back in town

January 23rd, 2015

sorry for no posts the last two weeks, but I have been out of town ( Cuba).

While I was gone, the team posted a 1-2 record to open conference play. Frankly, a poor start. The home overtime loss to Cal Poly and the road loss to Riverside exposed some weaknesses that we have been talking about all year. A struggle to score in the half court and some undisciplined play down the stretch ( poor shot selection, bad clock management, etc).

But last night, the Rainbow Warriors played inspired basketball in a must win game against UC Davis. When UH combines its excellent pressure defense with a 50% field goal percentage, they will be very hard to beat. In my opinion, the team played its best 25 minutes of basketball last night in a game they had to win to remain competitive in the league. 18 steals led to 36 points off of turnovers, and UH exposed Davis' lack of athleticism in a dominating performance. Add 10 made threes to the mix, and it makes for an outstanding effort.

Was it perfect. No. Hawaii was badly outrebounded by a mediocre rebounding team, and a 26 point lead with under 8 minutes to play ended in an 8 point victory. Once again, Hawaii made some poor decisions down the stretch, but this time, their lead was so large it didn't really hurt. But some of the freshman need to grow up quickly before those mistakes cost the team a win or two.

Now Irvine comes to town. They were the preseason favorites to win the league, but until recently they have struggled a little bit. But they have played some tough road games, a three point loss at St. Mary's and a 2 point loss at Oregon, and they opened league play with a 3-1 record. They still have some injury issues, and it is not clear whether  7'6" Center Mamadou Ndiaye will play. I doubt he will. Without him, Irvine still has some solid players like Luke Nelson and Will Davis, but the Anteaters need the big man in the paint to thwart Hawaii's penetration . Without him, Hawaii's guards should be able to get to the hoop.. Irvine does come off a thirty plus point destruction of Northridge on the road last night.

Hawaii needs this game tomorrow. The " easy part" of UH's schedule was the first five games. Some thought they would go 5-0. A 2-3 record with two home losses will make it very difficult to compete for the top two or three spots. After tomorrow, UH goes on the road for four games, and against some of the stronger teams in the league( Long Beach and Santa Barbara and a rematch with Cal Poly). So its not too early to say tomorrow is a must win game. If they play like they did last night, they will win. If they play like they did against Cal Poly and Riverside, it wont be close.

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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December 29th, 2014

With two wins tonight and tomorrow, the basketball Bows will enter Big West play with a record of 12-4. Ok, lets be honest, how many folks predicted that? Not me, although I was off by only the Pitt game.

The surprising early season run as been fun to watch and a tribute to a never say die coaching staff and team. It proves the old basketball adage that if you play good defense, you will be in almost every game. And when the Bows make threes ( like they did in the second half against Wichita State and against Colorado), they will be in every game.

Hawaii always plays well in the Holiday tournament going back to Rainbow Classic times, and this year was no exemption. The wins against Nebraska and Colorado, and the loss against Wichita ( a game Hawaii deserved to win), is just another example. Frankly, I don't think either Nebraska or Colorado will be any better than middle of the road in their respective conferences, and Wichita will go only as far as their outside shooting will take them, but these games helped Hawaii's RPI and certainly will help recruiting being on national TV.

The games this week should be relatively easy wins. You never know however, coming against weaker competition after the excitement and the challenges of the Diamond Head. But the Hawaii backcourt with Bobbitt, Fleming and Nevels ( assuming his injured hand does not keep him out,) along with the strong play of Valdes and the emergence of Jankovic,  makes me pretty confident that even an average outing should not create any real issues .

How good is this team? We will see shortly once league play begins next week .Hawaii gets 4 of the first 5 games at home, and the road game is at Riverside. But I don't think anyone can say that this team has not exceeded expectations so far. Its not just the wins. Its the style of play that has fans buzzing. They create turnovers, make steals, and play hard on both ends of the floor. Do they have any flaws. Of course, They sometimes struggle in the half court, don't shoot well from the outside consistently, and lack depth, especially in the frontcourt.  They sometimes lose focus, but that can be corrected. All in all, they have been a very pleasant surprise.


Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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Time To Get Serious

December 20th, 2014

The easy part of UH's pre-conference schedule ended with a summer league type win over a badly outmatched Chaminade team last night. The game was over at the half as UH dominated on both ends of the court. Uh had 50 plus points in the paint which more than compensated for very poor three point shooting and 21 turnovers. I guess as a " tune -up game after a two week layover it was worthwhile, but from an competitive viewpoint it was solely lacking.

But the games against schools no- one has heard of and Division 2 teams is over. Starting Monday, the Diamond Head Classic will feature one really good teams and a bunch of mid level teams from Conferences we all know. Its not a very strong field, but other than Wichita State, its a competitive one.

Hawaii will open against Nebraska. At the beginning of the season, folks thought Nebraska could be a top 25 team. Unfortunately, they haven't played like one. They do have two preseason All Big 10 players in Terran Pettaway and Shavon Shields, along with wins against Cincinnati and Florida State, but they have lost to Rhode Island,  Creighton ( a rivalry game) and Incarnata Word ( WHO?). Its a game I think Hawaii can and will win.

But the winner of that game gets the opportunity to lose to Wichita State. No the Shockers are not playing as well as they did the last two seasons, but they come in here with only an overtime road loss to a solid Utah team. They all two of the best guards in the Country in Baker and Van Fleet. Bobbitt  and the rest of the Bow guards will have a significant challenge on their hands. Wichita State will open with the weakest team in the field Loyola Marymount, and if Hawaii should lose to Nebraska, they will have little trouble with LMU in the Consolation Round.

The other half of the bracket is wide open. Perhaps Colorado is the favorite. The Buffalos come in6-3 with wins over Auburn and San Francisco, but they have lost to Wyoming and Georgia. Other teams in the day bracket are Ohio University ( 3-4), DePaul ( 6-4) and George Washington ( 6-3).  Clearly the Shockers are the overwhelming favorite.

I think Hawaii will win 2 games in the Tournament. That would give them a 10-3 record. They have the signature win against Pitt, but the others have come against weak teams. The loss at BYU was not a surprise, and actually, the Bows played well for 30 minutes. The one that got away was the High Point loss. Hopefully Hawaii will be at full strength for the Tournament. Three games in four days is not easy. But Hawaii always plays well in this Tournament and the other teams have traveled a long way. Add all the distractions the State has to offer, and it adds up to a significant advantage for UH.

If you are any kind of a basketball fan, make your way to the arena. This team is fun to watch and can compete with every team in the field ( Yes, the Shockers will be a big favorite if the Bows win Monday). But the games should all be competitive and the team and the Tournament deserve fan support


Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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Lace It Up

December 17th, 2014

After what seems like an eternity since UH played a home basketball game( at least a game on Oahu), the basketball  Bows hit the hardwood for a Friday night " away game" against " little brother, Chaminade at the Blaisdell.

Some say a two week hiatus is good. Time to rest, regroup, put in new plays, etc. Others say its too long. Lose of fan interest, loss of positive momentum, etc. Whatever, its just nice to get back to playing.

Friday night's game is a no-win game for UH. Win, and every expects you too. Lose, and you have a lot of explaining to do. I watched Chaminade on Maui. They didn't appear to me as strong as previous teams I saw there. Uh has already beaten HPU, another Hawaii Division 2 squad, and frankly, I don't think Chaminade should give UH much of a game. But who knows? What I do know is that for UH to play two Div 2 teams in a single season is not acceptable. I don't want to hear about how difficult it is to bring in Div 1 opponents. One div 2 game a season is enough, maybe too much. The Bows strength of schedule is weak enough without Two Div 2 teams.

