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Warriors thankful for Wooden Legacy opportunity

For those staying home Thursday evening, this year’s Thanksgiving TV dinner will feature the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team on center stage vs. Utah at 6:30 p.m. (Hawai’i Time) before a national ESPN2 audience at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym, in the feature game of the John Wooden Legacy Classic opening round.

The Warriors, who improved to 3-1 after Sunday’s 85-68 home victory over Northern Arizona, are also joined by Grand Canyon, Seton Hall, Fresno State, Northwestern, Miami (Fla.) and La Salle in the eight-team, three-day invitational tournament. Thursday’s Hawai’i game, as well as Friday’s and Sunday’s, will also be broadcast live via radio on ESPN1420AM.

“We’re going to chip away one at a time,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “(Utah) is a great program, great staff, they’ve got great players … (We’re) going into a great event, it’s a special opportunity and challenge for our guys — it’s what you live for.”

Junior guard Eddie Stansberry said after Sunday’s victory that he and his teammates are ready to hit the road after opening the season with four home games.

“We’re super excited as a unit,” Stansberry said. “This is our second family, we’re all looking forward to going on this trip. We’re focused on trying to get some wins.”

The tournament, named for legendary former UCLA coach John Wooden, represents UH’s first Mainland three-game regular season tournament since the Gulf Coast Showcase in Florida in 2014, a year before Ganot took over the program. While appreciative of the invitation, Ganot said he and his staff must carefully manage the team’s preparation and participation.

“It’s a balance, because it’s great on one side, but it’s (also) tough,” Ganot said. “(It’s) the opportunity to play the game you love, on this special day, I don’t know how often teams have played on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day in the same season. It can be tough, obviously, at times. But the good thing is you get to do something you love, with people you love, and represent a program you love … With the Wooden, we have a strong Southern California contingency with guys in our program, and we’ve always had a good fan base for those games in Southern Cal in (the Big West Conference).

“We’re looking forward to celebrating the holidays together — I love our group and the families that represent those guys– and playing a great game, and three games in four days.”

Following Sunday’s tournament finale, the Warriors will remain in the area and begin preparation for a Nov. 28 non-conference game at No. 17-ranked UCLA.

“To play in Pauley Pavilion … it’s a ‘Wooden Week,’ ” Ganot said. “We always do things with our program to have perspective, what you represent, and that’s constant. UCLA is a storied program, for obvious reasons, and they’ve done a great job, they’re off to a really great start. Our guys are going to understand, and they have, what John Wooden is all about.”

Wooden, who died in 2010 at age 99, was known as the “Wizard of Westwood” and is regarded by many as the greatest college basketball coach of all time. His UCLA teams won a record 10 NCAA championships between 1964 and 1975, posted a record 88-game winning streak from 1971 to 1974, and he retired after the 1975 title season with 664 career victories and an overall winning percentage of .804.

HAWAI’I vs. UTAH
When:
Thursday, November 22, 8:30 p.m. PT (6:30 p.m. Hawai’i)
Where: Titan Gym – Fullerton, Calif.
TV: ESPN2
Streaming video: watchESPN.com
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

WOODEN LEGACY
Thursday’s Games (Hawai’i times)

La Salle vs. Miami, 9:30 a.m.
Northwestern vs. Fresno State, 11:30 a.m.
Seton Hall vs. Grand Canyon, 4:00 p.m.
Hawai’i vs. Utah, 6:30 p.m.

Friday’s Games
Semifinal game, 9:00 a.m.
Consolation game, 11:30 a.m.
*Consolation game, 4:00 p.m.
*Semifinal game, 6:30 p.m.

Sunday’s Games
*Fifth place game, 9:00 a.m.
*Third place game, 11:00 a.m.
*Seventh place game, 3:00 p.m.
*Championship game, 5:30 p.m.

* = Potential Hawai’i game

Here is a capsule look at the eight teams in the tournament (in alphabetical order):

Fresno State
Record:
1-1
Conference: Mountain West
KenPom rating: 115
Noteworthy results: Lost at No. 21 TCU, 77-69; beat Alaska Anchorage, 91-63
Top players: Braxton Huggins (6-4, Sr., G), 20.5 ppg, .517 FG pct., 8-18 3-ptrs (.444) … New Williams (6-1, Jr., G), 15.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, .563 FG pct., 7-12 3-ptrs (.583) … Deshon Taylor (6-2, Sr., G) 12.0 ppg, 4.5 apg, 3.0 rpg … Noah Blackwell (6-3, Jr., G) 7.0 ppg, 5.5 apg
Head coach: Justin Hutson, 1st season at FSU
Preseason conference prediction: 5th (out of 11 teams)

Grand Canyon
Record:
3-1
Conference: Western Athletic
KenPom rating: 131
Noteworthy results: Three wins by average margin of 27.7 ppg; only loss at South Dakota State, 79-74
Top players: Trey Drechsel (6-6, Jr., G) 12.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.0 apg … Alessandro Lever (6-10, So., C) 12.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg … Oscar Frayer (6-7, Jr., F) 11.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg … Carlos Johnson (6-3, Jr., G) 10.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg … Michael Finke (6-10, Sr., F) 9.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg
Head coach: Dan Majerle (106-59, 5th season at GCU)
Preseason conference prediction: 2nd (out of 9)

