RAINBOW WARRIOR VOLLEYBALL
Rainbows spread cheer
The Hawaii basketball players spend time with Kapiolani patients
Before diving into the grind of a hectic week, the Hawaii basketball team devoted part of its schedule yesterday afternoon to sharing some holiday cheer.
The Rainbow Warriors visited Kapiolani Medical Center prior to their practice, spending time with the youthful patients in the hospital and hoping to provide a few bright moments to their day.
43RD OUTRIGGER HOTELS RAINBOW CLASSIC
When: Tomorrow to Saturday.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center.
Tomorrow: Wyoming vs. Nebraska, 5 p.m.; Hawaii vs. San Francisco, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday: Charlotte vs. Houston, 5 p.m.; Valparaiso vs. Creighton, 7:30 p.m.
Friday: Consolation--Wyoming/Nebraska loser vs. Hawaii/San Francisco loser, 11 a.m.; Charlotte/Houston loser vs. Valparaiso/Creighton loser, 1:30 p.m. Semifinals--Charlotte/Houston winner vs. Valparaiso/Creighton winner, 5 p.m.; Wyoming/Nebraska winner vs. Hawaii/San Francisco winner, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday: Seventh-place, 11 a.m.; Fifth-place, 1:30 p.m.; Third-place, 5 p.m.; Championship, 7:30 p.m.
TV: KFVE, 5 and 7:30 p.m. games tomorrow to Friday. Third-place and championship games on Oceanic Cable pay-per-view on Saturday.
Radio: UH games on 1420-AM.
Tickets: Packages, $90 (lower bowl), $70 (upper); Individual games, $26 lower, $22 upper (on sale tomorrow); Daytime consolation games Friday and Saturday, $7.
"It always makes you feel good and get into the Christmas spirit of giving," junior guard Matt Gibson said. "It definitely does as much for us as it does for the kids, if not more."
"All the guys got into it," said UH coach Riley Wallace, who arranged the outing. "They signed a bunch of autographs and talked to them, and did a really good job; one of the best teams I've ever had doing that. It was a good feeling for all of us and I hope the kids, too."
With that, the Rainbows went back to work in hopes of creating some joyful memories of their own in this week's Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic.
The 43rd annual tournament begins tomorrow at the Stan Sheriff Center. Wyoming and Nebraska meet in the first game at 5 p.m. Hawaii then opens its tournament run against San Francisco at 7:30.
The first round continues Thursday with Charlotte playing Houston at 5 and Valparaiso and Creighton meeting at 7:30.
In the season of giving, the Rainbows will be in a mood for taking once the tournament starts. Namely, taking back the Rainbow Classic crown after finishing third last year.
To reclaim the title, they'll have to get through a balanced field.
"I told somebody you could put the names all in a hat and pull one out and probably have as good a shot as trying to pick somebody," Wallace said.
UH had a string of four straight Classic championships snapped with a loss to Colorado State in last year's semifinals. It was also the first time since 1998 that the 'Bows failed to reach the title game.
But before they can think about returning to the final, there's the matter of getting into Friday and Saturday's evening rounds. Hawaii has won its tournament opener -- thereby avoiding the dreaded daytime consolation games -- each of the last 10 years.
San Francisco enters the tournament at 4-7, but the Rainbows remain wary of the Dons.
"It's another team you've got to be careful with, you can't judge them by their record," Wallace said. "Because on a given night they get hot on you, you don't get back on defense, they get the ball in the right hands and they're going to wear you out."
The Dons feature a guard-oriented attack that has become a familiar look for the Rainbows already this season. They corralled an up-tempo Northwestern State team last Saturday in an 89-78 win and will try to carry the lessons from that game into tomorrow's contest.
"It's amazing how many teams that I see on these films that are doing the same things," Wallace said. "So the preparation has gotten easier."
Due to injuries and suspensions, tomorrow's game will be just the fourth that San Francisco coach Jessie Evans will have his full roster available.
"It's unfortunate we've got to play the host team, but in another way it's OK because all the competition here is good," Evans said. "So it doesn't matter who you play, you're going to play someone good regardless.
"Hawaii is a very good basketball team, Coach Wallace does an excellent job. They've got a team that's coming together also, so we know it's going to be a heck of a challenge for us."
This year's field includes three former champions (Hawaii, San Francisco and Houston) and two teams making their first appearance (Wyoming and Valparaiso). Charlotte reached the championship game in 1998, and coach Bobby Lutz saw how the tournament can serve as a springboard into the conference season.
"It was a great experience for our team and that team went on to win the Conference USA tournament," said Lutz, who was in his first season when the 49ers last visited. "I have very fond memories of my first time here."
Following is a look at the teams in this year's Classic:
Charlotte 49ers (3-5)
: Bobby Lutz (ninth year)
Conference: Atlantic 10
Classic history: 2-1 (1998)
Leading scorer: De'Angelo Alexander, 18.5 ppg
Outlook: The 49ers have had a lengthy break to gear up for the tournament. They haven't played since losing at Davidson on Dec. 9 to fall to 0-4 away from home. Charlotte is led by senior tri-captains Alexander (guard, 6-foot-5), E.J. Drayton (forward, 6-9) and Leemire Goldwire (guard, 5-11), all of whom average double-figure scoring. Alexander was the top 3-point shooter in the Atlantic 10 last season and was one of 50 preseason candidates for the Wooden National Player of the Year award. Drayton is among the nation's leading rebounders with 10.1 per game.
