Smith gets to work molding Hawaii's new hoops team
Alika Smith has seen the hand he's been dealt. Now he has to decide which cards to play.
Smith, the newly-crowned coach of the American Basketball Association expansion Hawaii Hurricanes, ran the team's first open tryout yesterday at the gym of his alma mater, Kalaheo High School.
About 27 people -- some former University of Hawaii players, some homegrown and others from the mainland and Japan -- showed up to put their talent on display to Smith and owner Andrew Moss for about 6 hours on a set rotation.
"They may not be the most gifted athletes, but I mean they put everything on the line to play basketball," Smith said, gazing at the numerous Mustang championship banners. "So that's why it's gonna be hard (to narrow the roster)."
While the former UH assistant and standout player now faces the task of whittling down the prospects to an official lineup of 12 (plus a few for injured reserves) by the second week of September, things have come together for the team in other areas.
The Hurricanes have an official contract in place with KKEA 1420-AM to broadcast "the majority of our home games" Moss said. Smith will also have a weekly half-hour show on the station called "Fastbreak" as the season draws nearer. The team is also working on finalizing a contract with OC16 to broadcast some of the Hurricanes' games at the Neal Blaisdell Arena, he added.
That is far and away an improvement over the doomed Mega Force experiment of two years ago, when the team folded after two games under Orrys Williams due to lack of funds and marketing. The two teams' management are not affiliated.
One thing that remains to be worked out for the Hurricanes is an airline to fly to away-games, but Moss said that would be secured when the ABA schedule is completely wrapped up. Currently, 31 of the 36 games of the season are confirmed, he said, with the first starting Nov. 11. Smith has also yet to name any assistant coaches.
Deonte Tatum, the starting UH point guard the last two seasons, tried out yesterday and is excited about the team's direction.
"If (the local fans) come out again, they'll see a much more exciting game, more wide-open style of game-play," said Tatum, who last played in the islands under Riley Wallace's structured, flex-motion offense.
Smith rated Tatum, former Chaminade standout Leon Ballard and former UH player Geremy Robinson as the players who impressed him the most during the tryout. The coach actually got in on the action early, helping the team warm up with basic drills.
"All I can say is you guys did great," Smith told the assembled players after they finished scrimmaging. "If you're on this team, you better bust your butt for me ... and if you're not, you better bust your butt to get on this team."
Next comes a by-invitation-only workout session to narrow the field, and a final tryout in Las Vegas in September for any late comers. The first official team practice is slated for Sept. 17.
How did Tatum rate yesterday's practice, his first ABA experience?
"I'll just say, it's competitive," he said with a slight smile. Tatum also stated the main rule unique to the ABA, the "3-D rule" -- in which an extra point is added to baskets that come off of turnovers before halfcourt, for potential 4-point baskets -- will help emphasize good ball control. "That, right there, is interesting, you know," he said.