 19-0 all-time against teams from the SWAC.

Hawai’i (0-0, 0-0 Big West) vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (0-0, 0-0 SWAC)
When: Friday, Nov. 10, 7:00 p.m. (Hawai’i time)
Where: Stan Sheriff Center (10,300) – Honolulu, HI
Television: Live on Spectrum Sports – Channels 16 (SD) and 1016 (HD).
Streaming Video: HawaiiAthletics.com. (Must be a Spectrum cable subscriber to stream in Hawai’i).
Radio: Live on ESPN 1420 AM. Neighbor islands can listen live on KNUI on Maui, KPUA on the Big Island, KTOH on Kaua’i, and KNWJ in Pago Pago, American Samoa.
Audio Webcast: ESPN1420am.com/Sideline Hawai’i App.
Live Stats: HawaiiAthletics.com
Ticket Information: Lower Level – $30 for all seats; Upper Level (prices vary by section) – $18 or $20 for adults, $16 or $18 for senior citizens (65-older), $5 or $7 for students (ages 4 to high school). UH Manoa students free with validated ID. Parking is $6.
Blackout: Fans are encouraged to wear black shirts

Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic Schedule
Friday, Nov. 10

North Dakota vs. Troy, 4:30 p.m.
Hawai’i vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 12
Troy vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 2:30 p.m.
Hawai’i vs. North Dakota, 5:00 p.m.

Monday, Nov. 13
Arkansas-Pine Bluff vs. North Dakota, 4:30 p.m.
Hawai’i vs. Troy, 7:00 p.m.


  1. Kind of sucks that there won’t be a midnight game this year… or ever again.

  2. I think a lot of the Teams are still hopeful that it won’t go away permanently. For Hawaii, that midnight crowd was so different. Pretty wild. More what college fanship should be what with all the students attending. Even for us little older fans, it was a great atmosphere.

  3. Here’s just a thought, and that is what about UH and the local Oceanic TV crew doing a midnight game on their own? Does ESPN own exclusive rights to all midnight games? If not, then UH should keep it going for themselves if this is such a popular game.

    Maybe they could do it on a Saturday after a UH football game and offer discounts or prizes for the fans who show up to both. The football games usually finish around 9:30-10:00, so the fans can go straight to Sheriff Center from there.

  4. A midnight game would not be a good idea. The only reason UH did it was for the national TV exposure and even that was minimal since the game started at 5am EST. Without the national TV element why would UH play a midnight game when attendance will be sparse?

    On another note it looks like all three bigs who were expected to sign did. I’m really excited to see the bigger version of UH next year. Do you know who the lead recruiter was on Carper?

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