Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Warrior senior leaders have come a long way

University of Hawai’i men’s basketball seniors Brocke Stepteau, Jack Purchase and Sheriff Drammeh are friends who have come along nicely from faraway places, both literally and figuratively.

And now, in their final season with the Warriors, they have come together as team leaders ready to escalate the program from “rebuilding” mode back to championship contenders.

“It’s a big deal, it’s a huge part of the program, something we don’t take lightly,” UH coach Eran Ganot said after Sunday’s practice. “It’s just as important as your jump shot, your defense, things like that. You’re only as good as your senior leaders, I’m a big believer in that, and I think our leadership crew will be pretty strong together.”

Stepteau, a 5-foot-9 point guard who was born in Philadelphia, first joined the Warriors as a freshman walk-on from Dallas. Drammeh, a 6-3 shooting guard, hails from Stockholm, Sweden, and worked his way into valuable playing time as a true freshman on Hawai’i’s record-setting 2015-16 team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament Second Round for the first time in school history.

Purchase, a 6-8 forward from Melbourne, Australia, was a redshirt sophomore transfer from Auburn that year and said the memories from that experience will serve as fuel to try to get back to the Big Dance.

“That’s the way we look at it, that’s our goal, a (Big West Conference) championship,” Purchase said. “We want to get back to the (NCAA) Tournament. It was cool watching (the 2015-2016 team) play in the Tournament, it was good fun, I was stoked that I was there. But at the end of the day, I want to be playing in the NCAA Tournament, not just say that I was a redshirt on that team. I want to be able to get out on the court, play against the best, and see if we can make a run.

“But first we’ve got to take care of business now; we’re taking it one practice at a time.”

Stepteau is on the same page, saying achieving that title goal won’t come without much improvement.

“We have a lot of talent, and we have a chance to be special,” Stepteau said. “But to make that an actual thing, we just have to work hard every day in practice.”

Stepteau said he also understands the responsibility of being a team leader goes beyond practice sessions.

“There’s a responsibility on the court and off the court,” Stepteau said. “On the court, you want to be vocal — obviously I have a lot of experience, I’ve been playing (a lot) for two years now. On the court, just being vocal about what I see on the court, maybe help in a situation in the game or in a practice. And off the court, just having experience off the court as well, taking care of our bodies and making sure all the young guys are on the same page. The tighter we are on and off the court, the better we’ll be, so I’ll take responsibility in that.”

Purchase said he also is embracing his new role, following in the footsteps of former seniors before him.

“I’m looking forward to it, we’re enjoying it, it’s been fun showing the young fellas the way,” Purchase said. “We’ve seen the great team that made it to the NCAA Tournament and we’ve taken a little bit from every other player we’ve played with, to show the young fellas how to get it done.”

Ganot said the fact that each of the three seniors has been part of the program for awhile will be key to their leadership. Like Stepteau, Drammeh did not see much playing time early in his freshman year, but then emerged as a defensive stopper and perhaps the best charge-taker in the conference, seeing action as a key reserve during the 2016 postseason. Then last season, Drammeh won the Big West’s “Best Hustle Player” award.

Purchase was honored as the conference’s “Best Sixth Player.”

“There’s a continuity amongst them, you’ve got seniors in Brocke and Jack and Sheriff who have been with us all four years, Brocke even a year earlier,” Ganot said. “Leadership starts with your seniors, and then your point guards and your best players. And that’s why even Drew Buggs is a big piece, because even though he’s a sophomore he’s been in our program for three years, and he’s a point guard, so he’s gotta bring it, too.”

Stepteau — who went from walk-on, to redshirt freshman at the end of the bench, to surprise starter as a sophomore and invaluable clutch reserve last season — “bringing it” is something he is very used to doing.

“It means a lot, from where I came from as a walk-on just looking for an opportunity, to now my last year to being (a senior leader),” Stepteau said. “It’s a great honor … it just makes me work even harder in what I need to do to help our team win.”

And by “win,” Stepteau means even more than the 17 victories (against 13 losses) achieved last season.

“It’s something Coach Ganot has talked about at the beginning, that we’re not in ‘rebuild’ mode anymore, we’re going for a championship this year, we have the pieces to do that,” Stepteau said. “As a freshman I was on that team that made it to the (NCAA) Tournament, I didn’t play much, but I got to see what it takes to be a champion. These last couple years we’ve been building toward getting into a position where we can compete again, and so now I’d love to go out my last year being a champion again, so that’s the goal. I think we’re all willing to do what it takes to get that accomplished.”

Leave a Response

Login or fill in the fields below to comment. (New user? Register)