FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Riley Wallace was honored for 20 years as head coach of the men's basketball team with a ceremony following last night's WAC victory over Boise State.
Lojeski and Gueye show up big on Riley’s night
The pair are Wallace's latest junior college success stories
Yes, Riley Wallace's junior college transfers were troublemakers.
For the opposition.
Co-captains Matt Lojeski and Ahmet Gueye led the way yesterday at the Stan Sheriff Center as Hawaii bounced Boise State 92-75 in Wallace's farewell game and their own senior night.
"I'm glad to see him go," Boise State coach Greg Graham said of Lojeski, after the sharpshooter scored a career-high 35 points.
While Lojeski and Gueye (17 points, game-highs of nine rebounds and three blocks) have created hassles for Rainbow rivals the past two years, they've been great teammates and citizens.
"You're not going to meet two better people than Matt Lojeski and Ahmet Gueye, on the court and off. They're both great leaders," junior guard Matt Gibson said. "I'm going to miss them a lot next year."
Some programs don't recruit many junior college players because they consider them academic and behavior risks. Wallace and assistant coach Jackson Wheeler have proven that is far from always true, as they've recruited a steady stream of good people from the JUCO ranks (including an academic All-American, Michael Kuebler), who happen to be outstanding players.
"They're great people and they were great players tonight," Wallace said.
He added that stereotypes about JC transfers are unfair.
"People who say that don't know. The kids we've been getting are pretty good students and they work at it," Wallace said. "I was a JUCO (coach) and I know exactly what it takes for them to succeed."
One transfer who would've celebrated senior night yesterday didn't make it because of personal reasons, but stories like those of Lojeski and Gueye have become the norm for UH.
"Two of the finest kids we've ever had in our program," Wheeler said. "People think because we have a lot of junior college guys we might have some crazy guys. But for the most part our guys are great guys."
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Matt Lojeski, left, and Ahmet Gueye watched the postgame ceremony honoring head coach Riley Wallace.
Of course they have their human flaws. But in one sense, Lojeski improved on perfection last night. He made all seven 3-pointers he tried. It broke the school record of 6-for-6 set by Jake Sottos and later matched by Gibson.
"It was amazing, everything was falling," said Lojeski, who broke his previous game-high of 33 against Creighton in the championship game of this season's Rainbow Classic. "When I came out with about a minute left, I was glad I didn't miss."
Gueye said the Rainbows knew early on that Lojeski had the hot hand.
"He's an unbelievable player," Gueye said. "We know that when he's hot you just get him the ball. He just kept knocking them down."
Gueye has meant as much defensively to the Rainbows as Lojeski has on offense (and they are both good all-around players). When Gueye wasn't blocking shots last night, he was altering them, as well as the Broncos' halfcourt offense -- they rarely ventured into the paint other than on fast breaks.
Lojeski and Gueye played outstanding basketball from their first game for UH, an 84-62 upset of Michigan State to start their Division I careers last season -- dispelling another myth about JC transfers.
"Because we have a lot of repetition (in practice), we get at least a year-and-a-half or a year-and-three-quarters out of our JUCO guys," Wallace said. "A lot of coaches say you only get a year because it takes them a year to adjust."
Gueye has played well this season despite tearing an ACL near the end of last year. He could have taken a redshirt year, but decided to rehab as quickly as possible and play this season. He said he has no regrets.
"This has been an incredible experience for me," Gueye said. "I really want to thank the people of Hawaii."
Gueye said "it's very sad" that this is Wallace's last season as UH coach. Lojeski said he "changed the program."
"He's the face of Hawaii basketball and he made me a better person and a better player," Lojeski said. "He's definitely capable of coaching still."