Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Sophomore co-captain Webster leads Warriors into season opener against HPU

The last time a sophomore was named captain for the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team, there was a new head coach named Riley Wallace, only six scholarship players on the roster and a notice had been posted in the campus newspaper inviting members of the student body to apply for walk-on tryouts.

Things are not quite as dire as they were in 1987, when sophomore Chris Gaines was tabbed to lead the Rainbows through what turned out to be a 4-25 season, but they are nonetheless historically challenging for second-year combo guard Justin Webster as he will guide the Warriors into Friday’s 2020-21 season opener against Hawai’i Pacific.

“It’s a job I don’t take lightly,” said Webster, who was announced as co-captain Wednesday along with Utah Valley transfer Casdon Jardine, a senior forward. “I appreciate my coaches and teammates for trusting me. We’re going to play with tradition, we’re gonna play as a team, play hard, rebound, defend — all the little things necessary for us to win. I feel like we’re ready, I feel like we’ve been eager to get out there and play against a new team. I just want us to go out and showcase the things we’ve been doing in practice.”

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. in SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center, and the game will be broadcast live statewide on Spectrum TV and via radio on ESPN1420AM. No fans will be in attendance — just one of many strange and challenging obstacles UH has faced during an extended and restrictive summer and fall.

Formal offseason conditioning and the start of official practice were delayed and restricted due to COVID-19 protocols, and five-on-five  drills did not start until even later. Also, the team was beset with injuries to several players, some of whom are just working their way back to full strength.

Webster, though, has been healthy so far and is looking to build upon a strong freshman season that saw him play a key role, posting an average of 23.6 minutes in 27 games (including nine starts) and 8.8 points and 1.9 rebounds per outing. Despite the limited court time the past few months, he said he was able to find other ways to improve.

“Mentally, I believe I got stronger, I was able to learn the game more — something I really didn’t do coming in as a freshman,” said Webster, a 6-foot-3, 180-pounder who can play the point, shooting guard or small forward. “I never did watch film like that. This year I’ve watched a lot of film, I’ve learned about things I can be better at, both offensively and defensively. Mentally, I took this offseason as a point to learn the game.”

Webster, who is from Dallas, came to Hawai’i from Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va. He said the training received there should help him in his new leadership role as co-captain.

“Being at that military academy, it really prepared me for some of the trials and tribulations of going to college,” Webster said.

“Some of those things at that prep school, I already know how to get through now. A lot of other things were big adjustments, but some of the things I’ve had to fight through, I knew what to expect.”

Webster said he also learned from last year’s team leaders, seniors Eddie Stansberry and Zigmars Raimo, and three-year starting point guard Drew Buggs, who transferred to Missouri. 

“Eddie led by example, he came in every day ready to work hard,” Webster said. “Drew and Zigmars led by their talk, and also their play. They really helped me out in terms of what I need to do this year to lead this team.”

Despite the challenges leading to Friday’s month-long delayed season opener, Webster said he believes the Warriors are prepared.

“At the start, the practices were very slow, we couldn’t really do much and we were just trying to get into it,” Webster said. “It was a struggle at first, we didn’t really have any chemistry, we were still trying to figure out each other’s game and stuff like that. But this last month, the last couple weeks, we really started to come together and play as a team. It’s something very exciting to see.”

Webster said the Warriors will also be prepared for the quiet atmosphere that will be absent of the supportive fans, band, cheerleaders, Rainbow Dancers, etc.

“Coach (Eran) Ganot does a really good job early and often, saying we have to bring our own energy,” Webster said. “I feel like everybody’s going to have a lot of energy, it’s our first game, everybody’s excited to play. So that really shouldn’t be a big problem. We’ll be ready.

When: Friday, Dec. 11, 7:00 p.m.  HT
Where: SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center – Honolulu, HI
Television: Spectrum Sports – Channels 16 (SD) and 1016 (HD)
Streaming Video: BigWest.TV (Must be a Spectrum cable subscriber to stream in Hawai’i)
Radio: Live on ESPN Honolulu (1420 AM/92.7 FM), KRKH (Maui), KPUA (Hawai’i Island), and KTOH (Kaua’i)
Audio Webcast: ESPNHonolulu.com/Sideline Hawai’i App.
Live Stats: HawaiiAthletics.com

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