An oxymoronic phrase — experienced newcomers — is an apt description of the University of Hawaii basketball team’s leadership that will be on display in tonight’s exhibition against Chaminade.
Division I transfers Kamaka Hepa (Texas), Jerome Desrosiers (Princeton) and Juan Munoz (Longwood) are expected to be contributors in their Rainbow Warrior debuts in Simplifi Arena. Hepa and Desrosiers are post players who already have been selected as co-captains. The third captain is 6-foot-6 wing Samuta Avea, a senior who opted out last season to train on the mainland.
“When you bring in three Division I transfers, they’re experienced, they understand this level, and they’ve been playing college basketball, but they’re still learning the new system,” head coach Eran Ganot said. “But because of the type of guys we brought in, they picked it up pretty well. They’re intelligent young men. They’re smart guys. They’re easy to play with. All three of those guys have done a good job adjusting to a new style, a new system. It’s not just the system they have to get used to. They have to get used to Hawaii and their new teammates.”
Hepa, who is 6 feet 10 and 215 pounds, was a 4-star prospect when he signed with Texas in 2018. He played in 60 games — 12 starts — in three seasons with the Longhorns. With his ball-handling and deep range, Hepa can play in the post or as a stretch-four.
“He’s vocal, he’s a leader,” Ganot said of Hepa. “He wants to get better. His attitude is awesome every day, which is why he he’s already made jumps.”
Desrosiers, who is 6-7 and 235 pounds, played 82 games for Princeton — none in 2020-21, during which Ivy League schools opted not to compete. As a junior in 2019-20, Desrosiers hit 45.5% of his shots, including 37.5% from beyond the arc. “The leadership he sets every day is clear to us, clear to his teammates,” Ganot said.
Ganot said Hepa and Desrosiers are skilled passers.
“A big part of our identity is sharing the ball,” Ganot said. “When you have front-court players who can do that, it makes it that much better.”
Munoz, who is 6 feet and170 pounds, is part of an inter-changing guard rotation. Munoz, JoVon McClanahan, and Noel Coleman have shared the play-directing role when the ’Bows use point or double-point schemes. Because of his outside-shooting accuracy and ambidextrous dribbling, Coleman also is a comfortable fit at off guard. Coleman connected on 39.1% of his 3s last season, his first after transferring from San Diego.
“He’s a little bit of a silent assassin because of his demeanor,” Ganot said of Coleman. “He’s quiet at times, and low key. He’s always been a guy who has the potential to be a great shooter, and he’s gotten better. When you’ve had a year like he’s had in terms of shooting the ball, and now coming in with a little more confidence and strength, I expect that growth to continue.”
Ganot said Junior Madut also can play at the two and three spots.
“We’ve been mixing and matching teams (in practices),” Ganot said.
Ganot said the season’s goal is to play at a quicker tempo with ball movement and accurate shooting. “You don’t want the ball to be sticking,” Ganot said. “You want it to go side to side, inside and out. The guys have bought into that.”
Tonight’s “objective,” Ganot added, “is to get ready for the (season) opener (against Hawaii Hilo on Nov. 10). You have an objective going in, and see how it plays out. I anticipate there will be some challenges we haven’t prepared for. Both teams haven’t seen each other.”
NCAA BASKETBALL EXHIBITION
At SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center
>> Who: Hawaii vs. Chaminade
>> When: 7 tonight
>> Tickets: Limited number already have been distributed
>> TV: None
>> Radio: 1420-AM
>> Live streaming: None
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