One chose Hawaii. The other chose San Jose State.
Freshman guards Bo Barnes (UH) and Keith Shamburger (SJSU) are part of an intriguing clash in the backcourt tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center, when the Rainbow Warriors meet the Spartans at the midpoint of the Western Athletic Conference regular season.
UH (11-8, 2-5 WAC) is going for its first three-game winning streak in league play since 2007-08, while SJSU (9-8, 1-5) is trying to survive a brutal portion of its schedule. The winner of this game will have a firm grasp on seventh place in the nine-team conference.
The fortunes of both teams could be tied to the two freshmen whose paths converged, then diverged just as quickly in Honolulu last spring.
Barnes and Shamburger took simultaneous recruiting visits to Hawaii as prospects for new UH coach Gib Arnold’s first recruiting class. Barnes enjoyed his visit and committed almost immediately, but Shamburger, out of Serra High in Gardena, Calif., said he chose SJSU instead because of its proximity to home.
SAN JOSE STATE (9-8, 1-5 WAC) AT HAWAII (11-8, 2-5)
» Today at Stan Sheriff Center, 7 p.m.
» TV: KFVE, Ch. 5.
» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
UH has relied on Barnes’ sharpshooting all season in surpassing last year’s win total of 10, but the Rainbows were forced to look elsewhere for production as he went scoreless for three straight games entering this week’s homestand.
Shamburger, with an 11.2 points per game average, has risen to prominence for SJSU with star guard Adrian Oliver out the past two games with a concussion. Shamburger averaged 20 points in the two games Oliver missed, a win at Louisiana Tech and loss at New Mexico State.
Barnes busted out of his slump on Thursday against Fresno State with a 4-for-7 effort for 12 points, all on 3-pointers before halftime. He came into the game shooting 4-for-25 from the field in WAC play, but after that game upped his season average to 40.4 percent on 3s.
He’s an assassin from deep when he’s feeling it, as the UH coaches reminded him with a mix tape of his shot highlights before the Fresno game.
"I kind of went on a cold spell, and to come back and knock down shots and have the coaching staff be confident in me was great," Barnes said. "(The tape) said you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. That really stuck with me, and I went out there and did my role and shoot."
Video coordinator John Spruance put it together, inspiring Barnes to fire from as far away as 30 feet.
"He’s hit a bunch (40). It was a pretty long tape," Arnold said. "Looked like (it worked). He came out shooting, which is what he needs to do."
Behind Oliver (24.2 ppg), point guard Justin Graham (15.5) and Shamburger, the guard-oriented Spartans are better than their WAC record indicates.
"He’s having a really good year," Arnold said of Shamburger. "Good shooter, a little bit streaky on the season, but he’s been hitting his shots as of late. … He’s definitely a guy we’ve got to watch out for and make sure he doesn’t get a hot hand."
Of Oliver’s status for tonight, SJSU coach George Nessman said only "We’ll see." The UH coaches are preparing as though Oliver — and his third-in-the-nation scoring average — will come into play.
Tonight marks SJSU’s fifth road game in its first seven WAC contests.
"I don’t want to say we’ve played bad in conference, because that’s not true. But we haven’t played our best," Nessman said. "That’s why we’re in the position we’re in. But we feel there’s a long way to go and we’re not panicked about it."
UH has gotten solid interior production during its recent wins from center Vander Joaquim and forward Bill Amis, who both went for double-doubles against Fresno. Junior guard Zane Johnson leads the Rainbows in scoring with a 14.4 average.