Rainbows predicted near bottom


POSTED: Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hawaii basketball coach Bob Nash essentially agrees with the preseason assessments of his peers and the media around the Western Athletic Conference. But he intends to surprise some people this season.

His Rainbow Warriors were picked seventh of nine by the WAC coaches and eighth by the media in polls released yesterday.

“;Where the polls picked people, I think were pretty much right on,”; Nash said. “;There might be some surprises, and we're hoping we're one of the surprises and hope we can get into that upper echelon of teams.”;

Hawaii opens with a regular practice Friday at 5 p.m., and plays the first of two exhibitions against Hawaii-Hilo on Nov. 2.

Nevada, one of four teams to finish last year's WAC season tied for first at 12-4, was picked in both polls to finish at the top again. Utah State, New Mexico State, defending WAC champion Boise State and San Jose State were other teams to receive first-place votes.

With only two of the top 15 leading scorers in the WAC returning, many consider the race to be wide open. Hawaii replaces six of its top seven offensive players in its flex motion system, and rebounding is also a concern.

Hawaii had no players in the conference's preseason first and second teams.

“;We figure to be a lot better (than people think),”; Nash said. “;I can look out there and see now that our talent level hasn't dropped off significantly. It's just a matter of how well and how fast we come together, will be the test for us. I think we're a more athletic, more physical team than we've been in the past.”;

He was referring in part to junior college transfer forwards Roderick Flemings and Petras Balocka.

“;Our team's completely shifted—we have a lot of athletic players and a lot of unselfish players,”; said forward Bill Amis, the team's leading returning scorer at 8.5 points per game. “;Petras Balocka coming in, and Roderick Flemings, they're both really good passers. Once we get in there Friday and start putting in the offense, I think they'll pick it up quickly and we'll roll from there.”;

» The Hawaii women were selected seventh in the coaches poll and sixth by the media.

The Rainbow Wahine have five new players and two more coming off redshirt years. Guard Megan Tinnin is the top returning scorer at 8.7 points per game.

“;We're very young and we're kind of unknown right now,”; coach Jim Bolla said. “;We're going to be very different when people see us come out, much more athletic.”;