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6-foot-10 Joaquim being coached up

By Brian McInnis


His name reverberates through the Stan Sheriff Center.

"Vander! Vander!"

It's not a chant; the seats are empty. Rather, the source of the noise comes from Hawaii men's basketball coach Gib Arnold, who stops yet another play to take Vander Joaquim to task on another important point during team drills.

The 6-foot-10, 245-pound sophomore center silently nods, and resumes fighting for post position with fellow big man Davis Rozitis. Those breaks in action have become a recurring theme during the first week of full practices.

Then Joaquim shows why the UH coaches go out of their way to keep the Angolan involved.

Joaquim grabs three or four offensive rebounds in traffic on the same play, using his considerable length to keep the possession alive for his side. Eventually, the ball is kicked out and swung to freshman forward Trevor Wiseman, who takes it strong to the rim and finishes.

Arnold applauds the effort and calls an end to practice.

"I get on Vander all the time, and it's because I absolutely love Vander," Arnold said. "I think Vander is going to be a great player for us. I'm so thrilled he's here. But he's gotta learn, and he's gotta understand, gotta learn the game, how we want to play, and I'm going to stay on him, because I think he's got a chance to be a difference-maker before he leaves here."

The molding of Joaquim's raw talent doesn't figure to be an easy task, but it is an important one. A transfer from the College of Eastern Utah, Joaquim is one of two centers on the Rainbows' roster eligible to play this season.

He averaged 8.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game and blocked 31 shots at CEU, where he was noted for his 3-point range, but that's not something the UH coaches want or expect from him at this stage of his career.

On the Western Athletic Conference league-wide conference call on Tuesday, Arnold affirmed his commitment to building the team up with defense, but conceded that an up-tempo style might not be the best strategy with this group of 'Bows.

That's where Joaquim comes into play with his shot-blocking and rebounding. He lacks the girth of fellow center Douglas Kurtz, but definitely has the length to be an intimidator in the paint -- when he's in the right position.

"Intensity. Intensity is pretty high. Every day you gotta bring it," Joaquim said of the main differences between UH and JUCO ball. "If he (Arnold) needs me to rebound, I'm going to rebound. If it's pick and roll, I'm going to go pick and roll. Anything that will help the team win. I don't care about scoring or anything like that."

Sometimes, instructions for new set plays given in English fly over his head; it's easy to forget that it's only been three years since he left Portuguese-speaking Angola for high school in the United States. Associate coach Walter Roese or Kurtz -- both native Portuguese speakers -- sometimes help him by translating.

But generally, he gets the message. Especially if Arnold is staring straight at him and barking.

"Oh man, Vander's just a workhorse. Coach is on him real tough because he knows Vander's potential," junior point guard Anthony Salter said. "Vander could be real good once Vander gets his head into it and understands what Coach Gib wants. ... Coach on him real tough because we need Vander to be tough."

When he's ready, cries of "Vander!" on game nights will have a whole new meaning.

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