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Warriors host HPU in Friday night exhibition

The final preseason tune-up for the University of Hawaii basketball team is set for Friday, when the Rainbow Warriors host Hawai’i Pacific in an exhibition game. It is scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center.

The Warriors played four exhibition games during an international trip to Australia in August. This week’s exhibition game against the NCAA Division II Sharks comes just one week before the regular-season opener. Hawai’i will begin the 2018-19 season with three games in three nights during the Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic: November 9 vs. Portland, November 10 vs. Humboldt State, November 11 vs. North Texas.

“They can expect a team that’s going to compete and play hard every day, and share the ball,” sophomore point guard Drew Buggs said. “We’re going to try and put some points on the board and also be a good defensive team this year, make it exciting for the fans.”

The Warriors are coming off a 17-13 season (8-8 Big West Conference). They started last season with a 90-70 exhibition game win over HPU.

Several key players return for Hawai’i, including seniors Sheriff Drammeh, Jack Purchase and Brocke Stepteau. Drammeh, a 6-foot-3 guard, is the top returning scorer from last season, when he averaged 10.7 points to go along with 3.5 rebounds per game. He was also named the Big West Conference’s Best Hustle Player.

Purchase, a 6-9 forward, averaged 7.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, made a team-high 50 3-pointers, and was named the Big West’s Best Sixth Player. Stepteau, a 5-9 guard, contributed 9.5 points and 2.7 assists per game.

Other key returnees for the Warriors are guards Buggs, Leland Green and Brandon Thomas, and forwards Samuta Avea and Zigmars Raimo. Four newcomers are also expected to contend for key roles: junior guard Eddie Stansberry, and a trio of 7-foot freshmen (Dawson Carper, Mate Colina and Owen Hulland).

Fourth-year head coach Eran Ganot said he expects to try various lineups throughout Friday’s exhibition.

“Some guys need some game reps,” he said. “You need to put that in the evaluation – which combinations work best together. At the end of the day, the now is important, but also long term.”

HPU finished 15-13 last season, including 10-10 in the Pacific West Conference. The top player from last season (Niksha Federico, 21.7 points and 10.4 rebounds per game) graduated, but the Sharks return four key players.

Jonathan Janssen, a 6-9 senior forward from Australia, averaged 13.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game last season. He also made 49 3-pointers and led the team with 28 blocked shots. He scored 19 points in the exhibition game loss to Hawai’i last year.

The other key returnees for HPU are 6-6 forward Spencer Vering, 6-1 guard Darnell Bettis, and 6-foot guard David Rowlands. Janssen, Vering and Bettis were reserve players on HPU’s historic 29-3 team in 2016-17.

HPU head coach Darren Vordebruegge is entering his 11th season, and has a career record of 144-131.

Hawai’i vs. Hawai’i Pacific
When: Friday, Nov. 2, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center (10,300)
Television: None
Radio: ESPN 1420 AM
Livestats: HawaiiAthletics.com
Tickets: All seats general admission ($10 – adults; $8 – senior citizens; $5 – youth).

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