"Why are we playing this game?" ranks only No. 3 right now on the list of prominent questions facing the Hawaii men’s basketball team.
That query about UH’s nonconference contest at UC Davis tomorrow was dethroned this week in favor of the unknown status of two Rainbow Warriors.
Hawaii (14-10, 5-7 WAC) at UC Davis (9-16, 3-9 Big West)
» When: Tomorrow, noon Hawaii time
» Where: Davis, Calif.
» TV: None
» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
First the attention was directed at senior point guard Hiram Thompson, who suffered a hyperextended elbow against Nevada on Monday and may miss — depending on incomplete MRI results — the rest of the season, only tomorrow’s ESPNU BracketBusters game or something in between.
Now the proverbial spotlight is on Joston Thomas, or more aptly, is searching for him. The sophomore forward missed the team’s last two practices at home before UH flew to San Francisco yesterday.
As of now, there are no complete answers to "How’s Hiram?" and "Where’s Joston?"
"He was excused from these two practices for some personal reasons," Arnold said of Thomas after yesterday’s morning practice. "He’s got some things he’s gotta deal with. We’ll deal with it as things evolve."
He declined to comment further.
Thomas, the team’s third-leading scorer at 10.4 points per game and third-leading rebounder at 5.8, is one of only three Rainbows to play in all 24 games this season. The starting small forward has struggled of late, and Arnold has increasingly looked to freshman forward Trevor Wiseman off the bench. Against the Wolf Pack, Thomas started for the 21st time this season but played only 9 minutes while the energetic Wiseman received 28, including all of overtime.
Thompson, UH’s starting ball-handler, was expected to make the trip to Davis — which is near his hometown of Sacramento — but isn’t expected to play, as his left arm is immobilized in a sling. Thomas is questionable.
Those issues are bad timing for a UH team that must play a game with moderate-at-best benefit on an unfamiliar opponent’s court just before two crucial Western Athletic Conference home games. ESPN did not tab the contest against the Aggies as one of 11 with national TV coverage in its annual event for mid-majors.
Arnold has said all the right things about the game, which serves as a preview of sorts for when UH leaves for the Big West in basketball starting in the 2012-13 season.
"It’s a team we’re going to be playing against here in a couple years. I like the idea of that," Arnold said. "It gives us a chance to bond as a team on a road trip, and it’s only one (leg). Usually they’re kind of long, but this is one we can go in there and concentrate on just this game. And then as a staff we’ll also take advantage of the fact we’ll go on the mainland, we’ll do quite a bit of recruiting while we’re there, my assistants and myself. There’s a lot of positives around this game, although it’s not normal to travel 3,000 miles as you’re winding down your conference season to play a nonconference opponent."
Wiseman and backup point guard Miah Ostrowski are the probable replacement starters should both Thomas and Thompson miss the game.
Despite the setbacks this week, the team ended yesterday’s practice with a lighthearted halfcourt shot contest. Ostrowski won, nailing two of three by foregoing the common running, one-legged halfcourt shot in favor of the standard form of his jump shot.
"It’s just all tricep extensions. I’ve been working out," Ostrowski said with a laugh.