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Act 2: Gibs' starring cast shows much promise

By Brian McInnis

LAST UPDATED: 3:06 a.m. HST, Nov 11, 2011


Position brings scorers, quickness, defense

Gib Arnold wants his two point guards, freshman Shaquille Stokes and sophomore Bobby Miles, to be extensions of himself.

Nowhere else will the UH coach’s dual penchants for showmanship and workmanship be on better display.

“I think you’ve got Shaquille, who’s got a great offensive skill set, great quickness. At times, flashy,” Arnold said. “I’m a guy who prefers steady, not sexy. Sometimes he’s a little sexy. You’ve got Bobby Miles, who’s a little more steady than he is sexy. And takes pride on the defensive end and in getting the ball around. It’s a nice mix.”

The Rainbow Warriors’ successors to Hiram Thompson can work together or separately — expect to see both options in the nonconference season.

Stokes (5 feet 10, 175 pounds), the New York City player of the year out of Lincoln High, brings a swagger and scoring ability despite never having played a Division I game. He led UH in scoring during the “Warriors to Asia” exhibition tour to China and Japan in August.

Miles (6-1, 190) was steady on that trip, too, earning praise from the UH coaches as one of the team’s top three performers for rarely turning over the ball. He brings an even-keeled demeanor to the position; he doesn’t get too high or low. He started 10 games at the point as a true freshman, with mixed results, but that included a 10-assist game against Chicago State.

In recent weeks, Stokes has gained the inside track for the starting job, thanks mostly to his dynamic abilities in the open court and knack for breaking down defenders. He still must improve his playmaking in the halfcourt, but the UH coaches see it as only a matter of time until that clicks, too. He’s already started to find top scorer Zane Johnson for open fast-break jumpers at the senior’s sweet spots.

The wild card is senior Miah Ostrowski (5-9, 175). The football slotback surprised just about everyone last season in helping UH turn things around once he joined the team as a December pickup. He gave the Rainbow Warriors an extra gear with his bursts of speed and fearlessness, eventually taking the reins as a starter by the end of the year.

Ostrowski plans to return to hoops at the same point in 2011-12, but his role may be considerably different. Not only has his football role expanded this year — increasing wear and tear — but he was in such high hoops demand last year in part because of injuries to Thompson and Miles.

“Miah, being a senior, that’s going to be interesting to see late December what’s going to happen,” assistant coach Brandyn Akana said. “But we’ll have plenty of point guards, a lot of them doing different types of things. We’ve got scorers, we’ve got quickness, we’ve got great defense.”

Sophomore combo guard Pi‘i Minns (6-4, 180) has been one of UH’s best scout-teamers since coming into the program as a Chaminade transfer last season. If he is called upon, the walk-on out of Kamehameha offers solid perimeter defense and shooting.

Another walk-on, Jace Tavita (6-4, 210), has been a staple of the scout team. He pushes the rotation players with his ball-handling, physicality and tenacity. The beefy Utah transfer will redshirt so he gets a full senior year in 2012-13.

Specs and 2010-11 statistics
Shaquille Stokes* Fr. 5-10 175 18.4 5.0 4.0 Harlem, N.Y.
Bobby Miles So. 6-1 190 2.2 1.3 2.0 Los Angeles
Miah Ostrowski Sr. 5-9 175 5.4 2.2 3.8 Aiea
Pi‘i Minns So. 6-4 180 Redshirted     Honolulu
Jace Tavita^ Sr. 6-4 210 1.2 3.4 1.0 Salt Lake City
* — high school statistics ^ — Utah statistics


Defensive mentality will be their hallmark

These wings are staying grounded.

Hawaii’s five shooting guards and small forwards each bring unique abilities to the table. One thing that’s consistent among them, though — a hefty down payment into the team’s defensive philosophy.

Senior Zane Johnson (6 feet 6, 210 pounds), the top returning scorer in the WAC at 15.8 points per game, will once again have full license to let it fly in his second on-court season in Manoa. That’s not shocking. What might be is his continued improvement with his palms up and back to the basket.

More than any other aspect of his game last season, the sharpshooter’s defensive play needed work. He’s since gone “all in” on D and by the end of his junior year was sometimes guarding other teams’ most gifted offensive players.

“Personally, I just bought in to playing defense and if I want to play at the next level, I have to play defense,” said Johnson, who buried a UH-record 98 3-pointers in 2010-11. “I can’t just be a shooter. It’s more fun in practice when you play defense instead of standing around, thinking everything’s a grind. It’s fun to try to get stops and challenge yourself.”

As much as Johnson improved in that aspect, the top defensive responsibility will likely fall to UH newcomer Garrett Jefferson (6-3, 170), a late-summer pickup. UH coach Gib Arnold has taken a special liking to the bouncy, tough-nosed Jefferson, naming the sophomore out of Citrus College (Calif.) his captain of defensive teams.

“Just like I’ve given Zane a little bit of a green light offensively, I’ve given (Jefferson) the green light defensively,” Arnold said. “Meaning he can pick up full (court) and he can leave his man and go and trap, and do those things that are maybe a little outside the team defensive scheme. He’s so good and he’s so aggressive defensively that I don’t want to give him a ceiling.”

