UH prepares for pressure from Dons in opener


POSTED: Thursday, November 13, 2008

Just like his last basketball trip to Hawaii, Rex Walters has mixed emotions on playing the Rainbow Warriors on their home floor.





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        Tip-Off Classic


» Who: San Francisco at Hawaii, 7:35 p.m. tomorrow, Stan Sheriff Center (season opener for both teams)


» Series info: USF leads 8-4, last meeting: 2006-07, Hawaii won 89-85


» TV: KFVE, rebroadcast at 10:30 p.m.


» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM


» Live stats: www. hawaiiathletics.com


» Also: Texas State vs. Cal State Fullerton, 5 p.m., Stan Sheriff Center



Hawaii opens the season 7:35 p.m. tomorrow against Walters and his San Francisco Dons in the four-team Verizon Tip-Off Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Walters is anxious to get the season under way and get a gauge on his squad, but he also expressed apprehension at the Dons' early-season slate.

“;We play Hawaii in the first game - that's obviously difficult to play Hawaii at Hawaii,”; the first-year USF coach said. “;That's not something I'm necessarily looking forward to. Texas State will test us. And I think the most difficult part for us, quite honestly, is we play Friday, we play Sunday, and we have to fly back and play Cal on Tuesday. We couldn't make it any more difficult for our team in terms of travel.”;

But he considered his previous time in the islands memorable, if not ideal.

Walters played for Kansas in the 1992 Rainbow Classic and led the Jayhawks in scoring that year. Five years before Hawaii stunned the No. 2 Jayhawks in the 1997 Classic final, Walters' team defeated Hawaii in the semifinals, 94-66. But the guard was hampered by an ankle injury.

“;It was a good experience, a lot of fun. I didn't play as well as I was capable of, still trying to get healthy and play some better basketball,”; said Walters, who went on to play seven seasons in the NBA.

Kansas lost to Michigan in the Classic championship that year.

One of Walters' first moves at USF when he came in from Florida Atlantic was changing the Dons' jersey to more reflect those during the program's three national championships (1949 NIT, 1955 and 1956 NCAA). Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell led the Dons to the latter two.

“;We're trying to look at our very rich tradition to kind of honor it,”; Walters said.

San Francisco has a solid player in his own right this season.

The Dons return West Coast Conference first-team forward Dior Lowhorn. The Texas Tech transfer averaged 20.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and nearly a block per game as the team's go-to man last year.

Walters' description of Lowhorn mirrors those given by Hawaii coach Bob Nash to the Rainbows' touted newcomer, Roderick Flemings.

“;There's a lot of things he does well,”; Walters said of the defending WCC scoring champion. “;Strong kid that can post up, can shoot it on the perimeter, balance is pretty good for someone his size. He's a good player, period.”;

The two players are listed at the same height (6-7) and could potentially match up at the small forward position.

Senior point guard Manny Quezada brings experience and is a thief with 46 steals as a junior.

Hawaii point guard Kareem Nitoto, who is from the Bay Area and was recruited by USF, has some familiarity with Lowhorn and Quezada after playing with them a handful of times.

“;Dior brings a scoring threat from inside and out. We really have to pay attention to him when we're out there on defense,”; Nitoto said. “;We have to be ready for ball pressure and traps all over.”;