Drammeh re-emerges to cap UH hot streak

  • David Simon

It’s been a very positive three-week stretch for Eran Ganot and the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors ever since a disappointing opening matchup in the Diamond Head Classic just before Christmas. Since losing to UNLV in the first round, Hawaii has pulled off four straight victories including a win in the conference opener.

That stretch has seen a nice resurgence from the team’s veterans in wins over Colorado, Rhode Island, Alabama A&M and the Big West opener this past Wednesday against Cal State Fullerton. Now at 10-5 overall and 1-0 in conference play, Hawaii is beginning to settle into the type of team we anticipated. They have a good mix of talent and shot-makers at every position, which has been the team’s biggest strength. During this hot streak, it’s been different players each night making the difference.

Eddie Stansberry and Zigmars Raimo carried much of the load in the overtime win against Colorado, but it was Jack Purchase who made the most of his time on the court. In foul trouble for much of the game, Purchase put up a double-double in 25 minutes with his 14-point, 10-rebound effort that included four three-pointers. Purchase has been up and down with his shooting, but he has keyed some runs of late and is clearly a focal point with the green light from Ganot to fire away.

Raimo then led the way with 19 points against Rhode Island. That’s a career high for the Latvian, who has seen his role expand dramatically this season. Raimo was a developing piece last year as a sophomore, but he was playing fewer than 10 minutes a game. Compare that to now having started every game this year and he is responding well to the increase in volume.

His averages sit just below 11 points and seven rebounds while shooting 55 percent from the floor, and his presence in the paint gives UH a much-needed toughness inside.

The win over Alabama A&M wasn’t a pretty one, but the team leaned heavily on Stansberry that night and he didn’t back away from the challenge. Stansberry took the lead offensively and finished with a season-high 26 points, knocking down six three-pointers and helping to key a 20-point swing that turned a nine-point deficit into an 11-point lead during the 71-63 home win.

But the best story of the season may have come on Wednesday, when Sheriff Drammeh had one of his most impressive career games and maybe turned his own season around with one performance. Drammeh was suspended by Ganot in December for violation of team rules, which only kept him out of action for one game. But he played just three minutes in that first game back, the loss to UNLV, and then missed both the Colorado and Rhode Island matchups.

Drammeh was really the heart of last year’s team and has widely been considered one of the conference’s best defensive players his entire career. He was named the Big West’s Best Hustle Player last season as a junior and came into this year looking to build upon that legacy as a senior leader. The somewhat-diminished role and the discipline issue were a surprise for Drammeh, who played more minutes per game than any Hawaii player in 2017-18.

So after playing just 29 minutes total in the team’s previous six contests, Drammeh tied a career-high with 23 points in 30 minutes against Cal State Fullerton. He was aggressive from everywhere on the court. He pulled down six rebounds, knocked down four three-pointers, got to the free throw line eight times and helped ignite Hawaii to another comeback win.

Getting production from all different spots on the floor will help Hawaii moving forward as it looks to return to a contending position in Big West play. There are still many questions to be answered from this team, but having Drammeh back in the fold and contributing like he did last week gives the ‘Bows a chance to win every night.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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