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Warriors open season against Florida A&M on Friday

The show must go on. Ready or not, the University of Hawai’i basketball team will be challenged from the get-go of the 2019-20 season.

The Rainbow Warriors will host Florida A&M on the opening night of the Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic this Friday, November 8, at 7:00 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center. It will be the first of three games in four days to start the 2019-20 season.

The Warriors are expected to be without head coach Eran Ganot for all three games of the tournament. The UH Athletics Department issued a statement on Wednesday that Ganot started a temporary medical leave of absence. There was no mention of the specifics of his condition, or a timetable for his return.

Assistant coach Chris Gerlufsen is serving as acting head coach in Ganot’s absence. It is the latest move in what has been a turbulent preseason for the Warriors due to various injuries and departures.

The remaining healthy players – and Ganot – regrouped for an 83-66 exhibition game victory over Chaminade on October 30.

Now, they will be without Ganot for games against Florida A&M on Friday, South Dakota on Sunday, and Pacific on Monday. The four-team Rainbow Classic follows a round-robin format, and the tournament champion is determined by overall record against the other three teams.

The first five for the exhibition game were Drew Buggs and Eddie Stansberry at guards, Samuta Avea and Zigmars Raimo at forwards, and Dawson Carper. The main contributors off the bench were Mate Colina, Justin Hemsley and Justin Webster.

Raimo had 19 points and 12 rebounds in the exhibition game, and Avea added 18 points and six boards. Raimo, a 6-foot-8 senior forward, is the leading returning scorer (11.5 points per game) and rebounder (6.1) from last season.

Buggs, a 6-3 junior, averaged 8.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game last season. He and Raimo are the team co-captains, and will be expected to play extended minutes this season.

Stansberry, a 6-3 senior, averaged 11.3 points per game last season and tied for the team lead with 77 3-pointers. Carper and Colina, who are both 7 feet, were reserve players as freshmen last seaons, but they are expected to share time at the center spot this season.

Hawai’i finished 18-13 overall last season, including 9-7 in the Big West Conference. The Warriors were picked to finish fourth (out of nine) in the Big West Conference Preseason Poll.

The Warriors finished second in last year’s Rainbow Classic (North Texas won it). Here is a look at the other three teams in this year’s field …

Florida A&M (0-1)

The Ratters from the Mid-Eastern American Conference opened the season with a 77-48 road loss at USC on Tuesday.

D.J. Jones, a 6-9 junior forward, had 12 points and nine rebounds in the loss. Evins Desir, a 6-8, 300-pound, junior center, added nine points and eight rebounds.

The top returning scorer from last season is Kamron Reaves, a 6-2 junior guard who averaged 8.3 points and 2.2 assists per game. Another key returnee is M.J. Randolph, a 6-4 sophomore who averaged 7.2 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.

The Rattlers finished 12-19 overall and 9-7 in the MEAC last season. They were picked to finish ninth (out of 11) in this year’s MEAC Preseason Poll.

It should be noted that Florida A&M was ineligible for postseason play last season, and is again serving a postseason ban this season for NCAA violations. Head coach Robert McCullum is in his third season at FAMU, and the violations occurred before he was hired.

Amazingly, Florida A&M will open the season with 11 consecutive away games, and in various areas of the country. After the three games in Hawai’i, they will play road games at Seton Hall, Kansas State, Tennessee, Portland, Washington State, Seattle and Iowa State.

South Dakota (0-0)

The Coyotes from the Summit League are expected to make big improvements from last season, when they finished 13-17 overall and 7-9 in conference.

Four starters return, led by 6-6 junior guard Stanley Umude, who was picked as the Summit League’s Preseason Player of the Year. He averaged 14.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season. The other returning starters are 6-2 senior guard Triston Simpson (14.0 points, 3.6 assists per game, 46 3-pointers), 6-4 senior guard Tyler Peterson (11.4 points, 5.0 rebounds per game) and 5-11 senior guard Cody Kelley (9.3 points, 3.2 assists per game, 46 3-pointers).

What’s more, 6-10 senior center Tyler Hagedorn is back this season after missing all of last season due to injury. He averaged 13.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game during the 2017-18 season, when South Dakota finished with a 26-9 record.

South Dakota was picked to finish second (behind North Dakota State) in the Summit League Preseason Poll.

Todd Lee is in his second season as head coach of the Coyotes.

Pacific (1-0)

The Tigers from the West Coast Conference are in rebuild mode after finishing 14-18 overall and 4-12 in conference last season.

Two starters return: 6-5 senior guard Jahlil Tripp (10.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists per game) and 6-6 junior forward Jeremiah Bailey (5.8 points, 3.0 rebounds per game).

Amari McCray, a 6-9 junior center who redshirted last season, tallied 14 points and eight rebounds in Pacific’s 69-47 home win over Stanislaus State earlier this week.

The Tigers are expected to receive immediate help from three NCAA Division I transfers: 6-4 junior guard Gary Chivichyan (from Idaho State), 6-4 senior guard Justin Moore (from Georgia Tech) and 6-4 senior guard Austin Vereen (from Virginia Military Institute).

Pacific was picked to finish eighth (out of 10) in the WCC Preseason Poll.

Damon Stoudamire, a former All-American guard at Arizona and a veteran of 13 NBA seasons, is in his fourth season as head coach at Pacific.

HAWAI’I vs. FLORIDA A&M
When:
Friday, November 8, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: Live on Spectrum Sports (Spectrum stations 16/1016)
Radio: ESPN 1420 AM/92.7 FM
Streaming video: www.bigwest.tv
Streaming audio: www.espnhonolulu.com or Sideline Hawaii app
Live stats: www.hawaiiathletics.com
Tickets: Lower level – $32; Upper level (prices vary by section) – $22 or $18 for adults, $18 or $15 for senior citizens, $8 or $5 for students. Free for UH Manoa students with ID. Parking is $7.
Autograph session: The UH players will be available to sign autographs after the game near Gate B.

Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic

Friday, November 8
4:30 p.m. – South Dakota vs. Pacific
7:00 p.m. – Hawai’i vs. Florida A&M

Sunday, November 10
2:30 p.m. – Pacific vs. Florida A&M
5:00 p.m. – Hawai’i vs. South Dakota

Monday, November 11
4:30 p.m. – Florida A&M vs. South Dakota
7:00 p.m. – Hawai’i vs. Pacific

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