Rainbows rewarded


POSTED: Monday, March 09, 2009

The reeling Hawaii men's basketball team got some much-needed good news before its first test in the Western Athletic Conference tournament.

UH junior forward Roderick Flemings was named to the All-Western Athletic Conference second team, the league announced yesterday. Also, sophomore point guard Kareem Nitoto was named to the all-defensive team.

Utah State forward Gary Wilkinson was named WAC player of the year. He was joined by Nevada's Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson, New Mexico State's Jahmar Young and Idaho's Mac Hopson on the All-WAC first team.

The eighth-place Rainbow Warriors (13-16, 5-11 WAC) will try to snap a four-game skid when they take on Fresno State (12-20, 3-13) at 4:30 p.m. Hawaii time in tomorrow's WAC tournament play-in game in Reno, Nev. After a short rest following their 70-59 loss to New Mexico State in their regular-season finale, the Rainbows spent most of yesterday traveling there. Hawaii swept the season series.

Flemings, a transfer out of Weatherford (Texas) College, was also named to the all-newcomer team. He averaged a team-best 16.6 points per game (tied for third in the WAC) and a WAC-best 35.97 minutes per game.

“;I think it's reflective of the work that Rod has done this year, being recognized by the other coaches in the league that he's worthy of newcomer and second-team all-conference player,”; Hawaii coach Bob Nash said. “;Kareem, being one of the better defensive players in the league, I think it's just a matter of ... recognizing the work that those two guys have put in and been justly rewarded.”;

Boise State's Mark Sanchez, Fresno State's Sylvester Seay, Louisiana Tech's Kyle Gibson and Utah State's Jared Quayle joined Flemings on the second team.

Ike Okoye and Anthony Thomas of Boise State, Magnum Rolle of LaTech and Lyndale Burleson of Nevada were the other members of the defensive team.

“;It's an honor,”; said Nitoto, who was regularly assigned to guard the opponent's best backcourt player. “;Hopefully I'll have plenty more of those to come. I take pride in playing defense well and stopping my opponent. It's something I want to keep doing and something I want to improve at as well.”;

Nash said the team would eschew a walk-through practice last night in favor of resting up. Flemings caught a separate flight from the team for personal reasons. He was set to rejoin his teammates late last night, and was unavailable for comment on his award. Flemings was recently selected to the National Association of Basketball Coaches Region 6 second team.





        The conference's first team contains only one senior this year:




GuardMac HopsonIdaho6-2195Jr. 
GuardArmon JohnsonNevada6-3195So.
GuardJahmar YoungNew Mexico State6-5180So.
ForwardGary WilkinsonUtah State6-9240Sr.
ForwardLuke BabbittNevada6-9225Fr.




        Don Haskins coach of the year: Stew Morrill, Utah State

        Player of the year: Wilkinson Freshman of the year: Babbitt