UH glad to see Williams back


POSTED: Monday, November 30, 2009

After falling apart in its last three outings of a five-game homestand, the Hawaii men's basketball team is trying to pull together before its first road trip of the season.

Guard Dwain Williams returned to practice yesterday in a limited capacity after missing all team sessions last week, including UH's 83-71 loss to New Mexico on Friday. It was the first part of a two-game suspension for the Providence transfer (for breaking a team rule) announced by coach Bob Nash after the loss to the Lobos.

Williams isn't allowed to speak to the media during the suspension, but teammates were happy to see him back—even though he couldn't participate in team drills. He took some shots, but mostly observed practice from the sideline.

“;I missed Dwain, man. It's good to see him back, though,”; said guard Jeremy Lay, who emerged as the team's scoring leader at 14.8 points per game despite coming off the bench in all five contests. “;He's back, he ready to go. He'll miss the next game, but he'll be back after that, ready to lay some up.”;

The Rainbow Warriors (2-3) look to break out of a three-game slide at UC Irvine (3-3) on Wednesday in their only nonconference away game this season. The team departs today for Southern California.

“;It's a good sign that we're moving forward from the losses. It's a good sign that Dwain is back in practice,”; forward Roderick Flemings said. “;I wish he could be going on the trip with us, but it was good seeing him come back, get into the swing of things.”;

Getting the 6-foot-7 Flemings into the swing of things will be key for the Rainbows restoring order in nonleague play. The senior swingman had strong double-double outings in UH's two wins to open the year, but has struggled since, shooting a combined 10-for-30 (33.3 percent) from the field and playing passively in losses to Northern Colorado, BYU and New Mexico. He was 2-for-6 against UNM for a season-low four points, and fell to a 13-ppg average after putting up 16.6 in his second-team All-WAC campaign as a junior.

“;They didn't really take me out of it,”; Flemings said. “;I guess I was frustrated myself, not taking as many shots as I should have been taking. Some of the shots I feel like I wasn't open, but I mean, I guess I just gotta find a way to get it up there. It's just been all on me—I gotta find a way to get out of this slump I'm in right now.”;

Nash stepped up his encouragement of Flemings, a willing passer, to take shots during yesterday's practice. He even admonished the NBA hopeful when he passed off to Adhar Mayen at the last second on a fast-break drill. Flemings was then more assertive in the halfcourt, shooting some long jumpers.

“;We want Rod to be aggressive on both ends of the floor, and certainly transition is a time where he's got 1-on-1 coverage and he has the ability to get to the front of the rim,”; Nash said. “;Sometimes he defers, tries to make a pass, when he should be a guy who's putting it on the floor and finishing at the rim. So we're just trying to get him thinking more along those lines.”;

Meanwhile, Lay has steadily improved as he gets a handle on the Division I game. The junior college transfer's become a team energizer as a reserve, and put up a career-high 26 against UNM to prevent the game from becoming a rout. He leads the team with 13 3-pointers on a 40.6 percent clip from deep.

“;I played well, but losing was just ... I'd be way happier if we won and I only had two points, 'cause I just like to get W's,”; Lay said. “;I'm starting to get a better feel for shooting when I'm open. I'm just trying to get the rust out of my game. At junior college sometimes you do too much. That's my fifth game. It's a process from junior college to Division I.”;

Besides Williams, JC transfer center Douglas Kurtz will become eligible to play on Sunday vs. Lamar. The Irvine game completes the 7-footer's NCAA-induced six-game suspension for playing alongside pro players in his native Brazil before arriving in America for college.