UH Hoops: Problems, But Potential

Bobby Curran
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Friday - November 17, 2006
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The college basketball season is upon us, and for the 2006-07 Rainbow Warriors, life begins on the road. Five of the first seven games are away from home, and while this is likely to make for a rough first month, it should pay dividends down the line.

The opener at UNLV last week showed both the present weaknesses and probable future strengths of what may be Riley Wallace’s last team in Manoa. Hawaii had great difficulty with the Runnin Rebels pressure defense early on, falling behind 23-4 in the first 10 minutes.

This points up problems No. 1: There is not a true point guard on the roster. Matt Gibson is the starter, and he is a natural two guard. Gibson had six turnovers and his backup, Dominic Waters, had five. Waters is also more of a two guard, although he was billed as a “combo” guard when he signed with Hawaii. True freshman Todd Lowenthal was also signed to play the point; he seems to be a combo guard as well.

It is likely that the Rainbow Warriors will not see that quality of pressure defense very often this season, but future opponents who watch tape of the first game are sure to put some heat on the ball handlers.

Problem No. 2: UH has only one proven frontcourt player, Ahmet Gueye, and he is still not 100 percent after knee surgery last spring. He is still unquestionably the team’s best big man. Somebody else will have to step up. Stephen Verwers is a 6-foot-11-inch transfer from Colorado State. He has some post skills, although at this stage they are limited. In 19 minutes against UNLV he grabbed four rebounds but failed to score. P.J. Owsley, a 6-foot-8-inch junior college transfer has some heft and is picking up the UH system better than the other new players. Another case of somewhat limited skills, but he’s not afraid to join the battle. He’ll help. Todd Fullmer, a 7-footer from junior college, has a decent touch but is too lean to be effective for long minutes at this level.

So much for the weaknesses. The strength of this team is at shooting guard and small forward. Matt Lojeski is back from an excellent junior season and should be an all-WAC performer. He can run the floor, plays defense, rebounds, and is usually deadly when left alone. Bobby Nash is recovered from last year’s shoulder injury, and the 6-foot-6-inch junior is strong, scrappy and, when he relaxes, can fill it up from long range. Riley Leuttgerodt is a 6-foot-5-inch swingman who tore up his juco league in Oregon. He’s still learning the system, but he’s a scorer, is wiry strong, and should develop into a decent defender, but has a way to go in that department.

The good news is that these three players should be significant contributors. The bad news is they shot a collective 5-30 against UNLV.

While the early deficit against the Runnin Rebels was indicative of a Hawaii problem, the comeback showed some grit and some heart. Matt Gibson and Ahmet Gueye got their offense going, the others will come around, hopefully sooner rather than later.

The players like each other, and they play hard. This is the least talented Hawaii team in the last eight or so years, but they may just be a group where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. With a strengthened WAC this year, they’ll need to be.

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