RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Deonte Tatum, left, has the edge at point guard over fellow Rainbow Warriors Dominic Waters, John Wilder and Hiram Thompson.
Who will point the way?
Senior Deonte Tatum appears ready to take the reins at point guard
This is the first in a five-part series looking at some of the questions facing the UH basketball team as it heads into Saturday's season opener against nationally ranked Michigan State
DEONTE Tatum returned to the Hawaii campus determined to be the answer to one of the most pressing questions facing the Hawaii basketball team this season.
Tatum began last year as the Rainbow Warriors' starting point guard, but ended the year playing limited minutes off the bench.
"I was a little upset about how things went last year, how things finished up. I came back wanting to show what I can do."
UH point guard
The team's lack of stability at the point contributed to several close losses in a 16-13 campaign and made the position a top recruiting priority for the UH coaches.
But Tatum wasn't ready to accept a secondary role with the Rainbows in his senior year.
"I came back definitely with an edge," Tatum said. "I was a little upset about how things went last year, how things finished up. I came back wanting to show what I can do."
UH coach Riley Wallace said Tatum has separated himself from the newcomers with his leadership and improved play in practice to take charge of the position heading into the season opener.
"He's far ahead of everyone," Wallace said. "He came back with such a good attitude, had 'team personality' written all over him, and had a good work ethic.
"You could tell he spent some time working on his game over the summer. He put the past out of his mind, and came in here with a work ethic that was not matched by anyone else. He said, 'I want that job and it's going to be mine and you'll have to take it away from me.' "
A year of seasoning in the system has given Tatum the edge over junior college transfer John Wilder and freshmen Dominic Waters and Hiram Thompson. And his efforts earned him the admiration of his teammates, who voted him a team captain along with forward Julian Sensley.
UH didn't have a returning point guard who could help ease Tatum into the role last season and his lack of experience showed at times. UH ended the year with Matt Gibson and Jake Sottos, both more suited to shooting guard, running the point.
"I think he came in last year not knowing what to expect," Wallace said. "You don't know how intense it is, you don't know all the things that you have to learn and what the coach wants.
"He gave us everything he had last year, but we lost a lot of close games and that goes back to the point guard position, whether it was him or whoever else was in there, with decision making. Now he knows what you want. He's running the club and showing leadership."
With Tatum establishing himself as the Rainbows' floor leader, the coaches can bring Wilder, Thompson and Waters along without rushing them into the fray. Gibson can also play the point while the newcomers get comfortable.
"It's a hard role," Wilder said. "You have to lead the whole team. They have to trust you and you have to trust them."
The Rainbows have turned up the tempo in practice, devoting considerable practice time on scoring in transition as well as in their halfcourt offense. Wallace said he'll look at using the running game more if the 'Bows execute it efficiently, and the guards are eager to push the ball up the court.
"It's definitely a lot more fun," Tatum said. "Last year, we'd take the ball out of bounds and we'd give teams chances to set up on defense. Then when we played (defense) they didn't give us a chance to rest, they were pushing it down our throat and scoring easy buckets. So hopefully this year we'll be able to get some of those easy baskets in transition."
UH Point Guards
||Started 13 games as a junior
||Averaged 12 points and 3 assists in JC
||Led Oak Ridge High to CIF D-II title
||Averaged 23.4 points at Grant (Ore.) High
Key stat: UH was second in the WAC with a 1.32 assist/turnover ratio last season (17 assists per game/12.8 turnovers per game).