WAC preview: #9 Hawaii is the conference’s basket case

12 Oct

With this post, we begin our preview countdown through the 2009-10 Western Athletic Conference men’s basketball field.

Team: #9 Hawaii

Coach: Bob Nash, third season (24-36)

Last year’s record: 13-17 (5-11 WAC, 8th)

Returning starters: Four (F Roderick Flemings, F Bill Amis, F Adhar Mayen, C Paul Campbell)

Key losses: G Kareem Nitoto, G Lasha Parghalava

Key newcomers: G Dwain Williams, G Zane Johnson

Why they’re here: The Rainbow Warriors have struggled to gain any traction under third-year coach Bob Nash. Quite simply, they can’t consistently score the points necessary to compete in the run-and-gun Western Athletic Conference. Only Louisiana Tech put fewer points on the scoreboard last season. Put the blame on a roster full of “shooters” who can’t — the Rainbow Warriors took the booby prize for worst shooting percentage in the league last year, and were an abysmal 28.3 percent from 3-point land.

Nash will be depending on a group of talented Division I transfers to beef up his squad’s scoring, particularly in the backcourt. It’s questionable whether Nash can put all those parts together, though, in a year when the WAC competition wont be taking any prisoners. The wimpy non-conference schedule may create false hopes that can’t be fulfilled come conference season.

This year, in a cost-cutting move, the WAC has dumped the tournament’s 8-9 seed play-in game. For the regular season’s last-place finisher, that means it’s game over. Unfortunately for the Rainbow Warriors, they will likely be the lonely team not making the mid-March trip to Reno.

Why they could finish higher: Nash is on the hot seat, and he knows it. Another season in the WAC’s basement and he’s probably out the door. Desperate coaches can sometimes pull off amazing feats of rejuvenation. There’s not a whole lot of separation in the WAC’s bottom tier, so if Hawaii’s backcourt transfers pan out, they could at least get themselves into a conference tournament seed.

Most Valuable Player: Roderick Flemings (16.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 36.0 mpg) — The WAC’s playing-time leader and the Rainbow Warriors’ workhorse, Flemings’ play singlehandedly kept Hawaii from sinking any further than it did. He needs to stop shooting the trey, though. From inside the arc, he’s a near-50-percent shooter. But from downtown, where he took 20 percent of his shots, he shoots just 31 percent. Those are wasted possessions.

Most Important Player: Dwain Williams — The sharpshooting Providence transfer will be expected to contribute big right away, and he’ll have to do so if the Rainbow Warriors want to go anywhere in a deep, talented WAC.

Non-conference degree of difficulty (scale of 1-5): 1 — OK, so they do play BYU and College of Charleston, but other than that, Hawaii’s schedule is chock-full of sweet, tasty cupcakes like McNeese State, Southern Utah and Northwestern State. An extra bonus deduction for almost never going on the road.

Fun fact: Thanks to exempt preseason tournaments, the Rainbow Warriors play only one non-conference game off their home floor — at UC Irvine of the Big West.

Key games: Nov. 20 vs. BYU; Jan. 2 vs. Idaho; Jan. 28 @ San Jose State; March 4 @ Boise State

Predicted record: 12-17 (4-12 WAC)

The WAC Hoops Preview Countdown:
#9 Hawaii
#8 San Jose State
#7 Boise State
#6 Fresno State
#5 Louisiana Tech
#4 Nevada
#3 New Mexico State
#2 Utah State
#1 Idaho

13 Responses to “WAC preview: #9 Hawaii is the conference’s basket case”

  1. 808 October 14, 2009 at 2:01 am #

    Hawaii is the favorite to finish last in many media outlets thus far. However, Hawaii will have the ability to knock off anyone in the conference on the islands. Remember in Nash’s first year we knocked off the top two teams in the WAC @ home.
    Last year was a down year with only one starter returning who had only started 20 games.

    About Hawaii this season:

    - Two of our absolute worse shooters transfered out
    - Dwain Williams is legit. Remember, he was the #1 HS player in Florida in his junior yr and took the California state freshman of the year award. Word is that he is much improved from his Providence years.
    - Roderick Flemings had a rough year of bereavement and ankle injuries. If he’s 100% this season, he be in the conversation for wac poy
    - We have a good leader in Bill Amis, a third year starter at PF, won two games with his clutch free throw shooting and buzzer beater
    - Hiram Thompson, a pass first PG, took Oak Ridge to a Cali Div II state title in HS, played with a hammy injury, and was out of shape from his 2 year mission. A total different player this year
    - Petras Balocka an undersized C, third leading scorer for Hawaii last year, a top 10 rebounder in juco, played for the #2 HS team in the country (18ppg 14 rpg), 4 years on the Lithuanian National team
    - Brandon Adams an athletic tweener, part time starter last year, won cali juco conference MVP over Marvin Jefferson
    - Adhar Mayhen and Paul Campbell returning starters
    - Douglas Kurtz, Brazilian National team, juco 100, coaches state he’s not a project, will be a big time contributer, very mobile and strong
    - Jeremy Lay, 2nd team all region juco, all time leader in points and assist at his juco

  2. Travis Mason-Bushman October 14, 2009 at 11:30 am #

    I don’t doubt that Hawaii will win a few games at home. But will that be enough to keep them out of the conference’s bottom tier? Probably not, in my opinion.

    To be honest, you could pretty much put the bottom three teams in any order you wanted – but someone has to be last.

  3. 808 October 15, 2009 at 4:05 am #

    Being in the preseason bottom three is fair enough.

    However, if you look at Hawaii’s history, Hawaii has the capability to win every game at home. Former athletic director, Fraizer, placed a dark cloud over the program. We lost two years of recruiting due to the mishandling of Riley Wallace and the late hire of Coach Nash (do I need to mention June Jones?). Before that? 8 straight winning seasons including a Wac championship in 02. Riley Wallace taught his offense to both Stew Morrill and Bob Nash. (Riley has a winning record over Stew) Obviously, with shooters our offenses will be dangerous. Do I think Hawaii will ever be a Utah State? No, but I do think we’ll be pretty solid. Nash implemented many of Riley’s schemes back in the day, and I do think he’s capable.

    Nash has two years of solid recruiting to work with. This year is the pay off year. He offered our last schollie to Brandon Adams over Kashif Watson in 08, knowing that Adams was a project. 7 players of full or part time starting experience, 1 big east transfer, and two juco 100s. (minus our two worst shooters from 08-09)

  4. protector October 15, 2009 at 4:32 am #

    I’m really glad that they rated UH so low, because there are no high expectations of the team. It’ll make any success highly magnified. Personallly I see a team with much more potential & firepower than last year. This was a team that lost around 7 or 8 close games down the stretch. If they had had Lay & Williams last year, I say they win those games and would’ve had a shot at 20 wins + a winning WAC record. I see this truly as the pay-off & pay-back year. If they don’t get 20 wins & don’t compete for the top tier of the WAC, I’ll be surprised & truly disappointed.

  5. 808 October 15, 2009 at 4:56 am #

    http://www.starbulletin.com/sports/20091015_uh_guards_provide_hope.html

    “a fresh season full of promise, and the 6-foot junior guards are considered crucial pieces to help the team become a legitimate threat to make a national tournament”

    “opponents packed in zone defenses on star forward Roderick Flemings as a result.”

    “But hearing all the things that happened on the team (last year), Rod getting triple teamed, and things like that, me being wide open, it’s a situation I think I will relish.”

    “Added Williams with a grin, “Oh, it’s not going to happen. Rod’s not going to be double- and triple-teamed. And if he does, then that’s going to be good for us. I’m gonna open the floor up … wide.”

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