For the basketball fan however, there is good news ahead, at least next week.  The Diamond Head Classic will bring in 7 teams to play 12 games in three days. One of those teams, Wichita State, is the real deal. A top 10 team with solid players and a great backcourt.  Yes, they have struggled recently, losing at Utah, and beating Alabama by only 1 last nite at home, but they are clearly the best team Hawaii fans will see all year.

Hawaii opens against Nebraska. Four weeks ago, I would have said ESPN did UH no favors with that opening opponent. But Nebraska is not playing well, and UH has a real chance to win. Only possible problem.  A win and UH will face Wichita State in round 2. Lose and they will face a poor Loyola Marymount squad. The other bracket has DePaul, Colorado, Ohio University, and George Washington. What a concept. Teams folks have heard of.

The only new personnel news is that Hamlet, sorry I meant to Reyes, has left the building. " I am going. I am staying, I am going, I am staying, I am going, " is going. I don't think its  major loss. On the positive side, we will see the UH debut of Stefan Jankovic, the 6-11 transfer from Missouri. He played in 28 games for the Tigers, averaging 3.1 points and 1.6 rebounds. He should give UH some frontcourt depth which they have lacking, and some height in the paint.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to post a response to my blog about the financial future of UH sports. Its a tough issue, and will require some " out of the box" thinking. Happy Chanukah

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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interesting times

December 10th, 2014

With a brief lull in UH basketball ( no games until a week from Friday), and the recent developments arising out of the AD's resignation,, I thought I would use today's blog to solicit your comments on what needs to be done to make UH athletics competitive and cost effective.

I think everyone now should realize that UH cannot continue to allow its athletic program to operate in the red. Yearly deficits are not going to be acceptable any longer. The University has too many other needs that require the limited funds available thru tuition, tax dollars and the like.

To me, the single most important question to ask is whether UH sports are really for the University or are they really for the State as a whole. As the only public university in Hawaii, I believe it is the latter. Frankly, I believe that if you polled the students and the faculty as to whether they care if the University maintains a football program, the answer will be No. You can see evidence of that in student attendance and the debate over the modest 50 student fee.

So if I am correct that the athletic programs, primarily football, are for the benefit and enjoyment of the State, then shouldn't the taxpayers, thru their elected representatives on Punchbowl, subsidize it. We do not have the economic resources in the private sector to make up the 8 to 10 million it will take to make up the budget shortfalls. We don't have the Fortune 500 companies that can make million dollar contributions and the last time I looked, there was no Phil Knight out there as well. We simply cannot raise the necessary funds from corporations, etc.

And things are going to get worse. Changes in the way the NCAA and the big five conferences are going to fund student athletics, including increased stipends, meals, medical benefits, etc will increase the costs of UH athletics by several million dollars over the next few years. We are in a football and basketball conference with poor tv contracts, and we have the substantial problem of paying travel costs that no other University faces.

So lets face reality. the present model is badly broken. The question is can it be fixed? or are we at a crossroads for UH Division 1 athletics? Its time for the public to recognize the the Emperor has no clothes. What do you think?


Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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Back In Action

December 2nd, 2014

Sorry for the two week delay in posts, but I was traveling. While I was gone, I did color on the Pittsburgh game and went to the Maui Tournament. As you all know, Hawaii played a near perfect game to upset Pitt and then went to Florida where they took fifth place with a 2-1 record. As the Bows get ready to take on Delaware State tonight, there record stands at 6-2.

What to make of the first 8 games? I think everyone should be pleased with the 6-2 record, although I wouldn't start talking about a team that will compete for the Big West title. The wins , except for Pitt, have come against lower division teams. The losses have come against average opponents. The Pitt win demonstrated to me that on a given night Hawaii can beat solid teams. The two losses tell me that on a given night Hawaii can lose to average teams.

