#112 Hawaii Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #112
Conference Rank: #2 Big West

Hawaii Team Page#112 Hawaii Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy Hawaii Basketball Tickets

I don’t like to admit defeat very often; but in this case I need to make an exception: I was wrong about the 2014-15 Hawaii Rainbow Warriors team. Last summer, I had little to no faith in the team, labeling them as one of the worst teams not only in the Big West, but in the entire nation. Well, that proved to be greatly untrue, as the Rainbow Warriors finished a fine 8-8 in the Big West and 22-13 overall. They’re not going to catch me off guard again, at least not this year. They return quite a few solid players last season including leading scorer Aaron Valdes (13.7 ppg). Having a rookie head coach (Eran Ganot) can always be a bit worrisome, but Hawaii has the talent and the system to make a run for the Big West title this year.

2014-15 Record: 22-13, 8-8
2014-15 Postseason: none
Coach: Eran Ganot
Coach Record: 0-0 at Hawaii, 0-0 overall

Who’s Out:
Hawaii was one of the deepest teams in the country last season. Only two players (Roderick Bobbitt, Garret Nevels) averaged more than 30 minutes per game, while 9 players played double digit minutes per game. Therefore, when your leading scorer returns and only two of those nine players depart, it’s not a horrible situation. Unfortunately, one of the two leaving is 30+ MPG wing Garret Nevels. Nevels, a JUCO transfer from Los Angeles, spent his two years at Hawaii well, starting (and averaging over 30 minutes per game) in each of his two seasons. Nevels was basically a typical mid-major shooting guard for his two seasons; he shot the three well, defended the perimeter well, and also chipped in with rebounding (4.4 rpg) and passing (1.3 apg). His slashing left a lot to be desired (1.5 free throw attempts per game) and his midrange game was far from elite (40.9% FGP), but he was a reliable three point threat and defender who was rewarded with big minutes. The other departing player, also a wing, is Negus Webster-Chan. Webster-Chan, like Nevels, is an excellent outside shooter. He shot a dazzling 41% from downtown this past season, a number well above his FGP of 37.7%. This was both good and bad. On the good side, he was a knockdown shooter that defenders had to keep an eye on at all times on the perimeter. On the bad side, he was a one-dimensional offensive player that was not particularly effective down low or from the midrange. However, his ability to rebound (4.3 rpg) as well as defend definitely made him more of an asset to this team then a detriment.

Who’s In:
Although Benjy Taylor, the interim coach last year, and the previous regime did the majority of this year’s recruiting, rookie coach Eran Ganot is now going to have to be the one who sees if he can strike gold in this group of four. Bryce Canda is a JUCO transfer junior shooting guard from Portland, Oregon. Canda, although undersized for the position (6-3, 165 pounds), definitely has some talent. He’s an excellent shooter, a solid athlete, and is quick in the open floor. However, he’s not a big-time athlete, therefore, his ceiling is rather low. He’s not a talented enough shooter or wing defender to make a living there, so he’ll need to find his calling somewhere else. I don’t see the unranked JUCO transfer averaging any more than 10 points per game next season, but his senior season could be a different story if he can improve his shooting touch and pack on a little muscle. Sai Tummala is a grad-transfer from Arizona State. In two seasons with the Devils, Tummala was near-useless, averaging less than a point and rebound per game in 5-6 minutes. However, once, Tummala was a highly praised recruit. And although he hasn’t lived up to expectations yet, 2015-16 could be different as he’s playing in a much weaker Big West conference. Physically, Tummala is elite. He’s 6-7 and on the better end of 215 pounds. He’s also a capable shooter and physical down low. If he can rekindle the fire, he could have a huge year for the Warriors.

