These tri-captains are good in transition. They showed it all season long, and will try to prove it one last time at the Stan Sheriff Center.
After Hawaii’s Western Athletic Conference matchup tonight against New Mexico State, UH seniors Bill Amis, Hiram Thompson and Douglas Kurtz will be honored with senior-night ceremonies.
Each was instrumental for new coach Gib Arnold and his transformed Rainbow Warriors, who have clinched a winning season and a WAC tournament berth with three regular-season games left.
Thompson, a 6-foot-3 point guard who is doubtful to play tonight due to ligament damage in his left arm, was brought in by Riley Wallace. Amis, a 6-9 forward, and Kurtz, a 7-0 center, came in under Bob Nash.
» Who: New Mexico State (14-14, 8-5 WAC) at Hawaii (16-10, 6-7)
» When: Today, 7 p.m.
» Where: Stan Sheriff Center
» TV: KFVE, Ch. 5
» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
» Note: The first 3,000 fans each receive a men’s basketball team photo.
"I’m proud of them. They’ve given me everything they’ve got every single day," Arnold said. "They’ve been great leaders, they’ve been very coachable. They’ve helped me in the process of the transition tremendously. I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to help me as a new coach, with a new team."
The sixth-place Rainbows (16-10, 6-7 WAC) have an outside shot at the No. 4 seed in the WAC tournament, which would earn them a first-round bye. UH, winners of seven of its past nine games, is looking to avenge an 82-64 loss in Las Cruces, N.M., on Jan. 13. It has a real shot to do so if it can negate New Mexico State’s stable of big men, led by 6-8 junior forward Troy Gillenwater, who is second in the WAC in scoring at 19.9 points per game. The second-place Aggies (14-14, 8-5) boast five other players standing 6-10 or taller.
New Mexico State has size, true, but Aggies coach Marvin Menzies lamented his team’s inability to take advantage of it. He has also taken notice of UH’s improved play in the second half of WAC play. The Aggies are coming off a 72-70 overtime loss at San Jose State on Wednesday, while Hawaii beat Louisiana Tech 71-58 on Thursday.
"I don’t know if we can replicate that type of victory (in Las Cruces). It’s a different team," Menzies said. "I think Hawaii’s putting a better quality product on the floor. … We’re expecting a war."
Amis, who has recovered from a foot injury and averages 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds, must have a memorable night if UH is to succeed. He couldn’t put his finger on just one favorite memory at the Sheriff, game-winning jumpers and free throws among them.
"I’m always going to remember playing here, always going to miss playing in front of these fans," Amis said.
Thompson started his UH career with the 84-62 upset of No. 4 Michigan State in 2005. He’s still hoping to return for the team’s final games on the road next week, at San Jose State and Fresno State, but will enjoy the experience as much as he can tonight.
"It’s definitely special being in here the last time in front of the crowd and the people of Hawaii who’ve been supporting us for our whole career," Thompson said. "It just doesn’t feel like the end yet, until the last game’s over."
Kurtz, who could play a pivotal role tonight against New Mexico State’s hefty bigs, said his favorite memory at the Sheriff was last year, when he was treated to a loud ovation when he checked in for the first time.
"When we played them at their place, we weren’t where we are now," Kurtz said. "We’re a pretty good team now. … We’re playing the best basketball in the WAC now. I think we can get this win. All we need to do is come out aggressive. … I think pretty much all we have to do is bring our A-game, and should be fine."
Junior guard Zane Johnson is determined to send the seniors off the right way.
"They’ve been here three or four years and given everything they had," said Johnson, UH’s leading scorer at 15.0 ppg. "No one wants to go out a loser and I want them to go out having that (winning) feeling. They deserve a win."