The backcourt has played well. Pressure defense and good team rebounding have made up for inconsistent offense and an average frontcourt. The opposition has been just we needed in the early part of the schedule with tough teams on the horizon. For example, the team is headed to BYU this weekend and the Diamond Head has one great team, Wichita State,and several solid teams, including Hawaii's first round opponent, Nebraska. Then there is the Chaminade game on Dec 19. Having watched the Swords play on Maui, I think Hawaii should handle them.

Delaware State comes in tonight having just beaten Wake Forest, but lets not go crazy. Wake is playing terribly so far. And Delaware State has already lost to North Texas and by 50, yes 50, to Iona. I had predicted that Hawaii would win 7 of there first 8 home games ( excluding the Diamond Head), and so far I am right on schedule. I thought they might go 2-1 in Florida, but honestly, even against an up and down Pitt team, didn't think they had a chance. They proved me and lots of others wrong.

Credit Bobbitt and Valdes for the Bows solid start. Bobbitt has better than a 2-1 assist to turnover ratio, while averaging almost ten points per game, and Valdes is averaging 15 points and 7.5 rebounds. On the other hand, as Nevels goes, so go the Bows, and so far his offense has been inconsistent. He is averaging under 40% from the field and 28% from three. Smith has been struggling at the point with 17 turnovers and only 5 assists. And the two big men are averaging 6 rebounds per game between them. Webster-Chan has also struggled offensively averaging 37% from the field .

All in all, however, with all that went on in the weeks before the season, Benjy and his staff have done a solid job. The fans have been treated to a fun and exciting brand of basketball. The schedule has been favorable, except for the travel and frequency of games, but after tonight, the Bows will not be back in the Arena for three weeks and only play two games. Time to put in more sets, get some rest, and get ready for some tough opponents and the league.

Speaking of the league, UC Davis has surprised everyone with a 5-0 start. Hawaii at 6 wins has more wins than any team in the Conference. In fact, only three teams are above 500, but as usual, some have played tough opponents as the league tries to improve its RPI.  7 of the teams haven't yet won on the road ( neutral sites excluded).

Anyway, I look for Hawaii to go to 7-2 tonight before what will be a very tough game against BYU in Salt Lake on Saturday. I watched the Cougers in Maui. They are a solid team and should beat Hawaii ( but then again, most everyone except the team and the coaches thought they would lose to Pitt. We will have Coach Rose of BYU on Hoopstalk tomorrow at 7 pm on ESPN 1420. Hope you can join us.

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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Experience Counts

November 18th, 2014

Last nite, or early this morning, High Point, a school from the Big South Conference, led by eleven returning players and 5 starters, outlasted UH as the Rainbow Warriors could not hold on to a 9 point lead in the waning minutes. Two ill-advised threes early in the shot clock, along with 4 turnovers, led to a breakout run for High Point and the Championship of the Rainbow Classic. Hawaii's inexperience reared its ugly head in the last five minutes, while High Point held its composure and won going away.

It was another poor shooting nite for the Bows. Four starters combined for 3-27 from the field. That's right. I would guess it may have set a record for woeful shooting by a starting five. Hawaii shot 17% from three.  If the three games are any indication, Hawaii is going to struggle from the field. Right now, there is no one player who can be counted on to score on any given nite.

On the other hand, Hawaii continued to play aggressive defense, had strong team rebounding, and showed an ability to slash to the hoop for lay-ups or fouls. Those fouls might not be called as often once the team does on the road, but it works at home.

I thought the two " big guys" played well last nite, at least in spurts. Thomas had 14 points ( almost all in the first half) and Jovanovic did a credible job guarding John Brown, the Big South Pre-season Player of the Year. But once again, the lack of depth upfront was evident ( that will change as Reyes is expected back this week).  Also the aggressive defense by the guards. caused both Bobbitt and Fleming to foul out.

