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Friday, November 19, 2004



[ RAINBOW BASKETBALL PREVIEW ]


art
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Returning letterman Jeff Blackett, right, played in all 33 games last season and should provide a good example for newcomer Matthew Gipson.


Power hungry

Blackett and Gipson give
the ’Bows needed height at
the power-forward spot

SECOND OF FIVE PARTS

Traditionally, the higher the number of your position on the basketball court, the closer you play to the rim. Fives (centers) are expected to patrol the paint while the one (point guard) hangs out on the perimeter.

So by that logic, playing the four means Jeff Blackett and Matthew Gipson wouldn't venture very far from the post. But the Hawaii basketball team's scheme allows the Rainbow Warrior power forwards to do more than camp out under the basket.

Going forward

This season's candidates at power forward:

Name Ht. Wt. Class
Jeff Blackett 6-8 220 Senior
Matthew Gipson 6-9 220 Junior

Last year's production (per game)

chart

Name Pts. Rbs. Blks.
Phil Martin 9.5 4.5 0.3
Blackett 7.9 3.3 0.3

Top marks under coach Riley Wallace *

Season Career
Points: 529 1,231

Terry Houston Martin

1989-90 2000-04
Rebounds: 244 618

Houston Martin

1989-90 2000-04
Blocks: 51 88

Troy Ostler Ostler

2000-01 1999-2001

* Riley Wallace has coached the Rainbows since 1987

"It's the same in the sense that you're still posting up, but I think more perimeter is expected of you here as a four or even a five," Blackett said.

Blackett (6-foot-8, 220 pounds) and Gipson (6-9, 220) give the Rainbows height on the front line and can extend defenses with their outside-shooting ability.

With their height being among the 'Bows' greatest assets this season, coach Riley Wallace still expects the forwards to clean up on the boards and doesn't want them floating toward the 3-point line too often. But he recognizes the advantages to having that option.

"You don't want them to get to thinking (about shooting outside) and not inside because then you take away your height advantage," Wallace said. "But if you have power inside and a big man to pull (the defender) out, obviously it's a good thing."

Blackett and Gipson take over for Phil Martin, a four-year fixture at the position. Most preseason previews credit the Rainbows with just one returning starter, small forward Julian Sensley. But when Wallace takes inventory of this year's squad, he tallies Blackett in the category of starter.

"I look at it like I have two starters back because Blackett has enough playing time and started some games, so he's a starter in every way you've got," Wallace said.

Blackett played in all 33 games last season, starting two, and averaged 7.9 points in more than 19 minutes per outing. In addition to being a strong finisher in the paint, Blackett's mid-range jumper became one of UH's most reliable weapons down the stretch.

His outside shot deserted him for much of Sunday's exhibition game against UH-Hilo, but his work on the boards carried him to a 16-point, 10-rebound performance. Gipson had five points and seven rebounds and knocked down a 3-pointer coming off the bench.

When the forwards have their jumpers dropping, it can open lanes to the hoop for their teammates.

"It stretches out the defense a little more and allows for a lot of back cuts," Blackett said. "If they're laying off you it's a lot harder to throw the pass when someone's cutting to the basket. But if they have to honor your shot and come up on you, it opens it up a little bit more."

Blackett's experience playing the four has given him the edge over Gipson, a talented transfer who started his college career at Oklahoma and was a third-team junior-college All-American at North Idaho College last season.

The Western Athletic Conference's preseason newcomer of the year remains more comfortable driving from the wing than sealing down low, and continues to fit his skills into the 'Bows' motion offense.

"I've been in more free-lance offenses that aren't as structured and you don't have a spot to be at every moment," Gipson said. "I'm kind of used to floating around and playing my game. Here I've got to play within the team system."

Gipson is working his way into shape after offseason knee surgery kept him out of the 'Bows' preseason conditioning program, and the team is hoping for big things from the big man once he finds his niche in the system.

"This is really his first year of college basketball," Wallace said. "Now he's got to up his level and he's got to learn a lot of stuff. He's on a crash course, he's only got two years left and we're not going pass him by. We're going to push him to try to get there."


Tomorrow: Small forwards

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