Bobby Miles feels it coming. Somebody messes up on a rotation, failing to slide over in the Hawaii defensive scheme in the halfcourt. And sure enough, from midcourt, UH coach Gib Arnold lets loose his feedback like a seasoned cannoneer.
Call it the freshman point guard’s Arnold Alert. He’s gotten pretty good at recognizing when the Rainbow Warriors err in their system, though not yet early enough to stop it from happening.
For a fledgling player on a fledgling team, that counts as progress.
"We would overthink it. We know we’re supposed to be there, but we’re still over there," said Miles, pointing to two different spots inside the 3-point arc. "Coach Gib will yell, and then we’ll have to do it over again. We’re getting there now. Every once in a while we forget, but we’re getting there."
Team defense has been a major point of emphasis throughout preseason practices, especially now as Arnold has closed up their sessions to the public and media with Saturday’s exhibition against Chaminade just days away.
In their favored defense, the Rainbows man up, but rely heavily on one another to rotate and slide around the court as a unit. If one man gets beat, the idea is to have a second and third person there to have the first man’s back until he can recover.
In other words, don’t be a hero. Just stop the ball, and get out to contest shooters.
That doesn’t leave much room for freelancing and gambling for steals. In the first weeks of practice, the Rainbows had to fight their instinct to leak into passing lanes — especially with perimeter passes sailing tantalizingly just out of reach.
"It blows my mind all the time, ’cause there’s a couple balls you feel like you can get," sophomore forward Joston Thomas said. "And the whole team goes, ‘Aw, you could have got that one!’ So it’s kind of tough just sitting there and looking at that pass go through. Then heating up (pressuring) the ball. So I think a lot of us go through that."
Arnold wants his team to make defense — more than a running game — its signature in his first year. He cautioned that against the Division II Silverswords, who pack some talented players, their stopping power will be a work in progress.
UH also employs a zone defense, but that alignment is less developed.
"I don’t expect this to be a great defensive team Saturday night. We won’t be," Arnold said.
He figures UH’s effectiveness will develop with time.
"I think it starts with effort, I think our effort will be there. But just the different things that happen are split-second in basketball, and the different reads we need to do defensively. We’re still quite a ways away from where we need to be. But I do believe you don’t learn defense in March. You learn it in October, and so we’re starting to learn it now. We’re hoping that by March, that’s when we’ll be playing our best defense."
Miles sees the progress from their first full practice to this week.
"(Before) he had to yell every 30 seconds," Miles said. "Now he yells every once in a while."