Something doesn’t quite add up.
A team with supposedly the fifth best recruiting class of the nation’s 339 Division I college basketball schools is predicted to finish last in its conference.
According to The HOOP SCOOP (hoopscooponline.com), first-year Hawaii coach Gib Arnold’s inaugural crop breathes the same rarefied air as those of b-ball bluebloods Kentucky, Memphis, Ohio State, Missouri and Wake Forest. The Rainbow rookies are nestled between the newcomers of the perennial powerhouse Tigers and Demon Deacons.
But the way WAC coaches and media see it, UH will be last in the league come March, left home for the conference tourney again.
In the new world order of blue chip freshmen making sudden impact, shouldn’t a class allegedly this classy kick butt right away?
Maybe not, because not everyone’s buying into HOOP SCOOP’s hoopla. By the nature of its formula, a huge class of 10 players can’t help but accumulate ranking points.
And, anyway, Arnold knows raw material doesn’t always translate into instant success.
"It’s a good group, a good class. But it’s totally open for discussion. This is a bunch of guys who have never scored a point in Division I. It’s a huge learning curve," Arnold said. "Would I rather have vets or young talent? I’d probably say veterans. But it’s a good group and their attitude has been super."
It doesn’t take a roundball genius to see there is no O.J. Mayo, John Wall or Kevin Durant among the new Rainbows. There is a guy, however, who played with Durant, as a prep a few years ago at powerful Montrose Christian in Maryland.
But who didn’t Joston Thomas go to high school with? He attended four of them before graduating from God’s Academy in Texas; and the elite programs kept tracking him before he ended up at the same JC where Arnold once coached.
The muscular 6-foot-7 sophomore forward from Washington, D.C., could eventually become the centerpiece of the Rainbows — but only if the College of Southern Idaho grad’s rambling days are over. Thomas says they are, that he finds the pace and vibe of the islands a match for his outgoing personality.
"It’s really laid-back here and I like that," he said after yesterday’s practice. "In D.C. you don’t have people nice like here. In D.C. if you go up and talk to people they look at you weird."
Arnold spends three hours of his 42nd birthday yesterday teaching basketball. He and his assistants purposely send mixed messages of chastisement and encouragement.
Arnold issues the shortest suspension in the history of sports.
"I like ya, but ya gotta play how we play," he tells a rookie. "Get out of the gym. Get me someone who plays the way we play."
The kid is called back before he reaches the door.
Later, Benjy Taylor uses a UH legend as an example of unselfishness.
"AC Carter would’ve passed (the ball) out," the new assistant coach says. "He’s 14 years in The League and he would’ve passed out."
Arnold waits for a collision under the basket to end practice. His favorite play is taking a charge.
"I like it, I love it. Bring it in."
It’s something he got from John Wooden: Break ’em down, but "always end with praise."
Just two holdovers who played on last year’s 10-20 team remain: guard Hiram Thompson and center Douglas Kurtz.
"I saw what we have coming back and it made me nervous. We have the least amount of points and rebounds. Dead last in the country," Arnold said. "Do I bring in seven freshmen? And the lights go on and we don’t know what will happen? I tried for a blend. I could’ve brought in seven JCs and we’d probably have a better won-lost record.
"I’m not interested in building a team. We’re building a program."
Translation: Patience required, even if someone’s formula says the Sheriff Center is home to the fifth best recruiting class in all the land.