Hawai’i
Record:
3-1
Conference: Big West
KenPom rating: 211
Noteworthy results: Three wins by average of 23.7 ppg; only loss to North Texas, 68-51
Top players: Zigmars Raimo (6-8, Jr., F) 13.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg, .686 FG pct … Eddie Stansberry (6-3, Jr., G) 13.0 ppg, 15 3-ptrs, .417 3-pt pct … Jack Purchase (6-9, Sr., F) 12.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 12 3-ptrs, .462 3-pt pct … Brocke Stepteau (5-9, Sr., G) 10.0 ppg, 3.0 apg
Head coach: Eran Ganot (62-36, 4th season at UH)
Preseason conference prediction: 6th (out of 9)

La Salle
Record:
0-4
Conference: Atlantic 10
KenPom rating: 192
Noteworthy results: Four losses have been by average of 6.7 ppg; only loss by double figures was 82-69 at Florida
Top players: Pookie Powell (6-0, Sr., G) 20.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg … Isiah Deas (6-6, Jr., G) 15.5 ppg, 13-27 (.481) 3-pt pct., 9-9 FTs … Traci Carter (6-1, Jr., G) 6.8 ppg, 3.8 apg, 3.0 steals pg … Jared Kimbrough (6-8, Fr., F) 4.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg … Miles Brookins (6-10, So., C) 8.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, .632 FG pct
Head coach: Ashley Howard (1st season at La Salle)
Preseason conference prediction: 12th (out of 14)

Miami
Record:
3-0 (listed in “others receiving votes” in AP Top 25)
Conference: Atlantic Coast
KenPom rating: 22
Noteworthy results: Three wins all at home; rallied from first half deficit to beat Bethune Cookman 78-70 on Saturday.
Top players: Chris Lykes (5-7, So., G) 21.0 ppg, 5.3 apg … DJ Vasiljevik (6-3, Jr., G) 17.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 12-23 3-ptrs (.522) … Anthony Lawrence (6-7, Sr., G) 16.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg … Ebuka Izundu (6-10, Sr., C) 12.3 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 3.3 blocks pg, .615 FG pct … Sam Waardenburg (6-10, So., F) 7.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg … Top returning player Dewan Hernandez (6-11, Jr., F) has yet to play this season while eligibility is under review
Head coach: Jim Larranaga (164-79, 8th season at UM)
Preseason conference prediction: 10th (out of 15)

Northwestern
Record:
3-0
Conference: Big Ten
KenPom rating: 47
Noteworthy results: All three wins at home, by average margin of 23.3 ppg
Top players: Vic Law (6-7, Sr., F) 19.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.0 apg … Ryan Taylor (6-6, Sr., G) 12.3 ppg, 8-22 3-ptrs … Dererk Pardon (6-8, Sr., C) 12.0 ppg, 12.7 rpg, .542 FG pct … A.J. Turner (6-7, Jr., F) 11.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.0 apg … Barret Benson (6-10, Jr., C) 4.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg
Head coach: Chris Collins (91-77, 5th season at NU)
Preseason conference prediction: 12th (out of 14)

Seton Hall
Record:
1-2
Conference: Big East
KenPom rating: 59
Noteworthy results: Opened season with 89-49 win over Wagner, but then lost at Nebraska and vs. Saint Louis
Top players: Myles Powell (6-2, Jr., G) 23.3 ppg, 20-21 FTs (.952) … Michael Nzei (6-8, Sr., F) 8.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, .714 FG pct … Sandro Mamukelashvili (6-10, So., F) 8.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg … Quincy McKnight (6-4, Jr., G) 7.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.0 apg … Anthony Nelson (6-4, Fr., G) 4.7 ppg, 2.3 apg
Head coach: Kevin Willard (151-116, 9th season at SHU)
Preseason conference prediction: 8th (out of 10)

Utah
Record:
2-1
Conference: Pac-12
KenPom rating: 70
Noteworthy results: Only loss at Minnesota, 78-69; beat Maine, 75-61, and Mississippi Valley State, 98-63
Top players: Sedrick Barefield (6-2, Sr., G) 12.0 ppg, 4.7 apg … Donnie Tillman (6-7, So., F) 12.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg, .560 FG pct … Novak Topalovic (7-0, Sr., C) 9.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg, .600 FG pct … Parker Van Dyke (6-3, Sr., G) 9.0 ppg, 7-15 3-pointers (.467) … Jayce Johnson (7-0, Jr., C) 5.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, .667 FG pct
Head coach: Larry Krystkowiak (140-98, 8th season at UU)
Preseason conference prediction: 8th (out of 12)

1 Comment

  1. I would be stoked if the Bows come home from this mainland trip with even one win! The field is stacked, even La Salle can compete even though they’re 0 – 4. Despite their record, their Kenpom ranking is still a good amount higher than ours, lol. Plus a game at UCLA? Oh boy…

    This team still seems to be in its infant stages, as far as maturing and meshing as a team….hopefully they will be ready by conference play. I think the potential is there but it’s a quick turnaround! Let’s GO BOWS!

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