RAINBOW WARRIOR BASKETBALL
Rainbows get Gibson back for practice
But the suspended guard may not play in Saturday's game
As the Hawaii basketball team welcomed two players back on the court for yesterday's practice, three others watched from the sideline due to injuries.
Junior guard Matt Gibson was cleared to practice by head coach Riley Wallace after sitting out more than two weeks while on suspension. He rejoined the team for yesterday's workout at the Stan Sheriff Center, but Wallace said whether Gibson will play in Saturday's Western Athletic Conference opener against Utah State has yet to be determined.
"I've cleared him to practice. It's day to day," Wallace said after the session.
Senior center Milos Zivanovic also practiced for the first time since breaking a bone in his left thumb during a preseason practice in early November. But guards Matt Lojeski and Hiram Thompson and guard/forward Bobby Nash were out of action.
Gibson was placed on indefinite suspension for "conduct detrimental to the team" the day before UH's game against Saint Louis on Nov. 26 after a heated exchange with Wallace at the end of practice. He missed three games and was not allowed to practice with the Rainbow Warriors while he was suspended.
He was back on the court yesterday and spent the latter part of the practice working with the scout team.
"When you lose a big part of the family and he's able to come back, it's a good thing and he'll help us," said senior co-captain Julian Sensley.
Gibson led UH in scoring last season with 13 points per game. He came off the bench in the Rainbows' first two games this season, scoring eight points in a win over Michigan State and one point in a loss at UNLV.
Even with Gibson back, the UH lineup was a bit thin yesterday.
Lojeski injured his left shoulder during last Saturday's 58-52 loss at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He was diagnosed with a Grade 2 sprain of his left AC joint and hopes to be ready to practice tomorrow.
Lojeski ranks third on the team with 13.6 points per game and is second in the nation in 3-point-shooting percentage at 61.9 percent (13-for-21).
"I'm having difficulty getting my arm above my head," Lojeski said. "From (Monday) morning to (yesterday), it's a complete turnaround. I'm hoping for sure I'll be ready by Saturday."
Wallace doesn't expect Nash to be ready for Saturday's game. Nash hurt his right (shooting) shoulder when he fell during a College Summer League game. He tried to play through the pain during preseason practices and the first five games of the season and was averaging 5.8 points in 14 minutes off the bench, scoring in double figures twice.
"It's been loose and I've been trying to get through it, but right now it's just killing me," he said. "As of late, the pain has been increasing so it's been tough trying to go through the day.
"The doctors told me to try not to do anything with it, lay off of it and not use it."
Wallace said the injuries weren't a factor in Gibson's return to practice.
"That has nothing to do with this," he said. "When I think he can help the team then he will, but he won't play before that."
Junior guard John Wilder has gotten more playing time in Gibson's absence and Wallace said he plans to work freshman Dominic Waters into the rotation.
"That's why you've got them, in case there's injuries or whatever happens, you never know," Wallace said.
Early starts: The WAC's participation in ESPN Bracket Busters Saturday in February led to the early start to the conference season for both Hawaii and Utah State.
The teams agreed to move the game to make room for the Bracket Busters game later in the season. Tip-off is set for 1:05 p.m. to accommodate Utah State's travel needs. The Aggies return home to play Oral Roberts on Dec. 20.
Saturday's game will be Utah State's first in Hawaii. The Aggies lead the series 2-1 in three meetings in Logan. UH won the last matchup 85-74 in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament in 2004.
Two-for-one: Fans attending Saturday's men's game at 1:05 p.m. will also have a chance to catch the Rainbow Wahine game against Campbell at 4:30.
Fans will receive free admission to the women's game with a ticket stub from the men's game. The arena will not be cleared between games.
Tickets in the upper level will be available at half price with a donation to the "Toys for Tots" campaign (one ticket per toy). The promotion is good only for advance purchases at the Sheriff Center box office and will not be available on game day.