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Post play pivotal if 'Bows are to improve


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POSTED: Sunday, November 08, 2009

For Hawaii to make some noise in the Western Athletic Conference this season, the Rainbow Warriors will have to go postal.

The Rainbows' backcourt should be improved and Rod Flemings should be effective again crashing in from the wings. But Hawaii's six bigs will each have a share in team success—or failure.

“;Last year I thought we had good personnel, but I didn't think we were a good team,”; coach Bob Nash said. “;I think this year we're really working hard to be a good team. Relying on each other as opposed to letting a guy like Rod think that he's gotta do all the work, Bill (Amis) has to do all the work. We share the work now. We share everything that we do, and that everybody feels empowered by what they bring to our basketball team.”;

The post offense starts with Amis (6-foot-9, 220), the dean of the paint who's in his third season manning the front lines. The Rainbows' most effective shot blocker (41 last year, matching his jersey number), rebounder (6.5 per game) and second-leading scorer (10.7 average) is a team leader. He's one of the better midrange shooters on the team, and even guides the 'Bows through conditioning stretches at the start of practices since the departure of strength coach Steve Englehart in the offseason.

“;I think the combination of his ability to shoot from the outside and the additional confidence in the post, the footwork ... is going to make him much more versatile as a senior,”; said assistant Larry Farmer, who works with the bigs. He noticed Amis benefited from attending the Pete Newell Big Man Camp locally over the summer.

                       

        ”;Petras is a load. Because of his size and his quickness, he's a difficult matchup. He can overpower smaller guys and he's quicker than most big guys. I like his progress. ... When he can become more comfortable with himself and paying attention to what he's doing ... he has the ability to be one of the best big men in the conference.”;
        —Larry Farmer / UH assistant coach, on Petras Balocka

UH also needs solid production from senior Petras Balocka (6-8, 250), the projected starter at the 5 spot. The transfer from Pensacola JC (Fla.) began strong last year but tailed off, averaging 8.7 points, 5.5 rebounds. He's deceptively quick for his bulk, and has several go-to moves near the basket.

“;Petras is a load,”; Farmer said. “;Because of his size and his quickness, he's a difficult matchup. He can overpower smaller guys and he's quicker than most big guys. I like his progress. His problem has always been between his ears. When he can become more comfortable with himself and paying attention to what he's doing, as opposed to what the referees are saying or doing, then he has the ability to be one of the best big men in the conference.”;

The Rainbows don't expect huge numbers from senior Paul Campbell, but the lanky 6-10, 215-pound Canadian makes an impact beyond pure stats. He emerged as a starter during the second half of last season by changing shots with his length and tipping in timely baskets. Last year's most improved player had the best dunk in preseason practices, rising high over three defenders to slam it home.

Brandon Adams, one of the shorter bigs (6-7, 220), makes up for his lack of height with explosive athleticism. Last season he had trouble rising over other forwards like he did at Diablo Valley JC, (Calif.) so he compensated in the offseason by working diligently on his shooting. In practices, he's hit corner 3-pointers with regularity—even with a hand in his face.

The Rainbows hope beefy new center Douglas Kurtz (7-0, 265) can be a rim protector and enforcer out of Marshalltown CC (Iowa) coming off the bench. They won't be counting the native of Pelotas, Brazil, for much offense, but he'll have to be the guy to stop opposing centers that Amis can't bang against or Balocka can't reach over.

Sophomore Ji Xiang (6-10, 240) has some offensive prowess but hasn't quite put everything together to be a regular-rotation player. The Henan, China, native should see some time in brief spurts, though, if the other UH bigs get hurt or into foul trouble.

 

THE BIGS

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
No. PlayerHt.Wt.Cl.Key Stats
41 Bill Amis6-9220Sr.Led team with 6.5 rpg, .468 FG%, 41 blocks
1 Petras Balocka6-8250Sr.8.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg were third on team
21 Paul Campbell6-10215Sr.2.8 ppg and 2.8 rpg.; 22 blocks (2nd on team)
32 Brandon Adams6-7220Sr.Averaged 4.7 ppg and 3.0 rpg in 29 games
25 Ji Xiang6-10240So.Played briefly in 9 games
34 Douglas Kurtz7-0265Jr.Averaged 9.6 ppg and 5.8 rpg as JC sophomore