POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Oct 31, 2012
Gib Arnold has a three-pronged point to make.
Perhaps the most striking difference between the 2012-13 Hawaii men’s basketball team and the 16-16 Rainbow Warriors of a season ago comes at point guard. It’s a notion underscored every day at team practices as UH prepares for its exhibition on Friday vs. Hawaii Pacific.
Gone are pass-first Miah Ostrowski and shoot-first Shaquille Stokes. In their places are a veteran who’s sat out game action for the past season and a half, a defensive stopper and convert to the position, and a marksman who’s also a wide-eyed freshman.
That’s Jace Tavita, Garrett Jefferson, and Manroop Clair, respectively. Tavita, a senior, has a firm grasp on the starting job. Jefferson and Clair have split time as the backups.
“You’ve got a couple guys there who the position’s a little new for them, said Arnold, the third-year UH coach. “Jace has played it the most. All three of them have done a pretty good job. I think we’re going to be all right there. Guys are giving a heck of a job, heck of an effort.”
At 6 feet 4, Tavita is a larger point guard. He started four games as a freshman for the Utes and 19 as a sophomore before transferring to UH five games into the 2010-11 season.
The Salt Lake City native has sat out since then as a redshirt — he was the ’Bows’ scout team point guard — but has assumed the role of a tri-captain now that he’s eligible to play in games. During the team’s bonding retreat to Molokai over the weekend, he laid out some lofty goals.
“We had a team meeting where we set up goals. … Goals that we have for the season,” Tavita said. “Like protecting our home floor; we want to win all of our games here in Hawaii. We want to compete to win the conference championship. We’d like to make the NCAA Tournament.”
Jefferson and Clair have never been traditional point guards and are trying to learn the ropes. Arnold is counting on Jefferson’s defense against the more talented opposing point guards and Clair’s 3-point shooting against zone defenses.
“They each have strengths, and we’re trying to play to their strengths when they’re in there,” Arnold said.
Arnold asked Jefferson, last season’s top wing defender, to start running the point about a week before the start of full practices. Communication among the point guards has helped the process.
“I tried to take it in stride,” the 6-3 Jefferson said. “Jace just tells me to take care of the ball. As long as you’re not throwing it away and you’re making the right passes, you’ll be fine. A point guard’s job is to make sure everybody else is getting shots and to control the tempo of the game.
“When he puts me in, I’ll be ready to run the point for the team.”
Clair, a freshman from British Columbia, has been a scoring guard his whole career, prep school on down. He’s learning, both through occasional successes and more-than-occasional tongue-lashings from the UH coaches, how to distribute the ball.
“I knew I was going to be a point guard when I came in,” Clair said. “ It’s just hard transitioning right now … but I’m getting better at it.”
San Jose State transfer Keith Shamburger — who is redshirting this year — and Kamehameha graduate Dyrbe Enos run the point for the scout team.