Tough And Smart: What A Concept!

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - December 01, 2010
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Hiram Thompson is having the best season of his career

Sitting at the Rainbow Classic a few weeks ago, a colleague made an interesting observation about the new-look UH mens basketball team.

“I haven’t seen anything like this since the Fab Five days,” said the individual who shall remain nameless to avoid any potential embarrassment. While I cannot comment on the accuracy of the statement, it is clear that something very different is going on at Stan Sheriff Center. This is not the team of the Wallace and Nash era. This team is aggressive, tough and most important, smart and talented.

Let’s be honest, that final combination has been lacking on campus for several years. What talent had arrived was often limited by repeated bone-headed plays and the inability to learn from past mistakes. Looking at the current cast of characters and what has happened so far in the young season, it seems unlikely problems of the past will be repeated.

Once again we go back into the time machine. During last year’s Diamond Head Classic I queried Gib Arnold, who at the time was an assistant at USC, about whether it is harder to find good or smart athletes. He confirmed that talent was easy, intellect is tough. It seems like he’s found both.

Here’s a quick breakdown, in case you haven’t yet had the chance to visit.

Bill Amis: The senior forward was having the best season of his UH career before being felled by yet another foot injury. Amis leads the team in points, rebounds and field-goal percentage. Before the season, Arnold said he heard good things about Amis but didn’t know for sure what he had. What he has is a talented baller determined to make the most out of what remains of his college career.

Hiram Thompson: Like Amis, Thompson is having the best season of his career. Unfortunately, he still turns the ball over too much, averaging 3.4 giveaways per game against his 3.8 assists. Still, his shooting has improved, as has his ability to break down the defense off the dribble.

Douglas Kurtz: The third tri-captain is a decent stationary defender who has even shown some improved offensive ability. He has hands of stone, so any feeds must be made softly and out of traffic. He moves better since his weight loss but lacks the vertical to be a real shot-blocking threat.

Joston Thomas: Thomas’ biggest attribute also is his biggest obstacle, for now. Thomas is a fountain of energy just looking for a release. Sometimes that inspires his teammates and the crowd and at other times it forces him to take bad shots. No matter. He’s infectious, dances with the cheerleaders, talks to the fans and outside of Amis has the most complete game.

Vander Joaquim: The 6-foot-10-inch sophomore had 16 rebounds against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and is third on the team in rebounding. He’s thin at 245 pounds, and will likely get pushed around a bit by bigger WAC teams, but he has good feet and has shown a variety of post moves. Expect his scoring to increase as the season progresses.

Bo Barnes: The freshman is streaky, fearless and already a proven scorer. His .515 mark from three is second on the team to Thompson, but the Arizona native has taken 22 more attempts. He’s enjoyed some success penetrating against defenses that play him tight, but lacks the foot speed to do it against elite guards on either end of the court.

Zane Johnson: The Arizona transfer is determined to show everyone he has more to his game than the deep jumpers that haven’t fallen at the rate expected. He’s getting to the line at regular intervals and is likely to rotate with Barnes as UH’s three-point specialists.

Bobby Miles: Miles has solidified his position as Thompson’s backup. A freshman prone to making freshman mistakes, he has a better assist-to-turnover ratio than Thompson but hasn’t showed the ability to score away from the free-throw line.

Trevor Wiseman: Wiseman may never develop into a statistical team leader, but he has a knack for getting the dirty jobs done, and those types are indispensable to a team’s success.

The Rainbow Warriors are young and make the mistakes that young teams do. Still, they are talented and deeper than they have been in years.

They’re worth the drive.

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