Brocke Stepeau is a redshirt freshman from Dallas, Texas. Stepeau, although small, is another guy that could have an impact on next year’s team based on his quickness, fast decision making, and smart instincts. Also, he’s 160 pounds. This may not seem very big, but it should be known that he’s only 5-9. Fast, strong and a bull in the lane, Stepeau could become a starter at one point in his career. Zach Buscher is a redshirt freshman from Kailua, Hawaii. A locally grown player, Buscher is also the most talented out of the bunch. Although he plays shooting guard, he acts like a point guard with his incredible awareness and vision of the floor. He’s also a stellar passer, and loves to get his teammates involved. He’s only a freshman, but he plays like a sophomore: this is a guy that is a student of the game, and therefore has a very high floor. His ceiling isn’t tremendous as he isn’t an elite athlete or shooter, but the chance of him completely flopping is not high.

Who to Watch:
Really four guys to look at for this section. Obviously, junior Aaron Valdes is a big player for this team. He averaged a team high 13.7 points per game last season, which was greatly improved from his putrid 3.2 ppg as a freshman. Also, he shot over 47% from the field, 36% from the arc, and averaged 4.5 free throw attempts per game. To top it all off, he snagged 1.7 steals per game. He’s basically the total package at the 2 guard; he’s strong, athletic, always fights, and is highly skilled. I don’t think he’s a 20 ppg player yet, but 15-18 is certainly not out of the question looking at his 2015-16 season outlook. Junior power forward Stefan Jankovic definitely had a different kind of season last year then he did back in 2013-14 with the Missouri Tigers. At Mizzou, he averaged 3.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, and only averaged 8.7 minutes per game. Last season, he bumped those averages all the way to 10.6/4.9/20.5.  The scariest part? He’s capable of so much more. Jankovic averaged a disturbing 6.5 fouls per 40 minutes last season. Therefore, he was only able to average just over 20 minutes per game. If he can become more poised and limiting those fouls, he could be a 15/10 type player. The 2015-16 campaign is an important year for the rising junior.

Sophomore guard Isaac Fleming from Wellington, Delaware was a really, really underrated part of the puzzle for last year’s team. He was primarily used off the bench (23.1 mpg) but was extremely effective to the tune of 9.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and a 47.1% field goal percentage in that slot. His field goal percentage would have been much higher, too, if he didn’t force up so many deep shots (25-97; 25.8%). He’s smart, athletic, and talented, but he’s going to either have to ditch the outside game or make it stronger if he hopes to ever become a true starter for Ganot. Senior guard Roderick Bobbitt may not be the most talented player on next year’s roster, but his value is well, invaluable. One of three seniors on next year’s roster and the only one that saw significant minutes, his leadership on and off the floor is going to be a huge telling of this team’s success. The team’s leading assists man from a year ago (5.3 apg), Bobbitt is always looking up and surveying the floor. He’s not going to lead the team in scoring next season, but he may just lead it in minutes (33 mpg last season).

Final Projection:
They caught me off guard last year, but that’s not going to happen again this year. The Rainbow Warriors are returning quite a bit of talent from last year, while also bringing in a couple decent new faces. The real key to next year’s team is going to be rookie head coach Eran Ganot. This team is more talented than last year’s 22-13 team, so anything lower than that mark should, and will, be seen as a failure. It looks like a two way battle here between Hawaii and UC Irvine for the top spot in the Big West, with Long Beach State having a little something to say about that, and even though Hawaii will fight, they don’t have the talent to keep up with the Anteaters.

Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
Roderick Bobbitt, Senior, Guard, 8.9 points per game
Isaac Fleming, Sophomore, Guard, 9.5 points per game
Aaron Valdes, Junior, Guard, 13.7 points per game
Mike Thomas, Junior, Forward, 7.1 points per game
Stefan Jankovic, Junior, Forward, 10.6 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 72.9 (46th in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 68.2 (224, 7)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.8 (150, 4)
Field-Goal Defense: 41.3 (94, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.5 (164, 5)  
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 32.2 (262, 7)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.6 (195, 5)
Rebound Margin: -1.1 (237, 8)
Assists Per Game: 13.3 (110, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.3 (248, 7)


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