Is he aware of the 3-second rule? Doesn’t he know there’s a shot clock?
Yes, Vander Joaquim is aware.
Watching the 6-foot-10, 238-pound Hawaii center back his man into the post oh-so-deliberately, one might wonder about that. No need to panic, because Joaquim sure won’t. He’ll either complete his move on time with one of his patented baby hooks, or kick out to an open Rainbow Warriors teammate for a shot.
"I’ve always been patient," the sophomore explained. "Sometimes Coach (Gib Arnold) says, ‘Hey, go before the double team comes!’ But every time I go fast, I always miss my shots. So I just take my time."
If your full name were Valdelicio Macanga Maia Joaquim, you’d take your time, too. While power forward Bill Amis sat out the past 10 games with a stress fracture, Joaquim was a steady force in the middle. Amis is expected back in UH’s Western Athletic Conference home opener today against Idaho, but Joaquim will look to build on his season averages of 6.9 points on 53.4 percent shooting, and a team-best 7.2 rebounds a game. He went for a career-high 22 points and 13 rebounds last time out, a blowout loss at Nevada.
WAC home opener
» Who: Idaho (7-6, 1-1 WAC) vs. Hawaii (9-5, 0-2)
» When/Where: 7:30 p.m. today, at Stan Sheriff Center
» TV/Radio: KFVE / KKEA, 1420-AM
It may seem interminably long while he operates down low, but that’s nothing compared to the length of his journey from his native Angola to play basketball at UH.
Soccer is huge in the Angolan capital of Luanda, his hometown. Unlike his three older brothers, who would watch soccer every Sunday morning, "I was sleeping," Joaquim said.
He instead took to basketball at age 10, when he was already 6 feet tall. He excelled in club ball at age 14 and soon joined the ranks of the Angolan junior national team.
With no knowledge of the English language, Joaquim went straight from Portuguese-speaking Angola to Christian High School near San Diego when he was 16. He played the next year at Mountain State Academy in West Virginia, and enrolled at the College of Eastern Utah to facilitate his dream of playing Division I basketball. He was able to get his associate’s degree with three years of college eligibility remaining, which now seems huge considering his young prowess in only 19.8 minutes a game.
The reason he’s at UH is associate coach Walter Roese. Joaquim met Roese when the Angolan national team (a secondary team to the Angolan senior national team) played exhibition games in Brazil, where Roese coaches the Brazilian junior national team. The two stayed in touch, especially Joaquim’s first year in America when Roese was an assistant at nearby University of San Diego. Joaquim had few, if any, other Portuguese speakers to talk to.
"I like Coach Walter, I like him personally, because of the way he talks to me," Joaquim said. "He really gave me trust to go with him and go somewhere I don’t know anybody."
Joaquim knew he was going wherever Roese was. First he verbally committed to USD, then signed a national letter of intent with Nebraska when Roese became a Cornhuskers assistant.
When Roese joined Arnold’s staff at Hawaii, Joaquim followed suit. He also knew nothing about Hawaii, but his laid-back nature seems a natural fit.
"He’s a calm guy, very confident in his offensive game," Roese said. "In the low post, he can read, has a good feeling. Sometimes he will hold the ball a little too long, but that’s him. You have to remember, he’s only a sophomore. He has two more great years here."
Roese is proud of Joaquim that he’s on track to get a degree, his mother’s wish back home. Arnold is glad to have him, noting that he’s come far offensively but must improve on defense, particularly shot blocking. In UH’s two road losses to open Western Athletic Conference play, opposing centers Tai Wesley (Utah State) and Dario Hunt (Nevada) had huge nights.
But UH’s offense has also benefited as Joaquim has steadily drawn more double teams, freeing up shooters such as junior guard Zane Johnson.
Johnson shakes his head at Joaquim’s steady modus operandi, but there was no denying Joaquim’s effectiveness.
"It’s just how he plays. I don’t think he knows any different," Johnson said. "He usually gets it done if he doesn’t get a 5-second call before he throws it out. But he’s been playing good."