RAINBOW WARRIOR BASKETBALL
Rocha back to watch UH and OSU
Red Rocha is back in town to watch both the school he played for and the one he coached compete in a tournament he helped create more than four decades ago.
Rocha, an Oregon State alumnus and former Hawaii basketball coach, and the late Chuck Leahey are credited with starting the Rainbow Classic. And for the first time in the Classic's 42-year history, OSU joins UH in the eight-team field.
"It's nice to see them coming to the Rainbow Classic, something we started here a long time ago," Rocha said after watching UH's practice yesterday morning.
Rocha still lives in Corvallis, Ore., and is an OSU season-ticket holder. He last visited Honolulu when the Beavers played UH at the Stan Sheriff Center two years ago.
A member of both the UH Circle of Honor and the Oregon State Sports Hall of Fame, Rocha was an neutral observer for that game, won by Hawaii 70-67 in overtime, and is looking forward to following both teams in the tournament.
The Rainbows and Beavers are on opposite sides of the bracket, meaning their paths wouldn't cross before Friday's closing round.
UH plays Loyola Marymount in tonight's feature game at 7:30. Oregon State opens its tournament run tomorrow against Northwestern State at 5 p.m.
"(Today) I'll be with the University of Hawaii and on Wednesday I'll be on the Oregon State side," Rocha said. "I like both teams, but when they go against each other ... I'm impartial then."
Rocha and Leahey started the Rainbow Classic to give college basketball a foothold in a sporting community dominated by football and high school hoops in the 1960s. Some 42 years later, it is now the longest running eight-team tournament in the country.
"The only way to do it was to get a bunch of college teams in here and get a tournament going," Rocha said. "How long it was going to last, I had no idea."
Tracking the Lions: UH's first-round opponent arrived in town a bit short on numbers, but eager to test themselves in what is expected to be a balanced tournament.
Loyola Marymount (3-6) faces the Rainbows without four players who didn't make the trip due to injuries. But first-year head coach Rodney Tention said his team will be ready to face the host team tonight.
"We're 11 strong, we're not going to use that as an excuse," Tention said. "These guys are excited about being here in Hawaii and we understand we're here to play basketball first and enjoy the atmosphere later."
LMU is led by forward Matthew Knight, who averages 17.3 points and 10.2 rebounds. Knight didn't start the Lions' game against Northern Colorado on Saturday due to a concussion suffered in the previous game. But Tention said he'll be back in the lineup tonight.
Injury update: UH guard Bobby Nash has been practicing despite a sore right shoulder. Wallace has said Nash can play in one more game before the halfway point of the season and still be eligible to redshirt if the injury doesn't improve.
Guard Matt Gibson hasn't practiced since having a cyst removed from his chest last Wednesday. The cyst formed due to a staph infection.
Rules changes: The NCAA's experimental rules will be in effect for the Rainbow Classic.
The 3-point line will be moved back a foot to 20 feet, 9 inches, and the wider international lane will be used. A restricted-area arc under the basket will be used as a guide in calling offensive fouls.
The rules are in effect for exempted events, such as the Rainbow Classic and Maui Invitational.