Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

‘Next man up, every man up’ again for Warriors

For the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team, cliches like “Next man up” and “One play away” are not just “Coachspeak” — they are reality.

The Warriors, who have been through numerous individual setbacks over the past 13 months, are in “step-up” mode yet again after projected starting point guard Juan Moniz suffered a season-ending achilles injury in the Nov. 3 exhibition victory over UH-Hilo. Hawai’i does not have much time to adjust, as the regular season opener versus Mississippi Valley State is set for 7 p.m. Friday followed by games on Sunday (5 p.m. against Eastern Washington) and Monday (7 p.m. vs. Yale) in the Outrigger Rainbow Classic.

“The guys have been resilient, it’s a resilient group,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “We’ve unfortunately been well-versed in some of these situations over the past several years, so we’ll lean on that, too. Part of it is even harder because as anybody can tell, it’s a tight-knit group. It’s very emotional, especially the first 24 to 48 hours (after learning of Munoz’s injury), for any team to go through this, certainly a very connected team. And certainly for an individual who’s gone through way too much of this.

“This is an incredible young man who has been through more than any of us should ever go through, and he’s handled it with class and resilience and toughness. And he’ll do the same now. On behalf of him and our team, we want to thank everybody for the outpouring of support. It has really helped him get through the early tough time, and now he’s shifting gears. I know we’re there for him, and it goes a long way. He’s very engaged, he’s very much a part of this program. He’s just one of the best people you’ll ever be around, and I know he appreciates it. “

Munoz, a redshirt senior who transferred from Longwood University in 2021, missed all of last season with an injury and also suffered through similar long-term ailments before that.

Junior JoVon McClanahan, a part-time starter the past two seasons, is expected to man the point Friday against Mississippi Valley State.

“He’s always been there, JoVon’s been great,” said senior co-captain Samuta Avea. “It’s not just on him, it’s on everybody to step up, but I’m excited for him, to keep what he’s been doing going.”

Like Munoz, Avea sat out last season after undergoing surgery and rehab. He also opted out of the 2020-21 COVID season and made his first live game appearance since March 2020 three minutes into last Thursday’s exhibition, greeted by warm fan applause.

“I’ve been very grateful for the support, even along the way,” said Avea, a sixth-year wing from Hau’ula and Kahuku High School. “Just still hearing from everybody through that time has been huge. It definitely felt really cool to go into the game and feel the love. It was a special moment.”

After starting last season without Munoz and Avea, the Warriors suffered through injuries, illness and absences from starting guard Noel Coleman, starting center Bernardo da Silva, backup center Mate Colina, reserve guard Justus Jackson, starting forward Kamaka Hepa, and then Coleman again down the final stretch of the regular season and Big West Tournament.

Munoz was having an impressive game against Hilo with 16 points and five assists, including four deep 3-point shots and a couple dazzling drives to the basket, before leaving the game abruptly midway through the second half — disappearing into the arena tunnel not to return.

“After hearing the news after the game on Thursday, it was definitely very emotional for myself and my teammates and the coaches,” said Hepa, a senior co-captain. “We saw and we know how hard Juan worked this whole offseason, really since he got injured last year. To see him be able to play, and then go down like that, it was very unfortunate. It definitely hurt. But I think moving forward, Juan was a big leadership person for us, and it’s important that we continue to put our goal at the front of our minds for him, because I know that’s what he wants deep down, too.

“There’s no real way to prepare for injuries, but I think Coach Ganot does a good job of stressing ‘Next man up,’ and it’s on everybody to be ready when their number is called. Whoever’s number is called, is just going to continue to step up and perform.”

Ganot said constant preparation is a core principle of the UH program, and that applies to dealing with unexpected setbacks.

“Next man, every man, it’s not on one guy,” Ganot said. “This is the nature of what we’re going through right now. Obviously JoVon has to carry a bigger load, and Noel, Justus … in terms of the guard responsibilities in organizing our team. But it’s on everybody. We play through all our guys (on offense), so everybody is a decision-maker on our team. Obviously there’s a couple guys who need to step up, but it’s going to be a collective effort and everybody’s gonna have to do a little bit more.

“It’s a humbling game, life is humbling. And one of the things we talk a lot about with our team is, you hear some people say, ‘Good things come to those who are patient.’ (But) really it’s ‘Good things come to those who are ready.’ And I think over the course of the years for our team … you need to have everybody ready to go. And those guys who can come to work every day, maybe when they’re not playing, just continue to work, continue to get better. Even if (playing time) doesn’t happen for them, it helps them and it helps us in some way — short-term or long-term. 

“The hanging your head and all that stuff, has never worked. The other approach is not guaranteed, but at least puts you in a position to have a chance and is really helpful to our team. So we need everybody to get this thing done.”

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