Creighton Bluejays (4-3)
: Dana Altman (13th year)
Conference: Missouri Valley
Classic history: 3-3 (1987, '89)
Leading scorer: Anthony Tolliver, 14.3
Outlook: Creighton, the preseason favorite to win a tough MVC, returned four starters from last season's 20-10 team, leading to a spot in the preseason polls. But road losses to rival Nebraska and Dayton dropped the Bluejays from the rankings. They knocked off No. 24 Xavier on Dec. 9 before opening their trip with a 69-54 loss at WAC member Fresno State on Saturday. Senior guard Nate Funk was an All-MVC pick in 2005, but a shoulder injury cost him most of last season. After being granted a medical hardship, Funk was named the preseason MVC Player of the Year and is averaging 14 points in his return.
Hawaii Rainbows (5-4)
: Riley Wallace (20th year)
Conference: Western Athletic
Classic history: 69-57 (1970, '71, '73, '90, '97, '99, 2001-04 champion)
Leading scorer: Matt Lojeski, 16.4
Outlook: The Rainbows bounced back from back-to-back losses with their highest point output of the season in last Saturday's 89-78 win over Northwestern State. The Rainbows are first among WAC teams with better than 17 assists per game. Although he hasn't scored from 3-point range at last season's pace, Lojeski is shooting 52 percent from the field to lead the Rainbows in scoring. His 46 assists are also a team high. Matt Gibson is second in both categories at 11.1 points and 26 assists. Ahmet Gueye (9.7 ppg, 72 rpg) continues to anchor the team in the post.
Houston Cougars (4-3)
: Tom Penders (third year)
Conference: Conference USA
Classic history: 6-3 (1967 champion, '76, '88)
Leading scorer: Robert McKiver, 22.7
Outlook: The Cougars entered the week fifth in the nation in scoring with 87.4 ppg. Their 87-62 defeat at No. 9 Arizona on Sunday was the first time they scored fewer than 78 points this season. The Cougars, who went 21-10 last season, have topped 100 points in two games this season, with Robert McKiver hitting for 33 in both. McKiver (guard, 6-3) ranks seventh in the nation in scoring and has 32 3-pointers. Guard Oliver Lafayette (17.9 ppg) is second among six Cougars averaging double figures in points. Penders formerly coached at Texas and George Washington.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (6-2)
: Doc Sadler (first year)
Conference: Big 12
Classic history: 3-6 (1979, '92, '97)
Leading scorer: Aleks Maric, 19.4
Outlook: The Cornhuskers return to the Sheriff Center for the first time since facing Hawaii in the second round of the 2004 NIT. Sadler made the trip several times as both an assistant and head coach at UTEP. Nebraska began the season 5-0, including a win over neighbor and rival Creighton on Nov. 18, before losing at Rutgers and Oregon earlier this month. The Cornhuskers are among the nation's top 3-point shooting teams at 42 percent. Maric (center, 6-11, 270 pounds) does most of his work inside, leading the Huskers in scoring and rebounding (7.4 per game), while shooting 68 percent from the field, good for sixth in the country.
San Francisco Dons (4-7)
: Jessie Evans (third year)
Conference: West Coast
Classic history: 7-5 (1969, 1976 champion, '81, '89)
Leading scorer: Armondo Surratt, 15.1
Outlook: San Francisco has struggled lately, losing three straight before heading to Hawaii. A loss to UC Santa Barbara on Sunday was their seventh in the last nine games. Surratt (guard, 6-1) was the WCC newcomer of the year and led the Dons in scoring last season after transferring from Miami (Fla.), where he ranked seventh in the Big East in assists as a sophomore. Senior center Alan Wiggins Jr., is the son of the late former San Diego Padres and Baltimore Orioles second baseman who played for the Triple-A Hawaii Islanders in 1981 and '82. Wiggins Jr., is tied for second on the team in scoring (13.5 ppg) and is the Dons' top rebounder (6.6 per game).
Valparaiso Crusaders (3-6)
: Homer Drew (18th year)
Classic history: First appearance
Leading scorer: Urule Igbavboa, 11
Outlook: Valparaiso enters the tournament on a six-game losing streak, a stretch that included matchups with nationally ranked Marquette -- losing on a 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds left -- Butler and Ohio State in the span of a week (Nov. 27-Dec. 2). The Crusaders are coming off a 61-40 loss at Ball State last Saturday. Igbavboa (forward, 6-8) tops the team with 8.9 rebounds per game and 11 blocks. Guard/forward Shawn Huff has hit a team-high 15 3-pointers, and Brandon McPherson is the Crusaders' leader in assists with 34. The Crusaders feature an international roster with players from New Zealand, England, Finland (two), and Senegal.
Wyoming Cowboys (8-2)
: Steve McClain (ninth year)
Conference: Mountain West
Classic history: First appearance
Leading scorer: Brandon Ewing, 22.2
Outlook: A former UH rival in the old WAC, the Cowboys are off to their best start since the 2002-03 season following a 14-18 record last season. The Cowboys rank third in the MWC in scoring offense (79 ppg), with most of their scoring coming after halftime. They average 34.5 points in the first half and 44 in the second. Brandon Ewing (guard, 6-2) leads the league in scoring and began the season by hitting for 32 points against Boise State. The sophomore poured in 29 in a loss at No. 8 Wichita State on Dec. 9. Brad Jones (6-0, guard) is second on the team in scoring at 17.7 ppg and first in assists with 4.6.