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Warriors respectfully eager to face UCLA in Pauley Pavilion

ANAHEIM, Calif. — None of the current University of Hawai’i men’s basketball players were even born when UCLA won its last NCAA championship in 1995, and Warriors head coach Eran Ganot was born six years after legendary Bruins coach John Wooden retired in 1975.

But the John Wooden Legacy is more than just the name of the tournament UH played three games in last weekend at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym. It is something that is cemented in college basketball lore across America, probably for eternity.

“Aspiring coaches, anybody involved with basketball, you know about the (UCLA) program — the history and John Wooden,” Ganot said. “It’s just a really storied program, for a lot of reasons. You get refreshers, coming into a week like this, with the Wooden (Legacy), and our guys understand exactly what John Wooden has meant to basketball, even on and off the court. You think about the impact, 10 national championships, seven national championships in a row, the impact he’s made on so many in terms as of the books and the excerpts and the quotes … so there’s a lot of things, it’s a good perspective to remind your guys about. There’s a lot of things that he articulates so well (that had) as much an impact as the national championships, in terms of the way the game is played, and the way teams come together, and the way teams have to handle success and failure, things like that.”

Fresh off participation in the John Wooden Legacy tournament, the Warriors (4-3) will now get an opportunity to play on Nell and John Wooden Court at iconic Pauley Pavilion, vs. UCLA (4-2) itself at 4 p.m. (Hawai’i time) Wednesday. The game will be televised live on Pac-12 Network.

The recently renovated 53-year-old, 13,800-seat Pauley Pavilion on UCLA’s sprawling campus in Westwood is considered Holy Ground among hardcore college basketball fans, being the home venue not just for Wooden but other Bruin legends like Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Sidney Wicks, Bill Walton, Marques Johnson and Ed O’Bannon. During one stretch in the 1970s, UCLA won a staggering 98 consecutive games at Pauley Pavilion.

And although much of that history took place in a bygone era, it still resonates with Ganot and his players.

“UCLA is a school that a lot of people want to go to, a lot of people look up to,” said sophomore point guard Drew Buggs, who played high school ball in nearby Long Beach, Calif. “I’m pretty familiar with all that, I’ve been to a couple UCLA games, I’ve been to Pauley Pavilion, it’s a really nice arena. It should be a really fun place to play. John Wooden had such a major impact on the game of basketball, so just being able to play on that court, it’s really going to be something special.”

Junior guard Leland Green also grew up in the shadows of Westwood, in nearby Redondo Beach.

“When you think about Pauley Pavilion, you think about John Wooden, and all of the great players that came out of that program,” Green said.

Ganot said learning about history and respecting it is a key part of his own program.

“It’s always important in our position — we’re teachers, we’re educators, we’re going to continue to provide perspective at every opportunity we can,” Ganot said. “John Wooden last coached in 1975, he passed away in 2010, but I think any opportunity for these guys to understand — obviously they’re younger and the more time passes … but that’s the credit to John Wooden and the (UCLA) program, what he has done stands the test of time and is still impactful, and will always be impactful. I think it’s great for our team.”

While respecting and educating about the past, Ganot also is tasked with the immediate future and the challenge that the Bruins present. UCLA started last week ranked No. 17 in both the AP and ESPN Coaches polls before falling to Michigan State (87-67) and North Carolina (94-78) in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational.

“We’ve got to continue to improve quickly with a quick turnaround,” Ganot said early Monday afternoon, shortly before the team left its Anaheim hotel headed for a weight training session. “We talk all the time about, ‘Respect all, fear none.’ (It’s) the balance between working your tail off to get better, and then enjoying the journey, because you can’t have one without the other. I think our group has handled that well, and we’ve had some tough games recently that we’ll learn from and grow from, and that’s what the nature of non-conference (play) and this time of the year is all about — just going through experience and getting reps and good situations and bad, and seeing how we react to that. I think our guys are a good group of guys who handled both pretty well, and the journey is a long one.

“We just gotta keep working and keep getting better.”

In particular, Hawai’i struggled against full court pressure from Seton Hall and Fresno State, resulting in multiple turnovers and rushed and disrupted halfcourt possessions. But Buggs said the Warriors already showed the ability to overcome that style of defense and will continue to work on it just in case UCLA resorts to the same tactic.

“I think that’s something that we definitely can solve,” Buggs said. “I think we even showed improvement from the Seton Hall game to the Fresno State game, in terms of handling it. Of course, we’re still not where we want to be, we still have to improve. But I think we definitely are going to get there. It was different playing two really good teams, we hadn’t really faced a whole lot of pressure before that, but I think those games were good for us because it’s gonna help us down the stretch and later in the season.”

Bruins junior wing Kris Wilkes leads the team in scoring with an average of 17.8 points per game, and — at 6 feet 8 — can present matchup problems. He made 5 of 9 attempts from 3-point range last week and also averages 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game, and is a nominee for Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year honors.

Jaylen Hands averages 13.2 points, 4 assists and three rebounds per game and is a candidate for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year award. Moses Brown averages 14.8 points and 11.6 boards per game and is a nominee for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year award.

But UH junior post Zigmars Raimo said he and his teammates are looking forward to the challenge.

“It’s great, all the guys are so excited,” Raimo said. “We’re going to give 100 percent in this game, because it’s just huge for our program. We’re going to battle like we battle every single game. It’s just incredible that we have the opportunity to play against these kind of teams. It’s great, and I can’t wait.”

HAWAI’I (4-3) at UCLA (4-2)
When:
Wednesday, November 28, 6:00 p.m. PT (4:00 p.m. Hawai’i)
Where: Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, Calif.
TV: Pac-12 Network
Streaming video: Pac-12.com/live
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

3 Comments

  1. I don’t get the pac-12 channel w/my subscription, is there any other way to watch the game? Seems like it’s gonna be a good one. The boys competed in all the games in the Wooden tournament and I think that will continue to be the case, even at UCLA.

  2. If you have spectrum, you can subscribe to Sports Pass for awhile and get the Pac12 channel and the streaming.
    UCLA has 4 and 5 star players.
    Wooden was a successful coach, however it turns out he had a booster giving out money, cars and clothes to his recruits/ players. Not sure this should be emulated.

  3. or Sling TV.

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