Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Warriors hoping for Mor in Big West opener vs. UC Davis

For the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team this season, Mor is definitely not less. 

Photo courtesy Chris Kadooka

Entering Thursday’s 7 p.m. Big West Conference opener against UC Davis in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center, the Warriors (9-3) are riding not only the huge momentum from their first Diamond Head Classic championship, but also the timely boost from 7-foot-1 freshman reserve center Mor Seck.

Seck, along with Big West Player of the Week point guard JoVon McClanahan, had a breakout performance in the Classic with six rebounds in eight-plus minutes off the bench in a 62-51 semifinal victory over Washington State followed by nine points, six boards and two blocks in nine-plus minutes during the thrilling 58-57 title win over Southern Methodist.

“Thrown in the fire, playing one of his best games on Christmas Day in a championship game … he’s got a bright future,” UH coach Eran Ganot said. “We love where he’s at, and we love where he’s headed. He’s gotta go through the ups and downs like everybody does, (so) he continues to fight and continues to compete and stay ready.  But we did say when we brought him in, he brings a different dimension than what we’ve had. He’s a presence around the rim, early in his career. He already has that.”

Seck, who is originally from Senegal and graduated from Prolific Prep in Napa, Calif., moved to the United States as a high school freshman and played organized basketball for the first time soon after. Prior to last Friday, Seck’s season highs for the Warriors were six points (vs. Mississippi Valley State in his career debut) and two rebounds (twice, including vs. UNLV on Dec. 7).

“I’m so excited, because that’s the first time we ever won this (title), and it’s something that is going to follow me forever,” Seck said. “I just got here as a freshman, and we won this for the first time. The coach gave me an opportunity to show what I can do, and I knew I can do my part to just help the team, and I came out saying in my mind, ‘I have to do this for my team.’ Because each one of them (starters), they’re gonna have a good game sometime, but sometimes they’re gonna have a bad game. That day was my day, and I was ready for that. I’m always ready.”

Seck’s performance was timely, not just because starting post Bernardo da Silva encountered early foul trouble, but also because it kept Hawai’i within striking distance in a game that it trailed from the start. And now, it provides confidence in the team’s depth that will be most critical during the upcoming 20-game conference schedule.

“Depth is huge, and we’ve had some guys out,” Ganot said. “So we’ve needed everybody. If we’re going to get to where we want, we’re going to need everybody. Guys have to stay ready, and he’s stayed ready. I think some of it clicks … we kind of have an idea of who we’re rolling with, but you can’t really judge someone’s true talents until they get in shape and until they’re comfortable. He’s still getting there, but he’s getting more comfortable, he’s in better shape and he had some good stretches in practice which led to a mini breakthrough against UNLV. He’s stayed ready, and he’s certainly helped us do what we’ve been doing recently.”

Seck said the latest breakthrough was actually several weeks or even months in the making.

“Everything is a process,” Seck said. “Like the coaches tell me, ‘Just take your time, you don’t need to rush anything.’ So I’m practicing every single day, trying to get better every single day. Trying to help the team reach our goal.”

The official first step in reaching that goal — a Big West Conference title — comes with the league opener against UC Davis on Thursday. The Aggies (7-5) began the season with a 75-65 victory at Cal, and are coming off an 81-54 loss at UCLA, so they already have faced stiff competition on the road. 

“Davis is very good with their player movement and their ball movement, and moving it side-to-side and playing inside-out,” Ganot said. “Their big fella (Christian Anigwe) has improved, so they have more of an inside-out attack. You got (Elijah) Pepper who is scoring close to 20 (points) a game, (Ty) Johnson who is an impact new player for them who is filling the box score, scoring (close to) 17 a game. They shoot the 3 well, and they’re really good with their push. Defensively, they’ve always gone after you, they play very physical, forcing turnovers. Hopefully some of the games that we’ve played this year with those kinds of teams defensively and offensively will help us.”

Ganot said his team also faces the challenge of a quick turnaround, starting conference play just four days after the Diamond Head Classic for the first time.

“The game is very humbling, as we all know,” Ganot said. “This is a great challenge for us, the quickest turnaround we’ve seen between the Diamond Head and conference play. The teams we’re playing had Christmas and the holidays off, and they’ve been ready and waiting. Davis will be coming in having a great non-conference (season), (they’ve) always been very well-coached, tough, gritty. The turnaround, our ability to handle adversity, handle success, stay professional … I think this group does a good job with that.

“But this is going to be a great challenge.”

Ganot said reserve wing Ryan Rapp has returned to practice with contact after a recent injury, and needs to put together a string of contact practices together before becoming available. Meanwhile, reserve guard Amoro Lado underwent surgery for a stress fracture, after suffering from shin splints. 

“That’s being cleaned up, and so he’s out for potentially the next couple months,” Ganot said.

HAWAI’I (9-3) vs. UC DAVIS (7-5)
Thursday, December 29, 7:00 p.m.
Where: SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center
Tickets: Etickethawaii.com
TV: Spectrum Sports (channels 12/1012 in Hawai’i)
Video streaming: ESPN+ (blacked out in Hawai’i)
Radio: ESPN Honolulu (92.7 FM, 1420 AM, espnhonolulu.com, Sideline Hawaii app)

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