For a midnite game, the crowd was exceptional. The students occupied mid court and were rowdy, loud, and organized. It gave the Arena the feel of really big-time college basketball. And for 35 minutes, they were treated to a spirited performance marred by a total breakdown down the stretch. With time, more practice, and experience, hopefully better decisions will be made in tight ball-games ( we saw some of that Saturday nite).

So its hard to be disappointed by the loss. The new-look Bows won 2 games and were in the third game until late. They played aggressive and exciting basketball ( maybe a little too exciting), and should win the remaining non-league home games  outside of the Diamond Head. Tomorrow's they should regroup against little brother, UH Hilo, and then meet the big bad Pitt Panthers from the ACC coached by former Hawaii assistant, Jamie Dixon, on Maui.  Then its on the road to Florida for a three game tournament against mid level competition.

By the time they return in several weeks, we will know much more about this team's ability to compete in the Conference. There is much to be happy about, but there are issues that need to be addressed if the team is to have a realistic chance to finish in the middle of the Conference. One thing is for sure. They will not be boring. Benjy has them flying all over the court. Now if they could only make shots

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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We Are Back

November 17th, 2014

Well, I thought its about time to restart Hoopstalk for the 2104-2015 season. What a last few weeks its been for the program. Whatever you think about Gib's termination and Issac's departure, its time to rally around Benjy and the team. As a Regent chairing the Athletic Committee, I have been kept advised of the NCAA investigation and recent developments. All I can say is folks should  with-hold any final judgment until the NCAA Letter has been released and the facts are known. There has been much speculation about the investigation , both in the media and on-line, with some of it simply based upon rumor and leaks that may or may not be valid. I can assure everyone that the University is dealing withy this critical situation with the advice of outside legal counsel, experienced in NCAA matters, and everyone at UH wants the matter to be resolved so the program can move on.

Having said that, it was a good weekend for the team. Two wins, albeit against lower division 1 opponents, but no one really knew what to expect. Tonight's  mid-nite game against High Point should be a more competitive  against the best of the three visiting teams in the Tournament. High Point went to the NIT last year as the regular season champ from its Conference, the Big South, where it lost in the first round. They have the pre-season player of the year in John Brown, who has a future in professional basketball. He is the type of player who will give this year's edition of UH fits. he is strong, can play both inside and outside, and can rebound.

What we seen so far from the Rainbow Warriors is solid guard play, good team rebounding, and aggressive defense. There are still questions in my mind about the frontcourt and scoring, but the frontcourt questions may be answered once the team is at full strength. Reyes is expected back either tonight or Weds against Hilo and Missouri transfer Stefan Jankovic in mid-December.

Two players have impressed me so far. The first is Webster-Chan. He can score and play defense. He may be a little undersized, however, when he is asked to play the 4. And Aaron Valdes is much improved witness his 28 points against Pine Bluff.  Bobbitt has done a solid job at the point with good assists to turn over stats.

On the other hand, Quincy Smith is struggling. Saturday night he had 7 turn-overs and no assists. He is the most experienced point guard and maybe he is just a little slow in coming back from injury. Another guy slow to get it going is the one Senior and team leader, Garrett Nevels.. Garrett has yet to find his shot this year.

The home schedule before the Diamond Head is very weak. It includes two local Division Schools and 5 teams nobody has ever heard of.  Yes there are road games against Pittsburgh ( in Maui) and BYU, along with that Florida tournament with second tier schools, but I predict UH will win 7 of 8 home games before the Big West schedule kicks in.

Folks keep asking me how many games will this team win. Hard to say right now. I think they will be better than some think, but not as good as they might have been with Fotu.  I want to see how they do on the road and against better opponents. But as I said in the beginning, everyone should rally behind these guys. The crowds the first two nights were treated to exciting basketball, the students are attending in record numbers, and the team has shown it has rallied together in spite of all that is happening around them.

