UH starter Verwers completes classwork
The Hawaii basketball team will have the day off tomorrow, yet Stephen Verwers is looking forward to reporting to the Stan Sheriff Center bright and early.
The Rainbow Warrior senior will participate in UH-Manoa's commencement exercises at the arena having completed work toward his degree in travel industry management.
"It's a good accomplishment for me to graduate from college in 4 1/2 years. It's flown by really fast and I'm just really blessed to graduate," Verwers said.
Verwers, who completed his final exams on Tuesday, started his college career at Colorado State, where he majored in restaurant and resort management. He said UH's TIM program played a part in his decision-making process when he was looking to transfer following his sophomore season at CSU.
He had an internship with Marriott and foresees working in the hotel industry when he's done with basketball, perhaps staying in Hawaii to work at a neighbor island resort.
"The fact that Hawaii had that was a bonus in coming out here. This is the best place to do it," said Verwers, who has been spending his down time this week with family members who flew in for the graduation ceremony.
Tomorrow will be the first time his family attends an event in the Sheriff Center. They'll stick around to see him play a home game for the first time on Wednesday when UH faces Louisiana-Lafayette in the opening round of the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic.
On the court, the 6-foot-11 Verwers has started all seven games this season and is averaging 6.7 points and 4.3 rebounds. He has an eye on earning an MBA and said he'll probably take some master's-level business courses as he finishes out his playing eligibility next semester.
Senior forward Bobby Nash is also a graduate student, having picked up his diploma last spring. Guard Matt Gibson is also on track to finish his degree in the spring.
"It shows the young guys in the program that it can be done in four or five years, if you're really diligent in your work and not just going through the motions in your classes," UH coach Bob Nash said. "To have one of our guys graduate in the middle of the year sends a real good message to our young guys.
"I'm all about trying to help these guys to make a better life for themselves and it's done through being educated."
While Verwers and Nash have been key contributors this season, their academic efforts also benefit the program. The NCAA's Academic Progress Rate is calculated for each team based on the eligibility, retention and graduation of scholarship athletes. Programs with a history of falling below the NCAA-mandated cutoff could ultimately see a reduction of scholarships.
The Rainbows' score will be impacted by two players off last year's team transferring and another deciding not to return. So having current players fulfill their academic obligations and graduate helps offset the hit to the team's APR.
"That's what I came here to do, help the program," Verwers said. "If I can help them off the court and on the court, that's great."
The program hired an academic advisor to the staff to track the players' progress and is putting greater emphasis on getting ahead in summer school.
"Whenever you lose a guy, whether it's through them transferring or them academically not succeeding, all those things hurt you," Nash said. "We're trying to reverse that trend by addressing the issues before they become issues. That's why study hall is important, that's why we're doing things in the summer. You take the progressive approach as opposed to being reactive."
Once the graduation festivities are done, the Sheriff Center will again be outfitted for basketball, as UH hosts the 44th annual Rainbow Classic starting Wednesday.
Hawaii's game will be preceded by the tournament opener between Ohio and St. John's at 5 p.m. On Thursday, first-round games feature Tulane facing Saint Mary's at 5 p.m., and East Tennessee State taking on Georgia at 7:30. The tournament runs through Saturday.