RAINBOW WARRIORS BASKETBALL
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
The clock is ticking on Julian Sensley's chance at playing in the NCAA Tournament.
Will Sensley's final shot hit the mark?
The clock is ticking on the small forward's chance at playing in the NCAA Tournament
This is the third in a five-part series looking at some of the questions facing the UH basketball team as it heads toward Saturday's season opener against nationally ranked Michigan State.
JULIAN SENSLEY can sense the clock ticking down.
It wasn't that long ago that Sensley arrived on the University of Hawaii campus with a promising career as one of the basketball program's most celebrated recruits.
Suddenly, he's staring down his senior season as a Rainbow Warrior and a last shot at reaching his goals as a college athlete.
"Since I've been here I've been to one postseason, and that was the NIT," Sensley said. "But a dream of mine has always been to play in the NCAA Tournament. I know that's everybody's dream out here.
"There's personal goals that I want to attend to at the end of the season. But one step at a time, because my main goal is to win the WAC and get to the NCAA."
UH missed out on the postseason for the first time in four years last year, and Sensley's leadership and production figure to be pivotal to the Rainbows' hopes of contending in the Western Athletic Conference.
Sensley has traveled a long and sometimes bumpy road since his days as a prep standout at Kalaheo and has settled in as a fixture at small forward for the Rainbows over the last two seasons. His final year begins Saturday with a matchup against No. 4 Michigan State.
"This is probably one of the better decisions I've made in my life," Sensley said of joining the UH program in 2003. "Since high school this is something for me that's huge, this last year and playing against people like Michigan State. From when I was in high school, this is something I've looked forward to, being able to play against big names.
"I've kind of gone through an emotional roller coaster, trying to find out who I am, not just as a person but as a basketball player. I have to try to focus on scoring and rebounding more this year."
Coaches around the WAC are also looking for a big senior season from Sensley, voting him to the preseason All-WAC first team, and his teammates elected him a co-captain along with guard Deonte Tatum.
Sensley's been steady over the last two seasons, averaging 12.2 points and 7.1 rebounds for the 'Bows while often providing spectacular moments.
But with time running down on his college career, he's looking to boost those numbers in hopes of helping UH contend in the WAC and catch the eye of professional scouts. Sensley said he'd like to see his averages jump to 16-18 points and about eight or nine rebounds per game this season.
"He knows and everyone has said they're just waiting for Julian to turn it up," UH coach Riley Wallace said. "Well, it seems like he's switched that button on because he's playing hard in practice and in the scrimmages.
"He's shooting the ball really well. He cannot lose his intensity, he's got to board and he's got to play defense, and if he does that then we can jump on his back and ride."
Although Sensley wants to increase his production and his presence demands the attention of opposing defenses, he thinks the Rainbows' balance could be their strength this season.
"We have so many weapons on this team it'll be hard for opponents to focus on one guy, because everybody can do so much," Sensley said. "I might be the high-point guy one night, another night it might be (Matt) Lojeski, another night it could be Deonte."
Sensley has rarely left the floor during his UH career, but the Rainbows' depth at small forward could give him a chance to stay fresh through the season. Lojeski spent much of the preseason at small forward before learning the shooting guard spot. Nash can also play either forward or guard.
"To be honest, every player wants to play the whole game," said Sensley, who will also slide to power forward at times. "If I had it my way, I'd play the whole game, so you have to be real with yourself and sometimes you need a breather."
Julian Sensley 6-9 235 Sr. Has 12 career double-doubles
Matt Lojeski 6-6 185 Jr. Also plays shooting guard
Bobby Nash 6-6 185 Jr. Has split time at 2 and 3 spots
Key stat: Sensley has started 59 of 62 games at UH and averages more than 35 minutes per game.