Hawaii guards Lay, Williams want shot at redemption


POSTED: Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Two maligned members of the 2009-10 Hawaii men's basketball team have faith in, and are preparing for, something not guaranteed.

A do-over.

Guards Jeremy Lay and Dwain Williams will be the first to say that their first season in UH green didn't live up to expectations. They struggled mightily in the Rainbow Warriors' halfcourt schemes under coach Bob Nash, putting up some woeful numbers, and neither player finished out the season. Williams was indefinitely suspended for repeated violations of team rules and appeared in less than half of the Rainbows' games. Lay elected to have hernia surgery and missed the final seven games.

UH athletic director Jim Donovan pressed the reset button on the program last week with the firing of Nash, the legendary former UH basketball player who coached the team to a 34-56 record over three years. The interview process for a new coach is under way.

Both Lay and Williams want to be around for their senior years once the new coach reloads the program with fresh players in the coming weeks.

There is no guarantee, however, that the new coach will retain their services. Scholarships are renewable year to year, and the coach could look to hand out more than just the five he will have available immediately.

Lay shot 29.9 percent from the field at UH and Williams 34.5 percent. On 3-pointers, which they were counted on to hit, they shot a combined 59-for-194 (30.4 percent).

“;I'm just going to keep working out, keep my grades up, and see what unfolds in the future,”; said Lay, who came in as a junior out of Northern Oklahoma-Enid Junior College. “;I'm excited, though. I'm not excited that Coach Nash got fired. But I am excited for the future, seeing that I had a bad season. I feel I can redeem myself in a special way, and hopefully leave a good stamp of my name here with these people.”;

Communication between Williams and Nash broke down during the second half of the year, around the time Williams took a leave of absence from the team because of the death of a close cousin. The relationship was never really repaired, though Williams said he appreciated being invited to a final team meeting Nash called together after his firing became official.

“;I want to be here regardless,”; said Williams, a transfer from Providence who averaged 14.0 points (second-highest on the team) but played just 14 games. “;Regardless of (whether) Coach Nash was back, I wanted to be here. I mean, so that's really not a question in my mind. Regardless of everything, if he would've been back, I was trying to set up a meeting with him. Try to get back on this court.”;

Nash has not yet returned calls to the Star-Bulletin.

Though the circumstances of their inactivity by the end of the lowly 10-20 season differed, the 6-foot backcourt players noted independently that they weren't brought in to run a structured, flex-motion offense, which UH remained heavily reliant upon from previous seasons.

“;(Coach Nash) said we were gonna be a run-and-gun type style team and the flex is the total opposite of that,”; Williams said, adding that he was playing out of position at 2-guard. “;I was really shocked when I got here, to know that's what was going on. I mean, honestly when I was getting recruited, that was never mentioned at all.”;

Lay echoed those sentiments. He said there was friction between him and the coaches from before the time he had the hernia surgery on Feb. 24. He said he was aware of the injury before the season's start and played through it as long as possible.

When he decided on the surgery, the Rainbows were in desperate need of backcourt play.

“;I think it was a couple things,”; he said. “;Me not living up to expectations was one, and I'll take the hit for that, even though I didn't know I was going to be playing like this (style). ... I think that played a part into it. And then yeah, I think me having the surgery played a part into it also. But ... I played with this injury for 23 games, I gave them everything I had, and unfortunately I couldn't finish, but that's something I don't feel was my fault.”;

Regardless of any past hard feelings, both players said they've maintained their grades and are ready to give it another shot.

“;What happened with (Nash) was unfortunate, but what happened to him was a decision they (UH) felt they needed to make,”; Lay said. “;I'm just ready to come back and do my job.”;