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New Warriors are getting to the point

Let’s get straight to the point: The University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team has three new good ones.

First-year Warriors JoVon McClanahan, Biwali Bayles and Noel Coleman have collectively been tasked with filling the shoes of three-year starting point guard Drew Buggs, who set the program’s career assist record before transferring to Missouri last spring. And after an understandably tenuous start, the three newcomers are increasingly showing that they are more than capable of doing the job.

Leading the way is McClanahan, a 5-foot-11 sophomore who has started the past four games and scored three points, dished seven assists, made two steals and grabbed two rebounds with zero turnovers in last Saturday’s 81-64 home victory over Cal Poly. Bayles, a freshman, scored six points, grabbed three boards and added two assists. And Coleman, another freshman, finished with a season-high 10 points and one assist.

“I just think guys are getting comfortable, and (McClanahan is) at the forefront of that,” UH coach Eran Ganot said. “But I think they’re all getting more comfortable. And when you do that, you’re playing off your instincts, which is what you want. I think we’ve combined and simplified some things, and we’ve had a couple more practices to work on some things, and so they know where they’re supposed to be, and they’re sharing the ball more and continue to buy into that.”

McClanahan, a transfer from Sheridan (Wyo.) College who is from Vallejo, Calif., played only eight scoreless minutes with no assists in a Jan. 9 home loss to Cal State Bakersfield. But in the six games since, he has played no less than 13 minutes in each and has scored a total of 21 points, with 25 assists and five steals, against nine turnovers.    

“And Von, you forget 10 (Division I) games, that’s all his Division I career has been,” Ganot said. “He’s just kind of checked the boxes progressively, first defending better, and now what he’s going through is he’s facilitating at a better level. I think the shot is going to come, and that will make us that much better. It just takes time for guys and teams, especially with our situation, but I’m pleased with the direction it’s going, certainly with him.”

McClanahan agreed with that assessment.

“As of right now, I would say that as the season is going along, I’m definitely getting more comfortable with the offense,” McClanahan said. “Just knowing what the coaches want from me, and knowing our personnel and how to make the other guys better. I got hurt early (in fall camp) and as far as me staying ready, I just locked in at practice, I used my voice as much as possible and that was all the coaches were preaching to me: ‘I know you’re not playing right now, but you still have to be a presence.’ So just locking into the plays, and also just being a voice trying to help guys out. And that pretty much helped me stay ready.”

Although McClanahan’s season-high is six points at UC Riverside on Jan. 9, he averaged 23.5 points per game at Sheridan.

“In junior college, I was one of the primary scorers on our team, because that was pretty much what I had to do,” McClanahan said. “But I think I can adjust to any situation. I’m sure the coaches would love for me to score and assist, but it’s pretty much whatever the team needs whether it’s assists or to score, I can do both. I’m just letting the game come to me, and then just try to win.”

McClanahan said he is respectfully aware of Buggs’ impact and the void he left, yet knows he is a different player with a different style and skill set.

“I definitely heard of Drew Buggs, and also watched a couple Hawai’i basketball games, and I just saw that he was a very sound point guard,” McClanahan said. “He knew how to control tempo, and knew how to get his guys involved. As far as me coming here, I wasn’t really trying to compete with anything he had done, it’s just me being me. I also know that he’s the (career) assist leader, but I’m just going to try to be the best version of myself. I did take some notes from how he ran the offense here, because it’s pretty much the same from last year, so I did see a couple things that he did. But I’m really just trying to be the best I can be and then see how it goes.”

McClanahan said it also helps to know he is not going through this alone, and appreciates having Bayles and Coleman by his side.

“The point guards have a really good relationship, we have to talk a lot because all of us are new to the system, so we’re all trying to figure it out and affect the game in a positive way,” McClanahan said. “So all the point guards are close to each other, I talk to Biwali a lot, and Noel a lot. I know they’re from different countries but we all speak the same language as far as just being goofy and being serious at times. We all laugh and joke around with each other, so I really like Biwali and Noel a lot.”

HAWAI’I (7-5, 5-5 Big West) vs. UC SANTA BARBARA (12-3, 6-2 Big West)
When: Friday, Feb. 12 (7:00 p.m. HT) & Saturday, Feb. 13 (7:00 p.m. HT)
Where: SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center â€“ Honolulu, HI
Television: Spectrum Sports – Channels 12 (SD) and 1012 (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

Friday’s Games
UC San Diego at CSU Bakersfield, 4:00 PT
UC Irvine at UC Riverside, 4:00 PT
Cal State Fullerton at Cal Poly, 4:00 PT
Long Beach State at UC Davis, 4:00 PT
UC Santa Barbara at Hawai’i, 7:00 HT

Saturday’s Games
UC San Diego at CSU Bakersfield, 4:00 PT
Cal State Fullerton at Cal Poly, 4:00 PT
Long Beach State at UC Davis, 4:00 PT
UC Santa Barbara at Hawai’i, 7:00 HT
UC Irvine at UC Riverside, 9:00 PT

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