It’s not too often that Douglas Kurtz, standing a legitimate 7 feet, looks up to the competition.
But that’s exactly the situation Kurtz and Hawaii men’s basketball teammate Bill Amis faced at the Pete Newell Big Man Camp in Manoa this week. In various footwork and post drills, the Rainbow Warriors’ two returning big men took on the mountain that is 7-foot-8 Paul Sturgess of Mountain State University (W. Va.).
The hulking Kurtz appeared, well, small standing next to the Englishman.
"It happens, man, you know," Kurtz said with a slight grin. "That’s just the way it is; it helps me, too, to play in the post. … It’s basketball."
The 6-9 Amis, a second-year Pete Newell participant, and Kurtz are taking advantage of the camp’s national pedigree to hone their games before the start of their senior year. It was a competitive yet cooperative atmosphere for the 20 or so players at the Manoa District Park Gym.
Amis was aggressive and moved fluidly in some of the most prolonged action he’s seen since missing all of the 2009-10 UH season with a torn plantar fascia in his foot, which forced him to redshirt. It’s healed, though, and he easily planted his full weight on both feet.
The 2008-09 team captain took a liking to the Kiki move, once perfected by former NBA star Kiki Vandeweghe. It involves a drive fake, drawing contact, and sidestepping for a shot.
Kurtz, a Brazilian who saw reserve action for UH last year, is working on his jump hook on both sides of the basket.
"They throw a lot of moves at us," Amis said. "They really only want us to take in and use about four or five moves we can master. And if you have four or five moves you can master and counter, then you’re going to be hard to stop."
Camp coordinator Merv Lopes, the legendary Chaminade coach who led the Silverswords to an upset of top-ranked Virginia nearly three decades ago, had glowing appraisals of the UH duo as they progressed through different move sets.
"The important part of me observing that young man is how sincere he is when he works out," Lopes said of Amis. "Not just go through the motions. He’s open to new suggestions, to get away from his comfort zones, so that you can expand your ideas and your thoughts about what’s happening."
As for the noticeably trimmer Kurtz, Lopes mused, "He’s got a good body, he’s interested, that’s why he’s here."
The annual camp for pro, college and high school players has been back from Las Vegas to Hawaii for two years now, but enrollment dropped some this year. Yet Lopes is optimistic that the camp (started in 1976 by Newell, who won an NCAA Tournament championship with Cal in 1959) will endure.
It still has backing. UH coach Gib Arnold appreciated that the two players enlisted.
"I’ll be counting on those guys. … Coach Lopes does a phenomenal job with that camp," Arnold said. "It’s the reason why it’s been around for so long. It works. I’m glad both of them are in it, and it’s something that will definitely help them in their development."
UH draws Florida State
Host Hawaii will face Florida State in the first round of the second Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic on Dec. 22, ESPN announced yesterday.
All four first-round games (Mississippi State-Washington State, San Diego-Baylor, Utah-Butler and FSU-UH) will be televised on ESPNU. Should the Rainbow Warriors beat the Seminoles, UH will have two guaranteed games on ESPN2 on Dec. 23 and 25.
FSU is coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament seasons. It lost center Solomon Alabi as an early entry to the NBA Draft, but Arnold pointed out that the top returnee, forward Chris Singleton, averaged as many points and rebounds (10.2 and 7.0) as all returning UH players from last year combined.
"That’s an outstanding team," Arnold said. "Obviously, it’s going to be a tough matchup. But every team will be tough. I think it’s a great tournament."