RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Dominic Waters, Hiram Thompson and Jack Miller hope to contribute to the UH basketball team this season as freshmen.
Months after being stars, 3 freshmen are adjusting to college basketball at UH
Just a few months ago, they were the established stars, the go-to guys.
Now they're the youngsters just trying to prove that they belong.
Such is the life of a college freshman.
Who: UH-Hilo vs. UH-Manoa
When: Today, 7:05 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV & Radio: None
Tickets: General admission, $7 (adults), $4 (ages 4-18, UH students)
Rainbow Warriors sign JC forward Veit
The Hawaii basketball team took a step toward restocking its frontcourt with the signing of junior college forward Alex Veit.
Veit, a 6-foot-9, 220-pounder from Monterey Peninsula College, made his commitment official by submitting a national letter of intent to UH. The Rainbow Warriors are counting on him to help ease the loss of four big men to graduation next season.
"It was very important to get him, because we've got guards, we needed more size." UH coach Riley Wallace said. "To get one early was really a relief."
Wallace said UH associate coaches Jackson Wheeler and Bob Nash spotted Veit playing in a tournament in Los Angeles this summer and were impressed with his athletic ability.
"He's got tremendous hops, he can really jump, and he shoots the ball," Wallace said.
Veit will have two years of eligibility at UH. Forwards Stephen Verwers, who is sitting out this season due to transfer rules, and Ahmet Gueye return next season. Wallace said the Rainbows plan to offer at least two of their four remaining scholarships to big men during the late signing period next spring.
Veit averaged 10 points and six rebounds as a freshman at MPC. He's a graduate of South Salem (Ore.) High School, the same program that produced former UH guard Michael Kuebler.
Impressive high school credentials earned guards Hiram Thompson, Dominic Waters and Jack Miller places on the Hawaii basketball team. But prep accolades don't mean much when the time comes to perform at the college level.
"You have confidence coming in, you made good things happen in high school, and then you come here and it's a shock because everybody did well in high school and (junior college)," Thompson said after a recent practice.
The UH freshmen have shown they can hold their own in practice and are looking to test their progress when the Rainbow Warriors face in-state rival Hawaii-Hilo in an exhibition game tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center. Tip-off is 7:05.
Hawaii has leaned heavily on junior college recruits rather than high schoolers during Riley Wallace's tenure as head coach. But the coaching staff targeted point guard in their recruiting efforts in the offseason and offered scholarships to Thompson and Waters in hopes of building stability at the position for the next four years.
"That's the exciting part," Waters said. "That we have a lot of time to grow."
They're still working through some growing pains as they adjust to the college game, but Thompson and Waters have maintained their confidence and have impressed their teammates and coaches with their poise and ability.
"The freshmen I knew would struggle, but they're still ahead of almost all the freshmen we've had here," Wallace said. "I can put them in games, they know their stuff and they play hard."
Miller, the son of former UH standout Jack Miller Jr., earned a roster spot as a walk-on from Saint Louis School and knows getting on the court will require more for him than it will for his teammates on scholarship.
"I have to show more effort and I have to do the extra things to keep up," Miller said.
All three freshmen joined the Rainbows following successful runs as the leaders of their high school teams.
» Thompson guided Oak Ridge High School of El Dorado Hills, Calif., to the California Interscholastic Federation Division II state championship last season, earning MVP honors in the Sierra Valley Conference.
» Waters averaged 23.4 points as a senior at Grant High School in Portland, Ore., and scored 46 points in a 78-67 loss to national prep power Montrose Christian (Md.) in a tournament last year.
He shot 14-for-19 from the field, hitting seven of eight 3-pointers, and was 11-for-12 from the free-throw line in that game.
» Miller was named to the Star-Bulletin's Fab 15 All-State team as a senior shooting guard at nearby Saint Louis, averaging 17.9 points for the Crusaders.
Since arriving in Manoa, they've had to quickly digest the UH playbook while adjusting to the speed of the college game. They've also learned that plays they could pull off in high school might not work as well at the next level.
"It's definitely not high school," Waters said. "It's more physical, that's the main difference, the physicality and the speed of the game."
Said Thompson: "In high school, it's pretty much a free-for-all, but here you have to run the system. Straight talent won't get the job done, you have to use the team, set good screens and be physical."
UH guard Bobby Nash can relate to the youngsters better than most of his teammates. The junior and center Milos Zivanovic are the only members of this year's UH team who entered the program as freshmen.
"All I did was try to earn the respect of the coaches and try to earn the respect of my teammates and peers," Nash recalled of his first year of college. "I think Dominic, Jack and Hiram are doing a good job, doing what they need to do to play big minutes for us. It's a long season and injuries can happen, and we know there won't be any drop-off if they do come in."
Nash and Miller have been friends since they attended Iolani at the same time and also share a bond as second-generation Rainbows. Nash's father, Bob, was a member of the Fabulous Five in the 1970s and is entering his 25th season on the UH coaching staff.
While the UH veterans give the freshmen their share of good-natured grief, they also make a point of helping them learn the system.
"That's my responsibility," senior guard Deonte Tatum said, referring to the two new point-guard recruits. "This is my last year, and when I'm done it's going to be their turn.
"For freshmen, they're very competitive, they both work extremely hard and they both have a really good feel for the game."