[ UH BASKETBALL ]
Rainbows begin life
without Savo and Carl
This could take some getting used to.
When Hawaii basketball coach Riley Wallace watches this year's Rainbow Warrior squad open practice at tonight's Midnight Ohana, it'll be the first time since the 1998 season that neither Predrag Savovic nor Carl English will be on the floor.
"This will be a different team because for the first time in four years you don't have either Carl or Savo," Wallace said.
Theme: Time to Rock
When: Tonight, gates open at 8 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
Admission: Free. VIP seats along the sidelines available for $50.
Coaches: Green: Jackson Wheeler and Trevor Ruffin; White: Bob Burke and Alika Smith.
Highlights: Introductions of this year's men's and women's teams start close to midnight, followed by the slam dunk and 3-point shooting contests and the men's intrasquad scrimmage (two 10 minute periods, running clock).
The high-scoring guards both played three seasons at UH and were among the school's top six all-time scorers by the time they left Manoa.
English had a year of eligibility left after leading the 'Bows with 19.6 points per game last season, but opted to take a shot at the NBA. Savovic, the team's top scorer in 2001 and 2002, is now pursuing a professional career in Europe.
The job of finding someone to take on the role as the team's primary scoring threat begins with Midnight Ohana tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center. Gates open at 8 p.m. with the main event set to begin close to midnight. Serious preparation for the new season commences tomorrow afternoon.
In addition to finding someone to replace English's scoring, Hawaii will need to find a floor leader to replace point guard Mark Campbell, one of the WAC's top assist men and one of UH's best defenders the past two seasons.
Despite the departures, Wallace said he's comfortable with sliding senior Michael Kuebler, the team's leading returning scorer, into the shooting guard spot and turning point guard duties to either senior Jason Carter or sophomore transfer Logan Lee.
Junior college transfer Jake Sottos is another long-range threat in the back court.
Carter's electricity off the bench made him a fan favorite last year, but Wallace is looking for more consistency this season.
"We know Kuebler can score and the new guys have to get in there, and we need a big year out of JC," Wallace said. "It'll depend on him, if he can fit the system and not turn it over and throw up bad shots, because he brings energy to the court."
Senior forward Phil Martin was a first-team preseason All-WAC pick by coaches and has started 70 consecutive games, while center Haim Shimonovich could be the key to the team's fortunes.
The small forward position could fall to a newcomer, as sophomore Julian Sensley and junior-college transfer Jeff Blackett battle for playing time along with returnee Vaidotas Peciukas and true freshman Bobby Nash.
Milos Zivanovic and Paul Jesinskis also return to provide front-court depth.
Sensley (6-foot-9, 225 pounds) is among the most anticipated additions to the program. A former Kalaheo standout, Sensley finished high school at an East Coast prep school. He initially signed with California, but when he didn't meet initial entrance requirements he floated around for a couple of years and briefly entered his name in the NBA Draft. He finally played his first season of college ball at Los Angeles City College last year and signed a scholarship agreement with UH in the spring.
Despite Sensley's journey, Wallace said the newcomer hasn't let the pressure of returning home to high expectations faze him and he isn't concerned about the sophomore blending in with the squad.
"He's got that look about him with the tattoos and all that stuff, but he's really fit in and he's done everything we've asked him to do so far," Wallace said.
The Rainbows will have a month to get on the same page before playing Brigham Young-Hawaii in an exhibition game on Nov. 17 and UC-Santa Barbara in the regular-season opener on Nov. 22.
Two days after the UCSB game, the 'Bows make their first appearance in the EA Sports Maui Invitational against Santa Clara. The Maui Invitational games will be the team's only contests off Oahu until its first WAC road trip in January.
Preseason All-WAC teams
Player of the Year: Kirk Snyder, Nevada
First team: Kirk Snyder, Nevada; Jason Parker, Tulsa; Michael Harris, Rice; Bryan Hopkins, SMU; Phil Martin, Hawaii.
Second team: Renaldo Major, Fresno State; Aaron Haynes, Boise State; Patrick Simpson, SMU; Jason McKrieth, Rice; Shantay Legans, Fresno State.
Player of the Year: Snyder.
Newcomer of the Year: Legans, Fresno State.
First team: Snyder, Parker, Harris, Hopkins, Haynes.