POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 15, 2010
With their powers combined, they are O Monstro de Duas Cabecas.
That's "The Two-Headed Monster" in Portuguese, the native language of Hawaii centers Vander Joaquim and Douglas Kurtz.
"It's a good statement because they need each other," UH assistant coach Walter Roese, who, like Kurtz, is from Brazil. "If both come ready to play, we know we have a good 40 minutes of some solid inside game."
The big men certainly came ready to play against Hawaii Pacific last week, combining for 18 points and 14 rebounds as UH grabbed 51 boards. Granted, that came against the smaller, Division-II Sea Warriors, but it was still the best game the two have played in concert through eight games for UH (6-2).
NEXT UP FOR UH» Chicago State (2-9) vs. Hawaii (6-2)
» Friday, at Lahaina Civic Center, Maui, 7 p.m.
» TV: None. Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
» Tickets: $12 for adults, $6 for senior citizens and students ages 4 through high school. All seats general admission.
"I feel good because we both help each other play," said Joaquim, who's averaging 6.5 rebounds in starting all eight games leading into Friday's match against Chicago State (2-9) on Maui. "We can't win games by ourselves. We always need backup."
Though they aren't relied on to carry the offense, Joaquim and Kurtz are a big reason why UH is outrebounding opponents with a plus-10.1 margin, and why UH has made more free throws (125) than opponents have attempted (110). Together, they average 8.0 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.
"We kind of wanted to get that mentality about how one guy goes hard, and the other one rests, and then he subs in and he goes hard, and we just kind of wear (opponents) down," said UH coach Gib Arnold, who coined their nickname. "Like a two-headed monster, eventually you're going to have a pretty good chance of doing some damage."
During daily practices, they usually inflict it on each other. Kurtz, a 7-foot, 260-pound senior from Pelotas, Brazil, and Joaquim, a 6-10, 240-pound sophomore from Luanda, Angola, constantly battle for prime position under the basket.
Naturally, there's Portuguese smack talk wafting around in the gym, though their dialects are different enough where communication fails in two languages. It's usually one complaining about a foul from the other to Roese, a fellow Portuguese speaker.
The monster's heads bicker sometimes, but they have become good friends away from the game. Roese considers Kurtz, a tri-captain, a big brother to Joaquim.
"Vander's funny. When he talks, it's funny, man," Kurtz said. "I cannot understand him in English or Portuguese sometimes. When he sends text messages ... I ask, what does that mean?"
You can't spell paint without pain, especially when Kurtz comes in. During yesterday's practice in Klum Gym, point guard Hiram Thompson drove the baseline and collided with the big Brazilian. The result was predictable: with a thwack, Thompson fell to the ground, hard.
Joaquim is leaner, but has a nice touch around the basket. Both are conditioned to get up and down the court quickly in Arnold's system.
Kurtz was enthusiastic about his outing against HPU, when he went for career highs of eight points and 12 boards in 23 minutes. It was a big step up from barely any court time as a junior.
Joaquim conceded yesterday he was out of shape when he arrived at UH from the College of Eastern Utah this summer, but Arnold and Roese, who oversees the bigs, agree he has come far.
"One game, one plays well, the other game, the other plays well," Roese said. "They kind of have good balance. ... I think they have a healthy relationship."