See you at midnite

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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Aloha Shamburger

April 15th, 2014

The word is out. Keith Shamburger is one and done. Not one and done for the NBA. One and done for who knows what reasons. Only he and Arnold know ( not sure if evn Gib knows). He says he will try to graduate this summer and then have one year to play somewhere else. Would you want him?

If you read this column regularly, you know I had my criticisms of Shamburger. I though he had way too much attitude and not enough skill. He shot poorly almost all season, but on the plus side, he ran the offensive efficiently. Frankly, there were no other guards on the squad who could run the point, especially in half court situations. But the incident after the Long Beach game, his wearing headphones during pregame warm-ups, his sullen appearance on the bench, etc etc, made it clear to me he had significant attitude issues

Will he be missed? Some of you thought he was the savior at the point and would really come on next year. Some of you blogged that i was too tough on his inability to score from three point range . Some now say his decsion to leave coming on the heels of the news that UH has a committment from Roderick Bobbitt, a 6-3 combo guard, is not a coincidence. I seriously doubt that was the reason. You would hope he would believe that as the incumbent starting point guard, the position was his to lose next season.

But you have to be in denial to say his leaving is not a significant loss to the program. At least on the court it is. You dont transfer from a starting position at one school, sit out a year, start for another school, and then leave early unless something is going on. Some will point to this as another example of what has been a revolving door of players coming and going in the past three years. But this time, the player leaving was a starter so it wasnt a lack of playing time that did it.  And frankly, can he really believe some school will be that desperate for a late summer need for a point guard ?  I guess some team in a  league ranked even lower than the Big West might make the offer.

This departure will cause much speculation and discussion about the program. And it leaves the Bows with only two starters returning. The one spot you would have thought UH didnt need to fill was at the point. Lets hope Issac doesnt get an offer he cant refuse.

Yes these are my personal thoughts. Yours?

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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The Day After Musings

April 8th, 2014

Some old basketball " wives tales" proved to be true again. One always go with the Seniors over the Freshman. Two, always go with great guards over good bigmen. Three, you cant win the big one if you cant make free throws. UConn deserved to win. Kentucky did just about everything it could to lose.

But before the entire world goes on talking about how great a  story UConn is, may i remind my readers that this is the same team that was ruled ineligible for the Tournament last year because of APR violations. Do you know how hard it is to score below 930? Its very hard. It means your team's academic performance is so low that it places you in the very bottom of all Division 1 teams. You have to work hard to get there. You have to basically give up thinking of your players as students first, athletes second.

Yes i know the UConn apologists will say it wasnt these players so why burden them with this issue. It might not have been them, but it was their coach at the time, Jim Calhoun, and their school, that allowed this to happen. I am tired of the National media ignoring issues like this on one hand, and then criticizing the NCAA and others for not doing enough to assist stuednt -athletes in getting a degree.Yes I know Napier is scheduled to graduate in May and i congratulate him on that as well as his play during the tournament. But in the past two days, how many of you have heard the folks at CBS, TNT, and ESPN, remind us of where UCONN was last year ( not even eligible for the Tournament).

And then Napier grabs the mike at the end of the game, and makes a mockery of the probation as if winning this year was in revenge for being put on probation. I dont get it. I guess if that gave them the chip on their shoulder they needed to win, so be it. But who should they really blame other than their team-mates, their former coach and their school. In my mind, winning is great. But at least at the college level, passing your courses has some merit as well. Even graduating may be something to strive for.

People get after Kentucky for using the one and done rule. I dont like the rule either, but you cant blame Calipari for knowing how to use it better than anyone in the Country. At least, Kentucky doesnt make a mockery of the student athlete. Everyone knows they are not students, but minor league basketball players getting their one year out of the way at college.

I am sure some of you dont agree with me on this and that's fine. Would like to see your comments, pro and con. If the college4 basketball purist, Wisconsin should have won the fianl four. They seem to stand for what college basketball should be about, students who love to play basketball, stay in school, and win both in the classromm and on the court. Oh well, life in rarely fair.

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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