A fresh start for a Classic


POSTED: Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic still matters—perhaps now more than ever—for the Hawaii men's basketball team.

Though the Rainbow Warriors' signature holiday tournament was stripped of its traditional eight-team format this year and shifted to the start of the season, three key contests in four days starting tomorrow could set the tone for the entire 2009-10 campaign. UH dropped its last three season openers on the way to a losing year each time.

Hawaii opens its season in the 46th running of the tourney (featuring a new round-robin format) against Southern Utah at 7:35 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center. UH's new eight-team holiday event is the nationally televised Diamond Head Classic, but the traditional Classic gets some exposure as well this year.





        When: Tomorrow—McNeese State vs. Northern Colorado, 5 p.m.; Southern Utah at Hawaii, 7:35 p.m.

Where: Stan Sheriff Center


TV: KFVE, Ch. 5


Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM




UH follows against McNeese State on Sunday and Northern Colorado on Monday in an ESPN-televised, 11 p.m. affair as part of the network's College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon.

“;You look at the guys who founded this event some (46) years ago, it's a big deal,”; Nash said. “;We want to keep it alive and we are, it's just a different format in these economic times. It's still a real relevant tournament, and I think people want to come to it. We've got a lot of inquiries about next year; there's even some high-profile teams. It's going to be a good tournament.”;

Nash is part of its lore. He played in the Classic as a member of UH's “;Fabulous Five”; in 1970 and '71, going 6-0 against such teams as Michigan, BYU, Cal and Arizona State. His 30 rebounds in the 87-77 tourney championship win vs. the Sun Devils in '71 still stands as a Rainbows record.

The teams opening their seasons tomorrow night don't pack quite the same punch on paper. UH's three opponents in the Classic went a combined 36-56 last year.

In a battle of two squads looking to improve upon losing efforts in 2008-09, Hawaii (13-17) and Southern Utah (11-20) seek a fresh start. Nash, in his third year as UH head coach, is 0-2 in season openers.

UH will be without forward Bill Amis (foot injury) and center Douglas Kurtz (ineligibility), but the rest of the active roster is healthy enough to play, including last year's leading scorer, Roderick Flemings (16.6 points per game); transfer guards Dwain Williams and Jeremy Lay; and reserve forward Brandon Adams. Nash is keeping his starting lineup a secret, but said going small is an option.

“;We're gonna try to make it up to (Amis and Kurtz),”; Flemings said. “;Guys are going to step up.”;

“;As I team I feel like we're starting to jell at the right time, and ready for this first game coming up,”; Williams said.

The Thunderbirds offer a familiar foe in third-year SUU coach Roger Reid. Reid led reviled BYU against UH for many years in the old Western Athletic Conference and was present both years when Rainbows Trevor Ruffin (1994) and Tes Whitlock (1995) hit buzzer-beating 3-pointers to send the Cougars packing from Honolulu with a loss.

SUU returns just four lettermen, but does have towering freshmen in Dallin Bachynski (7 feet) and Matt Hodgson (6-11). One of the returnees is senior swingman Davis Baker, who averaged 17.4 ppg on his way to Summit League second-team all-conference honors.

Former UH coach Riley Wallace will fly in from Las Vegas to attend the game.


Coleman all set

Calabasas (Calif.) High senior Jordan Coleman is ready to fax in his letter of intent today to play basketball at UH for the 2010-11 season.

The 6-foot-4 guard signed his name yesterday during the start of the early signing period, but couldn't fax in the form during the Veterans Day holiday. He represents the first of six available scholarships for next year.

“;It feels good, so I can focus on this season and getting better instead of having to focus on the recruiting process,”; said Coleman, who averaged 11.9 points and 4.7 rebounds a junior. He visited UH on the weekend of Oct. 24. “;I really clicked with the coaches a lot, the players, and I had a good time.”;

Another prep player who took a visit recently, Findlay Prep (Las Vegas) High center Godwin Okonji, decided to weigh his options until the spring.