The Rainbow Warriors return their top hustle man in sophomore Trevor Wiseman (6-7, 210), who worked hard in the offseason to add some strength and offensive punch to his game. He should provide a spark off the bench, and possibly contend for starting minutes against smaller teams.

UH’s only loss at the wing positions was a big one, offensively. Freshman shooting guard Bo Barnes left the program for Arizona State in the spring after setting the UH freshman record for 3-pointers at 57.

A respectable team needs more than one knockdown 3-point shooter, and the Rainbow Warriors hope they’ve found a second all-around marksman in junior Hauns Brereton

(6-6, 210), who shot nearly 40 percent on 3-pointers as a third-team All-American at Western Nebraska Community College.

Brereton’s defense might be a work in progress, but he is an exceptional offensive rebounder for his modest size. When the ’Bows play with a single point guard on the floor, Brereton could see hefty minutes.

Lastly, true freshman Brandon Jawato (6-4, 215) is a sound shooter and capable defender. But because of the crowded nature of the wing positions, headed up by Johnson, Jawato may redshirt this season in favor of a more involved freshman year in 2012-13.

Specs and 2010-11 statistics
Zane Johnson Sr. 6-6 210 15.8 3.1 1.9 Phoenix
Hauns Brereton* Jr. 6-6 210 20.3 7.1 1.5 Bartlett, Tenn.
Trevor Wiseman So. 6-7 210 4.2 4.0 0.9 Santa Clarita, Calif.
Garrett Jefferson* So. 6-3 170 7.8 3.8 Lakewood, Calif.
Brandon Jawato^ Fr. 6-4 215 21.5 8.5 2.0 El Segundo, Calif.
* — junior college statistics ^ — high school statistics


There’s skill, but not depth at this spot

Hawaii might be short on bigs, true. Yet there’s no shortage of foreign languages being tossed around underneath the basket.

It’s a source of occasional frustration for assistant coach Scott Fisher, who works with the post players.

“For three of them, English isn’t their first language,” Fisher said. “So I’m barking at the back of their heads, and I know they’re just hearing noise. It takes a little bit different approach sometimes. I have to grab them and look into their eyes so they understand what I’m saying.

“They’re sponges that don’t absorb everything. But I’m encouraged about, really, what we have.”

Expectations are high for junior center Vander Joaquim (6 feet 10, 245 pounds), who improved considerably over the course of his sophomore season until he was good for a nightly double-double. The UH co-captain spent most of the summer with the Angolan national team and arrived in Manoa in top shape in the fall.

His midrange shot has improved and his ambidextrous touch on baby hooks within 7 feet is as good as ever. The affable Joaquim seems ready to make good on his All-WAC preseason selection.

UH’s stable of bigs is somewhat depleted this year. Replacing the size of outgoing seniors Bill Amis and Doug Kurtz wasn’t easy.

“It’s not very deep,” UH coach Gib Arnold acknowledged of the unit. “A lot of people might point to that as being one of our weaknesses. And maybe rightfully so, because we don’t have a whole lot of bigs. But the ones we’ve got are pretty good and pretty skilled.”

UH’s only other true big man, USC transfer Davis Rozitis (7-0, 240) of Latvia, has much to prove either behind or alongside Joaquim — UH has experimented with both lineup styles. Joaquim and Rozitis have the beginnings of a high-low rapport that figures to be a matchup problem for any opponent.

The Latvian sophomore played sparingly for the Trojans as a true freshman and is a largely unknown commodity at the Division I level. But with no Joaquim on the “Warriors to Asia” tour, Rozitis was the team’s go-to center. He responded by showcasing his smooth outside shot and posted several solid games.

Junior Joston Thomas (6-7, 235) will be counted on to anchor the power forward spot. The team’s strongest player is as talented and hard to stop as ever — especially within one dribble of the basket — but has yet to maximize his total package. Thomas sometimes falls in love with his outside shot, to the chagrin of the coaches. He played with the secondary/scout team for the second half of the preseason.

Those three bigs are supported by two energetic scout-teamers in Christian Standhardinger (6-8, 215) of Germany and walk-on Tyler Brown (6-6, 240). Standhardinger, a transfer from Nebraska, must sit out games this season but has given the first team fits in practice with his hustle. The German will clearly be an impact player next season.

If UH is reeling from frontcourt depth issues, small forward Trevor Wiseman (6-7, 210) and swingman Hauns Brereton (6-6, 210) can be called on to play the post in a pinch.

Specs and 2010-11 statistics
Vander Joaquim Jr. 6-10 245 9.5 8.2 0.8 Luanda, Angola
Joston Thomas Jr. 6-7 235 9.7 5.1 1.1 Washington, D.C.
Davis Rozitis So. 7-0 240 Redshirted   Cesis, Latvia
Christian Standhardinger^ Jr. 6-8 215 9.5 5.5 0.7 Munich, Germany  
Tyler Brown* Fr. 6-6 240 8.0 7.0 Honaker, Va.
* — high school statistics ^ — Nebraska statistics

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