POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 2, 2012
A new-look Hawaii men's basketball team could transform a little more tonight.
The Rainbow Warriors open the 2012-13 season with an exhibition against Hawaii Pacific. It's anyone's (educated) guess who third-year coach Gib Arnold will trot out as his starting lineup.
In the past two seasons, the coach has changed his mind within minutes of exhibition tipoffs. It's an ideal setting to do some tinkering as the result doesn't officially count; the regular-season opener is next Friday against Maryland-Eastern Shore.
RAINBOWS BASKETBALLAt Stan Sheriff Center
» Who: Hawaii Pacific at Hawaii
» When: 7 p.m. today
» TV/Radio: None
» Live stats: hawaiiathletics.com
"I don't think the guys know who's starting yet. There's probably eight guys who think they are," Arnold said. "There's three or four lineups I want to look at. … (The constant) in exhibitions is you still want to play as hard as you possibly can."
A possible starting group is senior Jace Tavita at point guard, junior Brandon Spearman at shooting guard, senior Hauns Brereton at small forward, junior Christian Standhardinger at power forward and junior Davis Rozitis at center.
One player who is definitely out: senior Vander Joaquim, the team's top returnee from the 16-16 season of 2011-12. The preseason All-Big West Conference center is likely still two or three weeks from a full recovery of his torn right MCL, suffered during preseason workouts.
The good news for UH is that Standhardinger, a transfer from Nebraska, is cleared to play after a staph infection in his right elbow kept him out last week.
Besides game experience for the 'Bows, this game could be just as useful for fans in getting to recognize many new faces. Only four active players from last season are still on the roster — Joaquim, Brereton, Garrett Jefferson and Rozitis.
"I feel the energy's there, the chemistry's there, the emotions are there," Rozitis said. "We'll be all right."
The most notable of several early departures were point guard Shaquille Stokes, forward Joston Thomas and forward Trevor Wiseman. In their place are seven true freshmen, two transfers and three others who redshirted last season.
"I've been waiting for this ever since I left Dayton," said Spearman, who went from there to Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College to get to Manoa. "I just can't wait to step back on a D-I floor."
The fresh roster has led Arnold to take a more gradual approach to introducing offensive sets in the preseason; he estimates only about half are in at this point.
"I feel pretty confident about what we have in, although it's not a lot," Arnold said. "When the lights go on we might struggle a little bit, but we'll adapt and adjust from there."
UH could find the Sea Warriors to be a handful. HPU just returned from a Tuesday exhibition at Santa Clara, where the Division II PacWest team jumped out from the start until giving up the lead in the final few minutes of a 64-63 loss.
"It's a heck of a week for us," HPU coach Darren Vorderbruegge said. "Two Division I schools in four days, 3,000 miles apart. But it's a tremendous opportunity. We're very appreciative of Coach Arnold and UH for providing this. It's invaluable for our team to play against such a top-quality competition, right here 15 minutes from our home campus."
HPU, 11-15 last season, has Nevada transfer Marko Cukic returning at center and a host of new guards, including Tulane transfer Malte Ziegenhagen, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds against the Broncos.
"We heard about that, and we're actually really excited," Brereton said. "They were competitive, and there's nothing wrong with good competition. We know they'll come in and give us their best game."
Valdes will redshirt
Freshman Aaron Valdes will redshirt this season regardless of a final NCAA ruling on his eligibility, Arnold said Thursday.
An athletic, 6-foot-5 wing, Valdes was given a two-week waiver to practice with the team starting with the Ohana Hoopfest, where he finished runner-up in the team's dunk contest. But his waiver expired and he's had to sit out the last several practices, contributing to Arnold's decision.
Season ticket holders can retrieve HPU stubs
Men's basketball season-ticket holders who have not yet received their tickets in the mail can go to the Stan Sheriff Center box office to pick up their HPU game tickets. Not, however, their tickets for the rest of the season.