RAINBOW BASKETBALL SEASON PREVIEW
Senior Matt Lojeski leads the Rainbows at shooting guard
SECOND OF FIVE PARTS
The UH basketball team opens its season Friday. Coach Riley Wallace will spend his 20th season placing his pieces on the board to put the 'Bows in position to improve on last year's 17-11 mark. Today's preview takes a look at the shooting guards that make up the 2006-07 team.
As one of the pieces the Rainbow Warriors are counting on most this season, Matt Lojeski won't be taken off the board very often this season.
The 6-foot-6 senior averaged nearly 35 minutes per game last season and is planning on carrying a similar work load this year.
THROUGH THE YEARS
Coach Riley Wallace is beginning his 20th season as coach of the Rainbows. Here's a look at his fifth through eighth seasons at the helm:
Record: 16-12, 9-7 WAC
MVP: Phil Lott
HIGHLIGHTS: Places third in the Rainbow Classic, beating Villanova on the final day. ... Loses to Utah in the first round of the WAC tournament in a game delayed when Wallace collapses in the first half. ... Phil Lott keeps the WAC scoring title in Hawaii with 18.5 ppg.
Record:12-16, 7-11 WAC
MVP: Chris Walz
HIGHLIGHTS: UH's first losing season since Wallace's first year as head coach. ... Newcomer Fabio Ribeiro leads the Rainbows with 14.1 ppg. ... Hosted a 1992 Rainbow Classic that included eventual Final Four participants North Carolina, Michigan and Kansas.
Record: 18-15, 11-7 WAC
MVP: Trevor Ruffin
HIGHLIGHTS: Opens the season with three lopsided losses at the Great Alaska Shootout. Ends it with three wins at the WAC tourney, beating BYU 73-66 for the program's first championship. ... Trevor Ruffin hits a school-record 10 3-pointers in an 85-79 loss to Louisville in the Rainbow Classic title game, banks in a last-second 3-pointer for a 69-66 win over BYU. ... Tony Maroney sets a school record with 103 blocked shots. ... Loses to Syracuse in UH's first NCAA Tournament appearance in 22 years.
Record: 16-13, 8-10 WAC
MVP: Tony Maroney
HIGHLIGHTS: Beats St. Bonaventure 82-73 on Nov. 25 in the program's first game at the Stan Sheriff Center. ... Loses to No. 1 North Carolina 88-76 on Dec. 22. ... Seeded sixth, reaches the WAC tournament final before losing to Utah 67-54. ... Maroney named first-team All-WAC.
"I told him he's going to have to expect some long minutes, because he's been pretty consistent for us," UH coach Riley Wallace said. "He's a main cog, no question about that."
Lojeski returns at shooting guard coming off a junior season in which he averaged 13.6 points per game (14.1 in Western Athletic Conference play), led the 'Bows with 56 3-pointers and earned a spot on the league's all-newcomer team.
He's continued to shred the nets in the Rainbows' preseason practices and scrimmages and will be counted on to continue his role as one of the team's most productive scorers.
"If that's what I have to do, I'll do it," he said. "If I don't, great, but I'm fine with that responsibility and I have to come through."
After transferring from Eastern Wyoming College, Lojeski proved a quick study in the Rainbows' system and began his career by hitting six 3-pointers against Michigan State.
He ended the season shooting 47 percent from the field and worked on developing a quicker release on his shots in the offseason. But he knows his reputation won't allow him to rely solely on jumpers in his second season in the program.
"(Opponents are) going to play him different this year because they know about him now," Wallace said. "They're going to play up in him, he puts the ball on the floor a little better and our guards have to find him with time (to shoot)."
Said Lojeski: "I'll have to be more of a complete scorer. If teams are going to be so far into me they're not going to let me shoot, I'll have to go to the hoop and create my own shots."
Lojeski also averaged four rebounds per game, dished out 65 assists and shot 86 percent from the free-throw line as a junior.
While he's slated to start in the backcourt again this season, Lojeski can also slide down to small forward when needed.
"It's going to be tough to play 35 to 40 minutes all year long," Lojeski said. "I realized that from last year, it wears you down. Hopefully I don't have to play that amount of time, but I'll be ready to do it."
When Matt Gibson and Bobby Nash applied for medical hardships early last season, much of the outside scoring load fell to Lojeski, who was second on the team behind Julian Sensley in minutes per game.
With Gibson and Nash back in the lineup, and John Wilder returning with greater confidence, the Rainbows have some options when Lojeski needs a break.
The guard spots are largely interchangeable and Gibson played shooting guard much of his sophomore season. Nash and newcomer Riley Luettgerodt are competing at small forward, but can also play shooting guard. All can fill it up from the perimeter.
Wilder returns after playing sparingly in the backcourt as a junior college transfer last season. With a year of experience behind him, Wilder will push for more playing time this season.
"It's a transition, it took a year to learn it, so I'll be all right," Wilder said.
"I can be more aggressive. ... You can see stuff so clearly now than I did last year. Now you just know the moves and can just get there."
Jack Miller, a former All-State player at Saint Louis, returns for his second season as a walk-on after playing in five games last year.
||Led UH with 56 3-pointers, named to WAC's All-Newcomer team
||Played sparingly in 19 games as a combo guard
||Appeared in 5 games as a walk-on from Saint Louis