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Thursday, October 14, 2004



[ RAINBOW BASKETBALL ]


Blackett expects
’Bows to soar

The team will have its first
test flight tomorrow at
Midnight Ohana


Fear of flying?

It's not one of Jeff Blackett's phobias.

Fear of not performing up to his potential perhaps, but definitely not flying. In fact, if Blackett had his choice of super hero costumes to wear at tomorrow night's Midnight Ohana, he'd pick a character with airborne capabilities.

MIDNIGHT OHANA

What: First official basketball practice for Hawaii's men and women.

Where: Stan Sheriff Center

When: Tomorrow

Admission: Free

Schedule: Carnival, 8-11 p.m.; concert by Infusion, 9-11 p.m.; introduction of teams, midnight; 3-point and slamdunk contests, 12:15 a.m.; women's scrimmage, 12:30 a.m.; men's scrimmage, 12:50 a.m

"Superman maybe or Spider-Man would be good," Blackett said. "Anyone who could fly."

Instead, the 6-foot-8 forward apparently will be dressed as Rocky -- the boxer Rocky Balboa, not Rocky the Flying Squirrel -- when this season's edition of the Hawaii men's basketball team is introduced at midnight.

Blackett is more than ready to get his senior year under way.

"I'm really excited," said the Utah prep all-star. "Everyone is ready to go. This team is going to be interesting.

"We have a lot of new people, but we've gotten to know how each other plays during workouts the past 5-6 weeks. I think we'll jell pretty quick."

Even without the disguises, fans will not recognize most of the Rainbow Warrior roster. There are just six returning players but only two who played in every game last year: junior forward Julian Sensley, who started all 33, and junior transfer Blackett, who started twice and had a lot of minutes towards the end of the year.

The bulk of the team's experience is in the front court, which includes senior forward Vaidotas Peciukas and junior center Milos Zivanovic. The other returnees will be vying for the shooting guard spot: senior Jake Sottos and sophomore Bobby Nash.

"There will be a different aspect to this team in that all of our big men can shoot the ball," said Blackett, who shot a team-leading 52 percent from the floor last year. "Even the new guards are real good shooters. It will spread the other team's defense out and it will be hard to guard us.

"We have a lot of versatility and scoring threats in terms of people being able to play different positions. Julian can play pretty much anything from the '2' (shooting guard) to the '5' (center). And I can go from the '3' (small forward) to the '5.' In this offense, you get to move around a lot, so 3-4-5 are not your normal 3-4-5."

One other change for Hawaii is the stress on conditioning. Offseason workouts have had more emphasis on weight training, the theory being that it will help players keep weight on while on the road.

"A lot of guys lost a lot of weight last year when we traveled," Blackett said. "Travel makes everything so inconsistent -- you don't know what time zone you're in, your body clock is off."

Blackett's playing clock, however, is set for success. He believes Hawaii can win the conference, despite having so many new players.

"The great part of having such a new team is we might get overlooked a bit," he said. "People knew so much about us the previous years, but they'll have a big question mark by us this year.

"I won't say that we'll surprise people, because us winning is not a surprise. We have just as good of a chance as anyone to win it."

Blackett has high expectations for the team as well as himself. So does Hawaii coach Riley Wallace.

"I have him to have a great senior year," Wallace said. "I thought he played as good or better than anyone at the end of last season.

"He worked hard in the offseason, he's bigger, stronger and more confident. And he's a fan-pleaser, he does a lot of things on the court that the fans and the coaches like."

Blackett is also a good friend and, at age 24, like an older brother.

"He's family," Nash said. "Last year, we had this connection. We spent late nights talking, hanging out. He's a big part of my life and we've developed a friendship that goes beyond the game of basketball."

If there were a super hero on this Rainbow team, Blackett would choose Sensley.

"He'd be Superman," Blackett said. "He's got the attitude and the confidence. Plus, he's a great guy, an even better person than he is an athlete. He carries the leadership role well.

"I am a senior, but I don't consider this 'my' team. All of the returnees have put in a lot of work to get ready for this season. I welcome people to put expectations on me because they should. I'm looking forward to the challenge."

It begins tomorrow with the first official practice, the Green-White scrimmage that concludes the Midnight Ohana festivities.

"It's going to be exciting," Blackett promised. "If people want to see what we're all about, this would be a good start."

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