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Tuesday, September 30, 2014         

UH BASKETBALL


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Basketball: Who's at center, that's the question

By Brian McInnis

POSTED:



Four starting jobs are fairly obvious. The fifth, though, is anyone's guess.

Count the two centers of the Hawaii men's basketball team among those in the dark, despite just two full practices remaining until the Saturday exhibition against Chaminade.

UH coach Gib Arnold doesn't plan to announce his starting lineup against the Silverswords until game day.

Educated guesses will have to suffice for now. At point guard, a battle between Hiram Thompson and Anthony Salter was made academic when Salter suffered a partial tear in his left heel in late October, knocking him out until the Nov. 12 regular-season opener at the earliest. Arizona transfer Zane Johnson has played well in scrimmages and is easily the most experienced at shooting guard. That also goes for Joston Thomas at small forward, and Bill Amis was confirmed by Arnold at power forward. Center is the only real question mark.

Ultimately, it may not matter whether senior Douglas Kurtz or sophomore Vander Joaquim get the nod at the 5 -- on Saturday or beyond.

"Our idea with them is, we're going to kind of merge those guys into one," Arnold said. "If you add their stats up together, I would love to see those guys, together, averaging a double-double. I see them subbing for each other and always having, for the most part, one of those guys out there on the floor."

Kurtz averaged 1.4 points and 1.0 rebounds in 5.7 minutes per game in his first season as a Rainbow Warrior, but the 7-footer shed about 15 pounds in the offseason (down to 268) to add some speed to his strength. He has a new, positive attitude on basketball to match his look.

Joaquim, a newcomer listed at 6-foot-10 and 245 pounds, showed promise at the College of Eastern Utah with 8.9 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game. He's not as bulky, but can step out to hit jumpers and go to a trusty baby hook.

Their daily battles in practice have forged a friendly rivalry, and both said they'd be OK if Arnold's decision went the other way.

"He's got a good touch around the basket, a good rebounder who plays hard. Good player," Kurtz said of Joaquim. "We just gotta go down with what Coach Gib has planned. I'm OK with it."

"I think we're both doing good. We're just waiting for Coach's decision," Joaquim said. "Whoever he plays, it don't matter who's starting."

Both come from Portuguese-speaking countries -- Kurtz from Brazil and Joaquim from Angola -- and the two converse in their native tongue on the fly at practice to help the other understand instructions from Arnold.

"We got better against each other. I play hard every time against him," Joaquim said. "Coach sometimes thinks we aren't playing hard 'cause we both speak Portuguese, but I do play hard against him."






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