Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Warriors will finally open 2020-21 season on Friday against HPU

A month later than planned and after many more months of doubt, the University of Hawai’i will finally open its 2020-21 men’s basketball season on Friday against cross-town Division II rival Hawai’i Pacific.

Tipoff for the game — which was just formally announced Tuesday afternoon — is set for 7 p.m. in the SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center. As expected, no fans will be in attendance, but the game will be broadcast live statewide on Spectrum Sports TV and via radio on ESPN1420AM.

For both teams, which have been conducting modified workouts for the past two months, it’s being looked at as a “better-late-than-never” blessing to finally get the ball rolling on the competitive season.

“It’s exciting to see it, to feel it coming,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said Tuesday afternoon. “We’re blessed to have what we have, and we’re looking forward to competing on Friday. I think there’s always a level of excitement when you know the season is around the corner. There’s nothing better than representing this school and this state.”

UH will open its Big West Conference regular season against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Dec. 27, but until Tuesday did not have any non-conference games slated before then as previously scheduled games against Washington State, North Carolina, Santa Clara and others were canceled due to the impact of COVID-19. 

HPU was basically in the same boat.

“We’re really excited to play – it’s been a long Fall for everyone,” said Sharks coach Darren Vorderbruegge. “We don’t know what to expect from ourselves or UH – we know they are always very good – but we need to play against somebody besides ourselves in practice. We are always appreciative of the ‘Bows supporting the Hawai’i schools.”

HPU went 10-18 last season, and returns senior guard David Rowlands (9.2 ppg, 2.9 apg), junior guard Jacob Foy (7.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg), senior forward Chidozie Ndu (2.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and senior guard Tavon Tarpley (6.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg).

Hawai’i graduated a two key starters (Eddie Stansberry and Zigmars Raimo) from last year’s 17-13 squad, but lost three-year starting point guard and school career assist leader Drew Buggs (transferred to Missouri) and another key starter in senior small forward Samuta Avea, who announced on Monday he will opt out of this season.

Key post returnees Bernardo da Silva and Mate Colina have been hampered by injuries since practice began in October, so Ganot said a starting lineup for Friday is still not determined.

“We’re getting closer to that, guys are still competing for spots,” Ganot said. “But there’s also guys who would be in the mix who haven’t had as many reps as they normally would. So it’s really important to keep an open mind … We didn’t get to (scrimmage) five-on-five until a couple weeks after (practice began), and we’ve had guys out (with injuries) for extended periods who are just working their way back. I still feel encouraged in terms of the direction of our health.”

Ganot said the injuries have provided more practice time for reserve players, which is a silver lining.

“It’s thrown other guys in the fire, so they may have had more reps than they normally would have at this time,” Ganot said. “Hopefully when those guys (the projected starters) come back, it will make us that much better (overall).”

Ganot said his goal for Friday — besides winning — is the same as the goal he
strives for in every season opener.

“I want to see that we competed, that we played hard, played together,” Ganot said. “I think that’s been the hallmark of our team. This team is united, this team shares the ball, they play hard, they support each other … I know they haven’t had as much interaction as they normally would, but I do know there is a lot of great potential.”

Ganot said it’s possible UH may find another non-conference opponent in the next few weeks, but the task has been complicated and difficult. 

“I think we’ve been working really hard and collaborating (to find opponents), but there are many layers to this — not just with institutions, but with conferences, states, testing protocols … there are challenges especially with our situation here in Hawai’i,” Ganot said. “We’re hoping to get a couple (games) under our belt, get ready for league play on the 27th.
“I am appreciative of how hard people are working to keep us safe, and that’s really paramount.”

Ganot said the Warriors have handled the adversity well so far, and he is thankful they will finally get an opportunity to hit the floor under the bright arena lights on Friday.

“To get to this point, it’s been a challenging road with a lot of obstacles — not just for us, but for every team, every person globally,” Ganot said. “Just getting a step closer to where we want to get to, is something that we should celebrate. It’s been a tough road, but I’m really proud of how our team has handled it, in a lot of ways.”    

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