[ RAINBOW BASKETBALL ]
one of his
The UH sophomore must try
to beat Fresno State and
the former teammate
who’s "like a brother"
Had things gone according to plan, Julian Sensley and Shantay Legans might be tearing up the Pac-10 as a lethal combination for the California Golden Bears this season.
Instead, the former summer-league teammates will find themselves on opposite ends of the Stan Sheriff Center floor tonight when Hawaii hosts Fresno State in the Western Athletic Conference opener for both teams.
"(The game) means a lot to me; he's like a brother," Sensley said.
Legans and Sensley played together with the L.A. Rockfish, an AAU summer-league team, during high school, and both committed to Cal. While Legans quickly became one of the Pac-10's top point guards, Sensley didn't meet academic qualifying standards and spent a year away from the game.
Fresno State at Hawaii
When: Today, 7 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: Live, KFVE-TV
Radio: Live, 1420-AM
Tickets: Lower Level, $16 (single seats only); Upper Level (adult) $12; Upper Level (student, UH) $5; Super Rooter $8
Sensley eventually landed at Los Angeles City College and joined the Rainbow Warriors this season. Meanwhile, Legans decided to leave Cal after three seasons and transferred to Fresno State. He sat out last season, but is back for his senior year.
Both have emerged as key players for their current teams and are looking forward to seeing each other tonight.
"It's a little ironic, but it happens all the time," Legans said. "It's going to be fun to see him out there -- he's playing really well."
Before enrolling at Fresno State, Legans averaged nine points and 4.1 assists at Cal and helped the Bears reach the NCAA Tournament twice. He was the preseason pick for WAC Newcomer of the Year and is living up to the hype by scoring 12.3 points and dishing out a league-best 5.7 assists per game.
UH's Logan Lee is tied for second in the WAC with five assists per game.
"(Legans is) a lot like Logan," Sensley said. "They're both left-handed, they can both shoot the ball and he's just really good at decision-making. The main thing we're going to have to do to stop him is to get him out of his rhythm. He doesn't have to score to win games, he's a really good passer."
Sensley, a sophomore, is recovering from a shoulder injury and hopes to play tonight. He did not practice yesterday, but was able to do some light shooting. He said the injury is improving and his status was upgraded to probable, although junior Jeff Blackett may get the start at small forward.
"I have my range of motion back, it's just a matter of how I handle contact," he said.
Sensley has three double-doubles this season and is averaging 10.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.
"He's gotten a lot stronger and shoots the ball a lot better," said Legans, who has reviewed UH games on tape. "He sees the floor, he rebounds really well. He's a great player, Hawaii's lucky to have him."
Despite the addition of Legans, the Bulldogs went 4-5 in their nonconference schedule. Much of their struggles can be traced to off-court problems that led to the suspensions of forwards Renaldo Major and Jonathan Woods and guard Terry Pettis.
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Pettis returned to the lineup Dec. 22 after spending 30 days in a substance-abuse program. Major and Woods are suspended indefinitely, although they are expected to be with the team for Monday's game at San Jose State.
"It's been a distraction for all of us," Fresno State coach Ray Lopes said. "It certainly has affected our team, but yet this team continues to work hard. We're still going to be a work in progress. It's a long 18-game season. I just want to be playing good in February and March; that's when it's most important."
The Rainbows are expecting to face yet another team that prefers to play at a leisurely pace. UH scored just 13 points in the first half of Tuesday's 50-49 overtime win over Fairfield as the Stags often ran the shot clock into single digits before putting up an attempt.
Fresno State has held its last two opponents to a total of 72 points and defeated Washington State 46-29 on Dec. 22. The Bulldogs led 27-9 at halftime of that game.
"Fresno always comes to town ready to play us," UH coach Riley Wallace said. "It'll be a similar to game to what we played against Fairfield. They'll weave it out front and pick their spots to run."
Lopes said the Bulldogs use the slow-down style and tough defense to make up for their deficiencies on offense. Fresno State ranks last in the WAC in shooting at 42 percent.
"We have to play the game in a way that we keep it manageable and have a chance to win at the end," he said. "We don't shoot the ball well, and we just have to play ugly."
While both teams look for a fast start to the WAC season, bragging rights are also on the line for Sensley and Legans.
"We always make little jokes with each other," Sensley said. "We just have to wait and see what happens Saturday. Even if I'm not playing, I'm still supporting my team hard."
Fresno State at Hawaii
|Fresno STate (4-5)
|G Shantay Legans (Sr.)
|G Marcus West (Jr.)
|F Dreike Bouldin (Jr.)
|F Francis Koffi (Jr.)
|C Mustafa Al-Sayyad (Jr.)
Notes: Yesterday's weather forced both teams to alter their practice plans. The moisture in the air created condensation on the floor of Gym II, which turned the playing surface into a skating rink. Fresno State moved its practice to Klum Gym, where the Bulldogs were able to complete their workout. UH held a light practice at Gym II. The Rainbows spent their two-hour workout walking through FSU's sets and going through some shooting drills. UH coach Riley Wallace said the weather impacted practice "once or twice" before in his 17-year tenure, but added that the team was able to get enough done to make the session productive. The Sheriff Center was not available due to the men's volleyball match. ... Blackett could make his first career start in place of Julian Sensley, who injured his shoulder in a fall while moving a TV at his home on Wednesday. ... Fresno State leads the series 17-9, but UH has won five of the last seven meetings. ... Martin will make his 80th consecutive start tonight.
|G Logan Lee (So.)
|G Michael Kuebler (Sr.)
|F Jeff Blackett (Jr.)
|F Phil Martin (Sr.)
|C Haim Shimonovich (Sr.)